By Christopher Yee
Badminton team captain Lisa Vittayarukskul rushed forward across the hardwood just like she’s done in countless matches over the past two seasons at East Los Angeles College.
But instead of a birdie flying away from her last Friday night, she unleashed a bright pink bowling ball from her hand.
With two weeks off until the Southern Coast Conference individual playoffs on May 6, the badminton team took to the lanes at ABC Bowling Alley in Alhambra to raise money for the American Red Cross’s aid in Japan.
“Initially, we wanted to fundraise for our trip to San Francisco (for the California Community College Athletic Association Badminton State Championships), but we felt that this was more important,” said head coach Qui Nguy. “We came up with the idea a month ago. Everyone wanted to do something.”
The team members, all wearing their uniform green-and-white polo shirts, bowled with friends, recruited others to bowl as part of the fundraiser and sold raffle tickets for prizes donated by team members.
The team donated all of the night’s proceeds to the Red Cross.
“It was a big priority for us. We’re not even sure who’s going to state (championships) yet, so we wanted to do this first,” said Vittayarukskul.
Despite the night’s diversions, the team members were still conscious of the work ahead of them at the conference playoffs.
In the playoffs, athletes from every school compete individually for eight singles spots and six doubles spots in the state championship. With at least six members from each of the four SCC schools—Compton College, ELAC, El Camino College and Pasadena City College—fighting for those chances to move on, the Huskies expect to see top performances from their rivals.
“It’s going to be a tough competition. The girls from PCC are going to try to dominate.
We just have to practice as hard as we can to prepare,” said Diana Kwok, who will be in the conference playoffs for the second time.
Along with the growth his team has shown since last season with returning players Vittayarukskul, Kwok and Ruth Wei, Nguy also recognized that rival PCC has improved.
“We should have four to six players make it to state,” said Nguy. “We’re definitely stronger than last season, but we’re facing tougher competition. PCC added a junior nationalist who’s training for the Olympics.”
First-year player Amy Ng is one of the team members who has had to grow the most over the course of the season since she had never before played an organized sport before badminton.
She credits her teammates for her growth going into the postseason.
“The best part of this season has been getting to know my teammates. They helped me develop a competitive spirit, and even though I’m nervous for the playoffs, I’ll know I gave it my all,” said Ng.
Former team captain Maria Delgado, who has acted in an unofficial capacity as an assistant coach this season, said that she has told the girls that they need to separate the time for fun and the time to bear down and focus.
“Some of the girls, especially some of the new ones, get nervous. They can’t take it easy when they get to the playoffs, but this is okay for now,” said Delgado as Vittayarukskul awarded a t-shirt to a smiling raffle winner.