New coaches bring new victories for badminton

March 23, 2009 — by Karen Lyu

High hopes and birdies are flying as the Falcons won five of seven preseason matches. The real test, however, will come on March 31 when the team plays Gunn High School in an El Camino league match. Gunn, who defeated Saratoga twice last year, is the team to beat.

“I think the real challenges will start coming once the real season begins,” said senior Joyce Wu, who plays the No. 1 varsity girls doubles spot. “Playing Gunn as our first school will push our players to improve.”

With new head coach John Phung at the helm, the team is proud of their progress and hopes to carry its momentum through the rest of the season. Phung’s new strategy involves scrimmage games to prepare players for matches and to refine each player’s skills.

Despite several preseason wins, the varsity badminton team is apprehensive about the impending season.

“Pre-season games [help] prepare the new players. By playing games against other teams, not only do they get to experience what a game is like, but [they] also [get to] find their weaknesses,” said senior Chris Sirivoranunkul, who plays varsity boys doubles No. 2.

Because Saratoga is in the highest league and most of the matches are against teams in lower leagues, the preseason games may not necessarily be indicators as to how season play will go. In that regard, they have a positive and negative effect on the team.

“Badminton consists of individual effort, so [whether we play a bad team or good team], we can work on things,” said Sirivoranunkul. “In a way though, it also makes us feel better than we really are.”

Others feel that the preseason games allow them to learn the rules and strategies of the competitive sport.

“I think it’s great [because] we get more experience through playing,” said senior Jennifer Li, JV girls doubles No. 1. “It’s different from last year. Now we aren’t so worn out from over-conditioning.”

Phung has also made changes to the practice schedule. Instead of having grueling mandatory practices on each day of the week, the athletes are given Friday off because of the many players were unable to attend. Phung holds optional practices on Saturday mornings for all interested players. Phung also finds that a tight knit team is an important factor to train a winning team.

“I’d like to create an exciting and motivating environment in all of our practices and games,” said Phung. “My ultimate goal is to have the team bond and care for one another.”

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