Badminton: T.F. South eyes repeat as state titlist
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media March 23, 2014 9:18PM
Jessica Gomez, of T.F. South | File photo
TOP 5 TEAMS
1. T.F. South: Jessica
Gomez is recovered from a knee injury, while Cassie Breshock and Jenna Pasko team up at No. 1 doubles. Who else will step up for the Rebels?
2. Andrew: State-qualifying doubles partners Nicole Bernardi and Nina Vinotai return to lead a deep Thunderbolts team that is gunning for SouthWest Suburban and state titles.
3. Sandburg: The Eagles lost all five of their state qualifiers (one singles player, four doubles players) from a season ago. Returning conference champs Ashley Godawski and Maddie Sheehan and Katie Schroeder will lead the Eagles.
4. Lockport: Aracelit Lozano and Marisol Onate form the Porters’ No. 1 doubles team. Lauren Hueckstaedt and Jen Inczauski can play singles or doubles.
5. Lincoln-Way Central: Jana Mudrock, a top-16 finisher at state last year, returns to lead the Knights. Margaret Kolyvas and Maria Brown make the jump from singles to No. 1 doubles.
TOP 10 PLAYERS
(in alphabetical order)
Nicole Bernardi, Andrew; Cassie Breshock, T.F. South; Ashley Godawski, Sandburg; Jessica Gomez, T.F. South; Tara Hill, Oak Lawn; Lauren Hueckstaedt, Lockport; Jana Mudrock, Lincoln-Way Central; Jenna Pasko, T.F. South; Maddie Sheehan, Sandburg; Nina Vinotai, Andrew.
Updated: April 25, 2014 6:14AM
T.F. South’s Jessica Gomez could sense the win.
However, just five points away from victory in the state badminton third-place match in May, Gomez planted oddly on her left leg, tearing the anterior cruciate knee ligament and meniscus.
“I almost couldn’t believe it when I hurt the knee,” Gomez said at a recent practice. “It didn’t even hurt right away, but the knee couldn’t withstand all the weight. I was just disappointed.”
By that point in the tournament, the Rebels already had locked up the state championship. With Gomez’s injury and losses in the second- and sixth-place doubles matches, the win almost felt like a loss.
This season, the goal for T.F. South is simple: win state again and enjoy it.
“We’re definitely not content,” T.F. South coach Bob Tengstrand said. “We’re focused on state. Invites, conference, sectionals, those will happen along the way. With injuries, the losses, we looked at the state title as, ‘We won, but ... ’ This year, no matter what happens, we’ll be happy and celebrate.”
T.F. South (161/2 points) defeated Naperville Central (12 points) for the title.
Even losing three state-qualifying players from last season, hopes are high for T.F. South, starting with Gomez’s return.
The senior estimates her knee is at 90 percent, and she’s experiencing no pain when she plays. After surgery during the summer, she went six months without hitting anything more than serves before finally getting back on the court.
“I can’t believe I’m a senior. It’s bittersweet because this is my last chance,” Gomez said. “My first priority is defending our state championship title as a team. I also obviously want to win state as an individual.”
Senior Cassie Breshock and junior Jenna Pasko form T.F. South’s No. 1 doubles team. Pasko and since-graduated Shannon Pollard lost in the championship match in 2013 in three sets while Breshock and then-senior Jhennie Corpuz lost in the sixth-place match.
“We’re nervous and excited defending our title,” Breshock said. “Everyone expects us to win again, but we know it’s not just handed to us. We’re getting ready.”
Finding the rhythm the doubles duo will need is high on the list as the season develops.
“Just make good shots, never give up,” Pasko said. “We definitely want to get first this year. It’s that level up. It’s there to win.”
Bri Walker looks to take the No. 2 singles spot behind Gomez. Cameron Crosby, Paula Rodriguez, Jeanne Colin, Brittany Arreola, Kristi Fisher and Precious Powe will round out the doubles rotation.