By Eduardo Cuan, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Westborough High School won the Division II 2014 Massachusetts Badminton Association (MassBad) Championship March 2 at Boston Badminton in Westborough. Eleven teams representing 14 Massachusetts high schools participated, including Algonquin Regional, but the border-town rivals did not face off. Algonquin did not reach the playoff rounds.
Westborough entered the tournament as a coalition team, which means that two of its players were from another school, Wayland High School. A coalition team is formed when a school doesn's have enough players (minimum of 10) to support a team. One of the Wayland players, senior Lee Chern, is a former nationally ranked player. During the team's finals tie, he had a great match against Lexington captain Ethan Wu, one of the several nationally ranked players at the tournament. Lee won in two games, 21-19 and 21-11, as Westborough cruised to a 6-1 finals victory.
Both Division I and II champions took home trophies and more than $1,000 in prizes, including racquets and bags. Westborough players divvied up the prizes but the Division II trophy will make its permanent residence at Westborough High School.
In Division I finals action, Newton North defeated Newton South, despite Newton South's accomplished group of nationally ranked juniors. Without any nationally ranked players, Newton North dialed in a true team effort to outlast their crosstown rivals in a dramatic 11th and final match that reached the deciding third game.
“Attendance was great throughout the event with all the parents and friends of the 140 players,” said Beth Sopka, president of MassBad. “At the end, late Sunday, there were at least 100 spectators and it was most surely raucous with a lot of good-natured cheering and clapping for all the hot rallies. The final was highly contested.”
High school badminton is increasing in popularity, but still competing for gym time against more mainstream sports such as basketball and volleyball, which means extra efforts have to be made by the players, parents and coaches to find nearby practice facilities and organize transportation. For the tournament players, it is a worthwhile effort.
“Badminton is a lifetime sport,” said Sopka, who has been playing for the past 20 years and currently plays at least twice a week. “It has an engaging, fun quality. You'se having a great time and laughing the whole time you'se watching or playing.”
Next month, there will be another opportunity to support many of these same high school athletes as they participate in the U.S. National Championships, also to be held at Boston Badminton in Westborough, the first time the competition will be held in this area since 1970.