Conant badminton ties for first in sectional despite COVID challenges
Despite the unorthodox nature of athletic seasons this year, Conant’s girls’ badminton team secured success.
The varsity team finished second in their division and played for second at conference.
Moreover, the team tied for first in their sectional with five players qualifying for state.
One of the doubles teams, made up of Sadhana Viswanathan, ’22, and Anjali Patel, ‘21, placed first in their double’s sectional. The other, made up of Anjali Patel, ‘22, and Mahi Patel, ‘22, placed third.
The fifth state qualifier was Naga Maddipudi, ‘22, who placed second in the singles sectional, and whose state tournament performance ranked her tenth in the state.
The team overall placed 18th in the state tournament.
Badminton, while not a contact sport, still faced significant challenges with the implementation of COVID guidelines. Like any sport, endurance and stamina workouts remained difficult with masks, and social distancing limited the extent to which players mingled during practice; players were often limited to their assigned court, and tried to keep their distance from even their own doubles partners. Moreover, birdies were sanitized between practices and athletes were encouraged to sanitize their hands often.
Coach Erin Garrity-Duffey, the varsity coach, described the transition to the unusual season as being relatively easy. “The athletes were respectful and understood the bigger picture,” she said. “[They knew] it was about keeping our community and team healthy so we could do what we loved.”
She also reported finding that shorter practices did not negatively impact team performance overall, and even pointed out that condensed practices seemed to make the time more productive.
Anjali Patel and Mahi Patel talked about their first sectionals and state experience, lauding the more competitive play while simultaneously wishing that they could have experienced a more normal tournament. They also mentioned the COVID regulations at the state tournament, pointing out the restriction of players to their specific chairs and how courts were assigned on a rotational basis. Though they did not make it past the first round, they both counted the experience as extremely motivational for the coming year.
Maddipudi was able to provide a comparison of the tournaments to regular years, having qualified for the state tournament in freshman year. “It didn’t even feel like playing a sectionals or state tournament with the COVID regulations,” she said. “It just felt like a normal meet.” Usually, she described, schools would have an ‘opening ceremony’ with their school banners, and everything happened with more celebration and ceremony.
When it came to placing tenth in the state, she mostly had one way to describe it. “It just feels unreal. The accomplishment hasn’t really sunk in yet, even though it’s been a while. It doesn’t feel like I achieved that.” Maddipudi had an impressive record throughout the season, rounding it out by placing second in the sectional after a three-set match against Schaumburg.
Even with this successful season, the players unanimously report anticipation of the next season, and are looking forward to continuing their growth. For most players, the season was not only enjoyable despite COVID, but also because of it.
Garrity-Duffey said “[The season] was a refreshing break to monotony that the current pandemic has established.”