Roster Depth Fuels Women's Badminton As 2024 Season Underway

Anh Vu Nguyen Tran plays the shot during PCC's badminton opener on Wednesday (photo by Richard Quinton).
Anh Vu Nguyen Tran plays the shot during PCC's badminton opener on Wednesday (photo by Richard Quinton).

After last year's state runner-up finish, Pasadena City College women's badminton head coach Jen Ho knew she would need to build on a roster to possibly push the Lancers to one more win when it counts. PCC started its quest for a state title on Wednesday, defeating short-handed San Diego City College, 18-3, at Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium.

It was the South Coast Conference opener as well as the season opener for both squads. 

The Knights brought just four eligible players but still provided strong competition for the Lancers in a number of singles and doubles matchups.

Rhea Zou, last year's #1 player, is back and she downed SDCC's #1 Nicona Maruyama, 21-19, 21-9. Two other returning sophomores at the bottom half of the ladder competed in My Linh Ly, who her only singles match n the #4 spot, and #5 Sophie Chao, who split her two individual matches. 

Ly beat San Diego's #3 Isabella Bejarano, 21-13, 21-18. Chao lost to Knights' #5 (the team played without a #2 and #4 singles) Dianna Elbadawi, 21-19, 21-13, but was better in sweeping #6 Francesca Calamari, 21-10, 21-18. 

Leslie Lien, who competed in #3 doubles in last year's state title match loss to De Anza, played at #6 singles and also won her two matches. Lien rallied to get by Elbadawi, 19-21, 21-16, 21-11, and swept Calamari, 21-14, 21-14. 

Two highly-touted newcomers impressed in #2 singles player Anh Vu Nguyen Tran (a veteran player from Vietnam), who won her match v. Maruyama, 21-14, 21-18, and #3 Janet Diec (Alhambra High), who dominated v. Bejarano, 21-9, 21-9.

PCC collected four singles points via forfeits due to SDCC's lack of players. 

In doubles, Zou played with Tran at #1 and needed three sets to beat #1 Maruyama-Calamari, 21-5, 19-21, 21-12, and still were battle-tested in a close sweep over #2 Bejarano-Elbadawi, 21-19, 24-22. Freshman Laura Lin (San Marino HS) teamed with Chao in #2 doubles, losing to Maruyama-Calamari, 21-18, 21-18. But subbing in v. Bejarano-Elbadawi, the freshmen Alhambra High graduate duo of Uyen Banh and Vicky Ruan won 21-16, 22-20. 

The depth factor was exemplified for the Lancers in that Banh is slated as the team's #3 singles. Lien, Lin, and Ruan are all players that are currently not among the regular top 6 ladder but took advantage of their opportunities in the opener.

Rounding out a large, 11-player roster are freshmen in Anya Bondarenko (South Pasadena) and Karylle Peralta (Venice HS). The pair were scheduled to play in #3 doubles, but PCC had to take the forfeit point.

"The team did a great job for a first match even though San Diego City's #1 player gave our #1 and #2 a fight for our wins," Ho said. 

"This year's team seems to work well together, and their hard work showed as they were well-prepared during our pre-season training. This allows me to have high hope that we will be able to face De Anza with a lot more confidence this year.  I'm very proud of our efforts and we just need to keep working hard to improve."

While PCC won its sixth conference title (all undefeated) under Ho's direction last season, the Lancers were 0-3 v. De Anza, the 3C2A state champion from the North Region. Like previous seasons, the two formidable squads will play a pair of non-conference matches on March 1 at De Anza and at home v. the Mountain Lions on April 2. 

In her ninth season, Ho coached back-to-back PCC state champion in teams in 2017 and 2018. She notched career win #80 in the season opener (80-12 overall record, .870 winning percentage).

The Lancers host the '24 3C2A State Championship Tournament May 9-11. 

PCC returns to action next Wednesday, Feb. 28 in hosting El Camino College in a 2 p.m. conference match. The rest of the 6-team, SCC includes Compton, East Los Angeles and San Diego Mesa.