Clovis News: Sports

Clovis East girls badminton shines

At a school that's drawn thousands of fans to watch its four Central Section championships in football and boys basketball in this decade, Clovis East High's girls badminton team attracted about 100 Friday for a title match at home with Clovis West.

And that was plenty.

"Every single Clovis Unified administrator was there, and those girls felt pretty good about it," said coach Janine Sodersten, whose Timberwolves dominated defending champion Clovis West 10-1 for the crown.

Mai Thao, who coasted 11-3, 11-3 in her No. 1 singles match, and doubles expert Maly Xiong were the key components of Clovis East's 14-1 season.

They also represent the Asian ethnic background that accounts for 96% of the 70 players in the Timberwolves' program and about 80% overall among the 13 Fresno-area schools that sponsor the sport, Sodersten said.

"It's something those girls do in their heritage," she said. "This is an outdoor sport for Asians."

Sodersten also coaches tennis. And badminton, she said, calls for similar fundamentals: "Quick feet, quick reflexes and dropping, clearing and smashing -- all the same strokes."

She also said the sport continues to experience growing pains, primarily gym access in a season that begins toward the conclusion of basketball.

"We practice at lunch until basketball ends," she said. "That asks the girls to give up a lot, but they enjoy the sport. I don't have a kid who doesn't want to have fun. It's not like you have to pull teeth to get them to come out. They want to be there to have a good time."

All-star soccer matches Saturday

Vanessa Gonzalez, The Bee's girls soccer Player of the Year, and Isaac Thompkins of Central Section D-I boys champion Bullard are among the players scheduled to appear in the All-Valley high school all-star soccer games Saturday at Chukchansi Park.

The games will precede the Fresno Fuego's home opener against the Los Angeles Legends, with the girls game at 3:30 p.m. and the boys at 5.

Buchanan's Erik Farfan heads the coaching staff for the girls game, along with Mendota's Archie Ochoa, Redwood's Josh Kaminski, Roosevelt's Anthony Ciciello, Madera South's Gene West and Clovis' Jon Howerton.

Bullard's Igal Francis, the Bee's Coach of the Year, heads a boys staff that also includes Roosevelt's Joel Munoz, Golden West's John McCaw and Central's Darren Pitman.