Late doubles heroics sends badminton to fourth straight state final appearance

Xiaoming Yao and Jessica Lee won the final doubles to clinch PCC badminton's fourth straight SoCal championship victory. (Courtesy Pasadena City Athletics)
Xiaoming Yao and Jessica Lee won the final doubles to clinch PCC badminton's fourth straight SoCal championship victory. (Courtesy Pasadena City Athletics)

SAN DIEGO - The outlook was bleak as the Pasadena City College badminton team trailed 9-8 entering the last doubles round of its SoCal Finals match against host San Diego City College on Wednesday. A loss in either of its No. 1 and No. 2 matchups would end the 2-time defending state champion Lancers titles run.

Instead PCC mustered the type of play the Lancers have grown to expect in recent seasons under head coach Jen Ho. The freshmen pair of #2 squad Sophia Nguyen and Huyen Diep went the distance to win its match in three sets, then the sophomore #1 squad of Xiaoming Yao and Jessica Lee rallied from a set down, and defeated SDCC's top duo of Sum Yin Ngai and Anita Xayasomioth, 19-21, 21-14, 21-19, to clinch the program's fourth consecutive SoCal championship, 12-9.

PCC (9-2 overall) advances to its fourth straight CCCAA State Final match--all against the same opponent--NorCal champ Fresno City College (8-0) on Thursday, May 9. The final is hosted by the Lancers in a 3 p.m. first volley at Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium. Fresno won the title in 2016, followed by the Lancers first-ever state championships in women's badminton in 2017, then 2018. 

Pasadena had help in the SoCal final as the Knights (6-3-1) have carried only five players all season, a member short of the traditional 6-player ladder. So even though SD City won total matches played, 8-6, the Lancers benefited from three team points forfeited by their worthy PCAC champion opponent. The Lancers went 3-1 in doubles play, though, and that made up half of their team points. 

Nguyen-Diep's win over Briana Pham and Ivy O'Donovan, 21-14, 9-21, 21-12, in #2 doubles impressed Ho.

"Sophia has been a big player for us and she came through in that last match, stepped up for us," Ho said. "San Diego's top singles player was really good, but in doubles we had a more experienced pair and I think that was important because Xiaoming and Jessica played steady even down a set."

Yao-Lee won the earlier round doubles match over Pham-O'Donovan, 21-12, 21-10, but Nguyen-Diep were beaten by Ngai-Xayasomioth, 21-9, 21-8. In singles, #1 Yao beat #2 Xayasomioth, 21-11, 21-10, #3 Nguyen defeated #4 O'Donovan, 21-13, 21-13, and No. 6 Rose Huynh scored a victory over Knights' #5 Lizette Bahena, 21-12, 21-6. SD City was led by #1 Ngai, who was impressive to sweep both Yao and Lee, and #3 Pham who also won two singles contests. 

The Lancers participate in the annual South Coast Conference Individual Tournament on Friday, May 4 at the Manhattan Beach Badminton Club. The CCCAA State Individual Championships will be played Friday-Saturday, May 10-11 at PCC. Brackets for the singles and doubles championships are available here.

(Robert Lewis, Pasadena City SID)