PASADENA - For the third straight season, the Pasadena City College women's badminton team is headed to a state championship final as it picked up its third Southern California title in a row, defeating Irvine Valley, 15-6, Wednesday at PCC's Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium.
The Lancers needed just three rounds to clinch the regional crown, leading 11-5 and not having rely on the No. 1 singles result or the final two doubles to reach the magic 11 majority team points. In round 1, PCC jumped out to a 5-1 lead thanks to strong singles play. In Pasadena's No. 6 v. Irvine's No. 5, the Lancers ageless one--54-year-old Asiana Pitackul, from Thailand, rallied to beat Yating Mei, 8-21, 21-18, 21-18, as her entire team cheered her on. Pitackul also secured point 11 in her second singles match, a 21-18, 21-12 sweep over Lasers' No. 6 player Neeyati Ajmera.
PCC (12-0) extended its overall win streak to 25 matches going back to the start of last season. The Lancers prepare for their second straight rematch of the CCCAA State Championship finals against perennial foe and NorCal champion Fresno City College on Thursday, May 10 at San Diego City College. It's the rubber match of the trio of finals after Fresno won the state title at the expense of the Lancers in 2016 and then PCC won its first-ever state crown last year, beating the Rams.
"I was concerned coming into our match because Irvine Valley appeared very athletic," said PCC head coach Jennifer Ho, who collected milestone win No. 50 in just her fourth season directing the program. "Getting that fifth point by Asiana was a big boost. Overall, it was our mid to lower level ladder singles that sparked us. I felt we have a balanced team and it showed against Irvine. We do more conditioning than I think most of the other teams and it shows in these type of pressure matches."
Besides Pitackul, No. 3 Jessica Lee and No. 4 Xiaoming Yao were steady with a pair of singles sweeps each. The duo also teamed up for a strong 21-11, 21-12 No. 2 doubles win over Chien Tu and Mei.
Overall, four-time defending South Coast Conference champion PCC won nine of the 12 singles matches played and only three of the five doubles. The experienced All-American squad of Natalie Ong and Amy Huang swept in doubles, routing Tu-Mei, 21-3, 21-8 and then beating No. 1 Lasers squad Wan Jie Chen and Emily Yang by a 21-6, 21-12 count.
Chen tried to keep IVC in it and beat both Ong, 21-12, 21-10, and Huang, 23-21, 21-17, in higher singles. At No. 5 singles, PCC's Grace Bajardefeated Ajmera, 25-23, 21-16 in another key early first-round match. Irvine Valley, the PCAC champion, finished its team season at 8-2.
Ho talked about the play of freshmen Lee and Yao. "I was very excited that both joined the team this year. Each has a set of talents and are solid badminton players. They both have improved throughout the season. They came through in the SoCal when our best players dealt with a little adversity against Irvine's No. 1."
PCC takes part in the South Coast Conference Individual Tournament on Friday, May 4 at the Manhattan Beach Badminton Club. The tourney decides the indivdiuals who will qualify for the state tournament next week. The individuals play on Friday-Saturday, May 11-12 at SDCC.
(Robert Lewis, Pasadena City College Athletics)