Great Neck South badminton continues dynasty, wins LI title

Great Neck South badminton continues dynasty, wins LI title
Great Neck South doubles player Emma Ding prepares to hit a shot during her team's L.I. Championship game win on May 22. Photo courtesy of Allison Gottfried.

It was a simple command to her coach, from a player who’s been with her for years.

“If you look at me for more than five seconds, I’m going to start crying,” Bernice Wong said to Allison Gottfried as she walked off the court on May 22, following the final match of Wong’s badminton career.

And why wouldn’t she get emotional? For four years, over thousands of hours of practice, Wong has been in the gymnasium with Gottfried, trying to get better and trying to keep the Rebels badminton dynasty going.

And now when it was finally done, when Great Neck South had vanquished Suffolk champ Ward Melville, 9-0 for the Long Island championship, two days after beating Jericho, 5-2 for the Nassau title, the tears had to come.

Whether coach and player locked eyes or not.

“I just felt all the emotions,” Wong said. “After all these years, to go out on top like we were able to, was just the absolute best feeling. Just so gratifying.”

In winning its fourth straight Nassau crown, and third consecutive Long Island title, Great Neck South again showed that everyone else is playing for second place.

Led by Wong at No. 3 singles and No. 1 singles player Kayla Wu, the Rebels rolled through an undefeated season.

“It was an incredible year, seeing the seniors go out like this and seeing how well the young players developed,” Gottfried said. “We knew we would need both singles and doubles to come through and they did.”

While the Ward Melville match was as easy as possible, with all nine wins coming in two games, Jericho proved a stiffer test.

Great Neck South suffered defeats at No. 2 singles and at No. 3 with Wong, so winning the doubles matches would be crucial.

And the young teams of Emma Ding and Eva Westbay at No.1 doubles, Adora and Akira Cho at second doubles, Kary Wong and Katherine Chung at No.3, and Michelle Ye partnering with Jessica Jacob at fourth doubles all came through, winning all 8 games.

“We had such great doubles play and they really came through mentally as well,” Gottfried said.

And at singles, Wu continued to be dominant, winning both her county and LIC matches with ease, to go along with her county crown she won earlier in May.

“It’s definitely bittersweet, knowing it’s all over,” Wu said. “I’ve worked really hard over the years, to accomplish this, and we got it. Now it’s over and it’s definitely a little sad.

“Kayla is our shining star every game; she’s our top player and our captain,” Wong said. “Going on this journey with her, I’ve seen her grow every single day, she’s always been there for everyone. I’m so happy I got to share these years with her.”

The team will lose Wu, headed to Brandeis, and Wong, who plans to play badminton in college at the University of Rochester, but will return everyone else to the squad, including No. 2 singles player Hannah Cheng.

“It’s a testament to how hard the girls work, that we’re able to keep this going,” Wong said. “Our managers and boys players who come to every single practice to work with us, coach is there every single day. “It goes to show how dedicated everyone is to the sport.”

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