Perry High badminton swinging for a state-title repeat - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Perry High badminton swinging for a state-title repeat

September 22nd, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Perry High badminton swinging for  a state-title repeat
Sports and Recreation

By Eric Newman, Staff Writer

The celebration of the 2017 state championship was bittersweet for the Perry High badminton team.

Elated to go 18-0 and claim the school’s first state title, there was an overwhelming feeling that October of 2017 might be the end of an era.

Graduating five of its six varsity starters, coach Lerina Johnson said her expectations were much lower than the previous two years. The Pumas were runners-up to Xavier in 2016 before winning the 2017 championship.

With several girls thrown into starting roles from last year’s junior varsity, Johnson thought 2018 would be a rebuilding year before the season-opening Flying Feathers badminton tournament in early August.

She had kept more underclassmen on the roster than ever, believing that the team would prepare for future years.

“It turns out I was wrong,” Johnson said.

Anchored by tournament MVP Julia Mumme, the one returning starter, coupled with surprising victories by several varsity first-timers, the Pumas stormed into Highland High and claimed the tournament title.

Johnson said her expectations about the season immediately changed.

“I think we all believed after that tournament that we had a shot at a repeat state championship,” she said. “It’s going to take some work, and we know it’s not going to happen now. But we’re hoping to be ready and peak in October because that’s when the state finals are.”

Working on swings and conditioning in practice, many of the players’ shirts said, “October ready,” to symbolize their motivation to return to the finals.

The group understands that it is not yet at state-championship level.

“The feeling of winning was so incredible, and I want to feel that again,” Mumme said. “It would be great to get these girls rings, too, and me for a second time.”

The younger girls agree, using Mumme and the other seniors as motivation.

“They worked hard for years, and we want to just finish what they started,” sophomore Abbie Heckel said.

Heckel, like many on the varsity, is still learning how to compete at the top level.

Johnson said her girls frequently are asked about maintaining the success.

“The expectation, if you walk down the hallway, it’s always, ‘Hey, are you going to do it again? Where’s the team at?’” she said. “And everyone outside puts some pressure on us, so we just try to stay level-headed.”

Playing nearly every top team from last year’s playoffs, Perry will be tested. Junior Sophie Jex said that’s good.

“I love the excitement and the nerves of close games,” she said, “and we’ll definitely have more of those games against some good teams. That will make us tougher players.”

Perry High badminton senior Julia Mumme is the lone returning starter from the 2017 state championship team. The Pumas’ large group of newcomers looks to her for leadership.