Two teams that haven't been to the royal ball in a while found their invitation cards this year in De Anza College and Irvine Valley. The two will hook up in the state team final to begin the CCCAA State Women's Badminton Championship held at Fresno City College May 12-14. The championship match between the Coast Conference champion Mountain Lions and South Coast Conference champion Lasers will be played Thursday at 3 p.m.
The individual singles and doubles portion of the state tourney then take place Friday-Saturday.
De Anza (14-0) is making its first trip to the team final since 2015 while Irvine Valley (8-3) returns after a decade absence.
From 2016 through 2019, the championship match was a private affair between Fresno City and Pasadena City Colleges. The two programs played each other in the team finals all four seasons with Fresno winning in 2016 and '19 and PCC taking the crown in 2017 and '18. The COVID-19 pandemic then hit shortening the 2020 season after just a few matches, and ultimately cancelling both the '20 and 2021 seasons and state tournaments.
De Anza handed Irvine Valley all three of its losses this season, including back-to-back Mountain Lions wins to open the season, 20-1 and 13-8 at De Anza on Feb. 25-26. The squads played one more non-conference match on March 28 with De Anza scoring a convincing 19-2 triumph.
With a deep roster, De Anza was able to move players around in its ladder. The closest anyone came to challenging the Mountain Lions was in the Coast finale, a 12-9 win over Fresno on May 3. De Anza won the Coast title at 8-0 while Irvine Valley also had a perfect trip in winning the South Coast at 8-0. The program was hosted into the SCC this year for the first time after playing previously in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference. It was the Lasers first conference title since winning the PCAC in 2018.
De Anza head coach Mark Landefeld talked about De Anza's road to the state. "Our team has really persevered to get here," he said. "We were playing AirBadminton in a local park in April of last year, trying to keep our program engaged with the sport. Most of the team started training last August and through all the masking, training, testing and vaccinations, they have really come together as a confident and determined squad.
"We've competed well against most of the teams in the state. We respect Irvine Valley as a great program that has played very strong badminton since we last saw them. We also respect that (head coach) Martin McGrogan and IVC are 6-0 in state finals. It's both a pleasure and an honor to face them one more time."
The teams met each other in the finals back in 2003 when Irvine Valley won its second of a sport record four consecutive titles, 18-3. As Landefeld noted, IVC has never lost in the finals and beat City College of San Francisco, 14-7, in its last state final in 2011. Irvine Valley once had 2-time, U.S. Olympic Team player Eva Lee on its roster and Lee was the 2006 state singles and doubles champion.
De Anza is 2-3 in state finals, winning back-to-back championships led by one of CCC badminton's greatest players in Pinky Li in 2013-2014. The then "Dons" were so good that they not only won the team titles, but monopolized the doubles both seasons with an all De Anza individual doubles finals while Li was the singles champion and doubles champion both seasons. De Anza lost in its last state championship appearance in 2015 against San Diego City, 11-10.
In this year's state final, De Anza is led by #1 player Vanessa Dinh and #2 Madison Moe while Irvine Valley is paced by #1 Yan "Lucy" Lou and #2 Chih Cheih "Jarita" Huang.
CCCAA STATE INDIVIDUAL SINGLES/DOUBLES, FRIDAY-SATURDAY, MAY 13-14
In the individual singles, Dinh is the North's #1 seed as Coast champion while San Diego Mesa's Erica Garcia Badaracco is the South's top seed. In individual doubles, De Anza's Moe and Malaya Paras-Mangrobang are the North #1 seed and the South's top seed is El Camino's pair of Maria Mongacki and Julia Foster. Garcia Badaracco became South Coast singles champion at the SCC Individual Championships held at El Camino College on April 29.
The individuals have their smallest field ever in the sport as just 10 teams across the state played this season, five in the Coast Conference and five in the South Coast.
Courtesy Robert Lewis, CCCSIA for CCCAA State Badminton