Clovis News: Sports

Buchanan girls win section badminton title

The match was tied, 5-5, the decisive point for the Central Section girls' badminton championship between Buchanan and Clovis East to be determined by this final duel in No. 6 doubles, as teammates surrounded their court and all fan focus was here Friday afternoon.

Those fans didn't number 100, only two rows of bleachers were pulled in the smaller of Buchanan's two gymnasiums -- hardly the setting of three months earlier in the larger venue next door, where the Bears conquered Clovis East 81-80 before 1,800 in a Tri-River Athletic Conference boys basketball game.

But tell Buchanan sophomores Michaela Carpentier and Breanne Avedikian this was any less intense.

It was Carpentier, although sick, who kept swinging, for there was nowhere to hide: "I wasn't feeling too good, but it was worth it in the end."

And it was Avedikian, so nervous "my hands are still shaking," she would say afterward.

That was not long after Carpentier's baseline smash split Elizabeth Cha and Carlie Yang, kissing the floor, closing a 15-12, 15-7 doubles triumph, a 6-5 match win for the top-seeded Bears and their 16-0 season.

"It felt great," Carpentier said. "It was probably the best shot I made this year."

Carpentier, like Avedikian, plays no other sports, but has become engaged in a game launched first in the area as an intramural activity by Clovis West coach Vance Walberg in the 1990s.

Walberg was best known for developing a powerhouse Golden Eagles boys basketball program.

But the seed he planted in badminton has now grown until 13 schools participate in Fresno County -- none to the section's south -- and the section championship plaque the Bears clutched in a team photo Friday was identical to any other sport.

"I just like playing with a partner, the communication and the friendship, which is a huge thing," Carpentier said.

What she and Avedikian never expected was the title hinging on their doubles match, not after Buchanan defeated the Timberwolves 8-3 earlier in the Tri-River Athletic Conference.

Only this time, coach Janine Sodersten of section defending champion Clovis East (14-2) shuffled her deck, dropping top singles players Lina Vang and Mai Kor into Nos. 4 and 3 doubles.

They won, as did the Timberwolves' Nos. 1 and 2 doubles, and Nina Gregory in No. 4 singles.

But the swing match of the day had Bears junior Nikki Le upset Clovis East sophomore Gao Nou Vang 11-9, 11-7 in No. 5 singles.

This after Buchanan seniors Sam Battles, Kaitlyn Chau and Lauren Young dominated as expected in the top three singles.

Buchanan assistant Bene Azali managed the team while coach Thomas Bui was in Vietnam on a family emergency.

"[Sodersten] has experience, she's good, she played with a number and matched people," Azali said. "But we're very solid and didn't want to change our strategy. They made me sweat a little bit, but we made it."