by Robert Lewis, Pasadena City College sports information
It was simple math that helped the Pasadena City College women's badminton team clinch its second straight trip to the CCCAA State Team championship match on Wednesday. Host Grossmont only had five available players to the normal 6-player ladder that the Lancers featured going into the Southern California title match.
That meant PCC had a 3-point lead even before it took to the courts, and needed just eight points out of a possible 18 remaining to total enough points to take out the Griffins. The odds were in the Lancers favor but it took a 21-19, 21-12 win by the No. 2 doubles team of Natalie Ong and Amy Huang over Grossmont's Tran Pham and Nicole Ortin to close out an 11-10 victory in the toughest match of the season for PCC.
The South Coast Conference champion Lancers stayed undefeated at 12-0 and now gain a rematch of last year's state final as they face Coast co-champion and defending state champ Fresno City College in the CCCAA State Championship Team finals on Thursday, May 11 at Mission College in Northern California (Santa Clara).
PCC improved to 37-2 in its history under third-year head coach Jen Ho, who directed PCC to three consecutive undefeated regular seasons and three SCC crowns. The Lancers, an 11-10 loser in last year's finale v. Fresno, have never won the state team championship since the sport became CCCAA sanctioned in 2000.
It will be just the third time that the Lancers play in the state finals, including another 11-10 defeat against City College of San Francisco in 2010. In PCC's three SoCal title wins in 2010, '16 and '17, the final score of the match was identical--11-10, but all three were against different teams.
"We're happy to be back in the state final, but we also know we were lucky," Ho said. "If Grossmont had its sixth player, I don't know if we could have beaten them. The difference for us was that we have a really strong No. 3 player in Natalie and she helped carry us today."
Ong swept No. 3 Rebekah Leslie, 21-9, 21-17, and wiped out No. 4 Ortin, 21-5, 21-8. She helped record four of the Lancers points. Lancers top singles player Sarah Thaw downed No. 2 Pham, 21-6, 21-13, but later suffered her first loss of '17 to Grossmont's No. 1 Yukari Naono, 21-9, 21-10. The No. 1 PCC doubles team of Thaw and Hong Yan Liu won against Pham-Ortin, 21-19, 21-16.
Naono (G) d. Thaw (P), 21-9, 21-10; Thaw d. Pham (G), 21-6, 21-13; Naono d. Liu (P), 21-2, 21-7; Pham d. Liu, 21-17, 21-7; Ong (P) d. Leslie (G), 21-9, 21-17; Ong d. Ortin (G), 21-5, 21-8; Leslie d. Huang (P), 21-11, 21-17; Huang d. Ortin, 21-12, 21-13; Zhaomei Liu (G) d. Chaw Thinzar Mon (P), 21-19, 21-15; Mon d. in walkover; Liu d. Annie Ly (P), 23-21, 21-9; Ly d. in walkover.
Naono-Leslie (G) d. Thaw-Liu (P), 21-13, 21-7; Thaw-Liu d. Pham-Ortin, 21-19, 21-16; Naono-Leslie d. Ong-Huang (P), 21-10, 21-12; Ong-Huang d. Pham-Ortin, 21-19, 21-12. Ly-Mon (P) d. in walkover.