By Mike Bebernes
Washington High School outlasted Lowell in the third set of the decisive fifth match to win the AAA/CIF-San Francisco Section All-City team championship on Monday at Galileo High School.
Washington’s win ended a seven-year title run for previously undefeated Lowell. It was the Eagles’ first championship since 2002.
“I knew they were capable of doing it,” said Washington coach Sharon Wong. “The question was whether or not they could put it all into one match and they showed it today. It was just awesome.”
The event is played in a best three-of-five format, with two singles matches and three doubles matches.
The Eagles (13-3) started out strong with a tough three-set win by senior captain Zhaoqing Zheng over Lowell’s Oriana Chiu.
The Cardinals (15-1) answered by making short work of the first two doubles matches, with the teams of Jenny Wong & Bettina Dea and Christina Chu & Zoie Chow winning in straight sets.
Washington, which had lost handily to Lowell in both regular-season meetings, needed to win both the second singles match and third doubles match to stave off another Lowell championship.
In the next singles match, Washington’s Bonita Hugh beat Leta He in convincing straight set fashion.
The singles win by Washington tied the game score at 2-2, with the final doubles match set to decide the title.
Matches were played concurrently and Hugh’s win came during intermission between the second and third sets in the doubles match between Lowell’s Stephanie Khin & Karen Lei and Sharon Zhu & Kellie Su.
“It’s the championship game,” said Su. “The pressure makes it how a championship is supposed to be.”
The teams went back and forth in the third set, which is played to 21, sharing ties at 7,14 and 16 points. Zhu and Su inched out ahead with a handful of powerful smashes to build a 20-19 lead.
“On every shot we have a purpose, to hit an empty spot to win the game,” said Zhu.
The final point concluded after a long rally with a Lowell shot dropping barely out of bounds. The Washington team rushed the court to celebrate the first city title that any of the Eagle players had won.
“Relief, the only word I could think was relief. I sighed ‘Finally’” said Su.
“They wanted it. They absolutely wanted it much more than we did,” said Lowell coach Christine Hosoda.
This is the last all-girls badminton championship. Next year the sport will include both boys and girls matches as part of team play.
“We have a totally different league next year,” said Wong. “It makes the league much more competitive with all the schools.”
“Could it affect us positively or negatively? Yeah, but I don’t know which way,” said Hosoda. “It’s really hard to gauge at this point in time.”