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State representation : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
State representation
Oswego badminton team makes history with four state qualifiers, Hwang to represent Oswego East

by Christine Bolin Dascher


Badminton players from both Oswego and Oswego East will be present at this year's state tournament, which is being held on Friday and Saturday on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.

Both doubles teams from Oswego - seniors Sydney Blount and Olivia Lewis and juniors Annie Fish and Alisa Meurer - and one singles player from Oswego East -- Leena Hwang - got out of the sectional their respective teams were placed in last Thursday and Friday.

The Panthers placed fourth overall as a team in the Lincoln-Way Central Sectional behind the hosts in New Lenox, which scored 15 points. Sandburg was second with nine points, followed by Lincoln-Way East (8), Oswego (7.5), Romeoville (2.5) and Plainfield Central (0).

"Put it in the books - this is the first time ever bringing four (to the state tournament)," Oswego head coach Scott Freischlag said. "We've had state qualifiers here and there, but never four. Hopefully, we can make it to the second day."

Hwang helped the Wolves place third at the Lockport Sectional. The host-Porters led the way with 15.5 points, followed by Bradley-Bourbonnais (9), Oswego East (6.5), Plainfield South (6), Plainfield North (4) and Shepard (1.5).

"The third-place finish was the highest we've gotten at a sectional since we began badminton at Oswego East, so it's always good to see improvement," Oswego East head coach Marko Jurkovic said.

Fish/Meurer ended up in second place. They defeated their opponents from Sandburg (21-9, 21-23, 21-11), Lincoln-Way East (21-15, 16-21, 21-16), Lincoln-Way Central (21-17, 21-17) but lost to their other opponents from Lincoln-Way Central (13-21, 17-21).

"They did a good job," Freischlag said. "They did a good job of cleaning up their mistakes, played tough against Lincoln-Way East and lost to a Lincoln-Way Central team that was the No. 1 seeded team and ranked in the state."

Blount/Lewis ended up in third place. They defeated their opponent from Sandburg (21-9, 21-23, 21-11), lost to their opponent from Lincoln-Way Central (10-21, 16-21), beat their opponent from Lincoln-Way East (21-18, 21-17) and another from Lincoln-Way East (21-18, 21-6). This will be Blount's second trip to state, as she qualified in singles last year.

"Both Lincoln-Way East teams were very good," Freischlag said. "It was great to see the girls win both matches against them."

Hwang placed first overall in singles after she won all her matches. She beat her opponent from Bradley-Bourbonnais (21-10, 21-7), Lockport (19-21, 21-8, 21-18) and another opponent from Lockport (21-11, 21-18).

She is the first Southwest Prairie Conference singles player to ever win a sectional badminton title.

"Leena has been on a tear, so I had a good feeling about her advancing," Jurkovic said. "Leena is a talented player who should have a legitimate shot to play into the second day of state, which is made up of top end players who survived the first day. As long as she plays her game and her frame of mind is right, she will be successful. It should be interesting once we begin play on Friday."

The other singles player for Oswego East, senior Pearl Fox, won two matches but fell short against her opponents from Lockport and Bradley-Bourbonnais.

"Pearl has really improved over the years and is the perfect example to our younger players who may not come in very skilled, but if they work at it they can become a very successful player," Jurkovic said. "Winning multiple invite titles at No. 2 singles and winning conference was a great way for Pearl to end her senior year. Pearl's great attitude and effort will be greatly missed next year and she will be hard to replace."

Oswego East's doubles teams of sophomores Amna Hoda/Ibtesam Kamal and sophomore Amber Williams/freshman Annie Carmody were also at the sectional.

"Our doubles teams were in some games, but came up short," Jurkovic said. "With three sophomores and a freshman playing doubles at sectionals, it was learning experience. I hope it makes the girls hungry for next year and coming back to get some wins."

Oswego's two singles players, sophomores Anne Jakubowski and Sue Ellen Wieczorek, did not win any matches at the sectional.

"Unfortunately, they drew tough seeds and had tough matches," Freischlag said.

In the first round at state, Hwang will play senior Olena Dyadenko of Weekling.

In doubles action, Fish/Meurer will play Neuqua Valley's Nicole Mosier and Katherine Chung. Blount/Lewis will play Willowbrook's Sydney Plantz and Maddie Arnold.

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