Girls Badminton Flying High

The Stuyvesant girls’ badminton team showed a promising start to the 2022-2023 season by winning their season opener against last year’s City Champions.

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By Zoe Buff

The Stuyvesant girls’ badminton team, the Peglegs, triumphed 3-2 in their highly anticipated season opener, a game crucial not only because it was their first of the season, but also because of the reputability of their opponent: Seward Park Campus.

Last year, the Seward Park Campus girls’ badminton team was the Peglegs’ biggest rival. The Peglegs played an overall impressive season but lost two games—one to Seward and one to Flushing Campus. Their loss against Seward eliminated them from the playoffs, while Seward advanced to become 2021-22 City Champions. At the City Individual Tournament, Seward’s players held first and second place, while Stuyvesant juniors Eugene Park and Fanny Yin took third. Because Stuyvesant and Seward were in such a close competition last season, the Peglegs are increasingly determined to come out on top this season.

Coach Hugh Francis has been integral to the success of the girls’ badminton team. Being the first and only coach of the team since its introduction to Stuyvesant, he has continually shown his dedication, especially during the post-COVID-19 rebuild. When the Public Schools Athletic League recognized the growing popularity of badminton back in 2012, Stuyvesant was one of the first schools chosen to create a team. Ninety students attended tryouts the first year, which, while exciting, was challenging for Francis to navigate as a coach. “You don’t even know where to begin with who’s going to be on the team,” Francis said.

A decade later, the team has evolved tremendously. A great number of students still attend tryouts, with 60 students fighting for a spot on the team this year. Francis, along with senior co-captain Chloe Huang and junior co-captain Natalie Keung, strategically selected 21 players, 14 of whom were returning from last season. The seven new players added to this season’s roster were part of a larger effort by the Peglegs to reconstruct the team since the interruption of COVID-19. “Pretty much half of us joined just last year and the other half this year, so a lot of us didn’t know the game before we joined,” Huang said.

This dynamic is reminiscent of when the team was first established. “Everybody was new to the team,” Francis said. “We were all kind of still finding our way.” Though many players who joined this season and last season were unfamiliar with badminton, new players picked up the sport quickly. As for why badminton, in particular, attracts so many novices, Francis shared his insights. “What sets badminton apart from almost every other game is [that] it’s so easy to get started. It’s so easy to serve, and if you’re playing against someone who’s basically your skill level, even if you’re both beginners, you’re probably going to have fun,” Francis said. 

Still, training new players to be match-ready is a significant responsibility that the team took in stride. They practice every day and train against their managers, many of whom won titles in the state championship for boys’ badminton. The captains are determined to train all players for the best chance at the City Championship. “We’re dedicated, we want to play, and we will work for it,” Huang said.

As for the current season, the Peglegs have high hopes, largely due to their victory in the first game of the season against Seward. “We beat last year’s City Champs, so I’m really excited for playoffs and individuals to see how far the team can go this year,” Huang said. Since both Stuyvesant and Seward underwent substantial changes in their rosters due to graduating seniors, Stuyvesant’s early win in the season provides promise for following matchups against Seward in the playoffs and beyond.