By Robert Lewis, CCCSIA
Rarely does the bottom ladder control the fate of a championship match, but it was the driving force for Fresno City College as it edged host Pasadena City, 11-10, in the CCCAA State Badminton Team Championship Thursday at Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium. The Rams won their first state title in the sport.
Fresno ended a perfect season at 10-0 but needed the sterling play of No. 4 player Wenting Liang and her partner in No. 2 doubles Melody Zhou. After PCC's defending individual state champion No. 1 team of Rebecca Tzou and Sandra Maw pulled out a 3-set win to give the Lancers their only lead at 10-9, the contest came down to the Liang-Zhou match against PCC's No. 2 duo of Eugenia Mendez and Ana Espinoza.
Liang-Zhou lost the first set, but roared back to win in three, 12-21, 21-18, 21-16. In the second set, the Fresno pair rattled off eight straight points to erase an 11-5 PCC lead.
"Our bottom ladder absolutely carried us today," said FCC head coach Carol Kadingo, who has directed Fresno ever since the sport was introduced to state women's athletics by the CCCAA in 2000.
"To have our Number 4, 5, 6 and 7 players do what they did, and then to look back and know how important winning No. 3 doubles was, it just shows you what kind of team we have. Wenting played huge for us. In that final doubles match, we told both Wenting and Melody that they needed to slow it down, not to rush things at the net, and let the game come to them. That was the turning point."
Fresno held a 9-8 lead after the second round of singles as the Rams bottom ladder of Liang, No. 5 Leslie Lam and No. 6 Belinda Vue all scored their second match victories. The toughest was Liang's 3-set triumph over PCC No. 4 Espinoza, 21-9, 15-21, 21-14. Pasadena kept it close thanks to No. 2 Maw's second consecutive 3-set win, rallying to defeat Lucy Lor, 14-21, 23-21, 21-11. In all, Pasadena went 6-0 in upper singles while Fresno took the lower singles also at 6-0 in team points.
It was the second time that PCC (12-1) lost in the championship final as the college has yet to win the team crown. It was also the second time that the Lancers lost to a first-time champion as City College of San Francisco recorded the North region's first state title at the expense of PCC in 2010. That was also by an 11-10 score.
Kadingo talked about the unlikelihood of her college finally capturing a state title.
"The Central Valley is not exactly a hotbed for badminton, and we did this all with kids from local high schools in Fresno and Clovis. I'm so happy for our players."
Fresno City led 6-5 after the first round of doubles and scored a key point when the Rams' No. 3 team of sisters Mai Der and Belinda Vue swept the PCC duo of Jennifer Delgado and Diana Resendiz, 21-9, 21-11.
After the end of the opening round of singles, PCC came up with a huge win when Maw went three sets to defeat Fresno's No. 1 Panhia Vang, 21-17, 18-21, 21-14. The match took 35 minutes and allowed the Lancers to tie Fresno at 3-3.
"I knew it would go down to the last round of doubles, but it just didn't go our way," said PCC head coach Jen Ho. "I'm very proud of our effort. Both our best players played great the whole match in Rebecca and Sandra."
Fresno won in only its second appearance in the state finals, the last in a loss to San Diego City in 2007. It was the second consecutive year that the state team final ended in an 11-10 decision and fourth time in the tourney history.
STATE FINAL BOX
SINGLES, Round 1
#1 Rebecca Tzou (PAS) def. #2 Lucy Lor (FRE), 21-15, 21-13;
#2 Sandra Maw (PAS) def. #1 Panhia Vang (FRE), 21-17, 18-21, 21-14
#3 Eugenia Mendez (PAS) def. #4 Wenting Liang (FRE), 21-16, 21-19
#3 Melody Zhou (FRE) def. #4 Ana Espinoza (PAS), 21-11, 21-10
#5 Leslie Lam (FRE) def. #6 Hong Yan Liu (PAS), 21-9, 21-12
#6 Belinda Vue (FRE) def. #5 Jennifer Delgado (PAS), 21-10, 21-9
Score: Fresno City 3, Pasadena City 3
DOUBLES, Round 1
#1 Tzou-Maw (PAS) def. Zhou-Liang (FRE), 21-9, 21-16
#2 Vang-Lor (FRE) def. Mendez-Espinoza (PAS), 21-18, 21-11
#3 Mai Der Vue-B. Vue (FRE) def. Delgado-Diana Resendiz (PAS), 21-9, 21-11
Score: Fresno City 6, Pasadena City 5
SINGLES, Round 2
Tzou (PAS) def. Vang (FRE), 23-21, 21-16
Maw (PAS) def. Lor (FRE), 14-21, 23-21, 21-11
Mendez (PAS) def. Zhou (FRE), 21-16, 21-12
Liang (FRE) def. Espinoza (PAS), 21-9, 15-21, 21-14
Lam (FRE) def. Delgado (PAS), 21-12, 21-16
B. Vue (FRE) def. Liu (PAS), 21-10, 23-21
Score: Fresno City 9, Pasadena City 8
DOUBLES, Round 2
Tzou-Maw (PAS) def. Vang-Lor (FRE), 18-21, 21-18, 21-17
Zhou-Liang (FRE) def. Mendez-Espinoza (PAS), 12-21, 21-18, 21-16
Final Score: Fresno City 11, Pasadena City 10