Badminton Preview: Stevenson’s Cai, Lee step into spotlight
In this April 27, 2012, photo, Buffalo Grove's Julie Zambrone and Mary Zawlocki team up at No. 2 doubles. | Joe Cyganowski~for Sun-Times Media
Look out for... Buffalo Grove
Seniors Marissa Levy, Cara Silverman, Ally Kolpas and Katie Frankel return as state-qualifiers for the Warriors. Levy won a singles match at state a year ago, and Kolpas and Frankel are a likely doubles pairing.
Updated: March 20, 2013 12:34PM
Stevenson’s badminton team scored the ultimate prize last season, bringing home a state championship trophy.
Emily Cai and Yein Lee — competing as a doubles team for the first time as juniors — played a big part, tallying 3.5 team points as the Patriots tied Naperville North for the team title with a score of 13.5. But the duo had plenty of help from the 2012 senior class, headlined by the graduated Wan Wan Liu’s emergence as the singles champion.
That was then, and the Patriots have a new look.
Now-seniors Cai and Lee — along with classmate Monica Chin — are Stevenson’s only returnees. Both players say they’re ready for the challenge on the court and in their new role as team leaders.
“Of course, we feel the pressure of being leaders this year, but we’re looking forward to it,” said Lee, who is entering her third full varsity campaign. “I’m looking forward to the competition. I am nervous about it, but with practice and determination, we’ll face whatever comes to us. We’re excited to play.”
Cai, the more experienced player of the two, is entering her fourth season on varsity. Two years ago, she paired with the now-graduated Taylor Seplowin to place sixth in doubles at state.
“Last year, it was our first year playing together, and winning (the duo finished 30-4 overall) did build our confidence,” Cai said of her partnership with Lee. “Now, we pretty much know how each other plays. We rely on each other, and trust each other. I know she’s got my back, and I have hers. I don’t feel really confident about being a leader. I’m not very vocal, so it’s a little harder for me. Yein can do that; I just play.”
Stevenson coach Mike Fitzgerald said this season also will be different for Cai and Lee because they’ll be facing opponents’ No. 1 doubles team in matches rather than No. 2 tandems. But he’s confident that success will come for his new No. 1 duo.
“The target’s on their back, so they’ll have the pressure on them,” said Fitzgerald, whose team will open the season at the Rolling Meadows Quad on March 16. “But this year, they should be even better than last year with the experience they built together. They may not be as strong at the beginning, but that won’t matter once the postseason starts.”