Badminton: Edina stages upsets en route to first crown
Posted: Wednesday, May 17, 2023 - 9:20 PM
Edina sophomore Claire Watz had difficulty concentrating in school on Wednesday, May 17. Throughout her day, visions of playing for a state championship and making school history invaded her coursework. Getting through the day school day became her drive. Getting to the gymnasium afterward put her in overdrive.
It was there in the Edina Activity Center that badminton awaited. The Hornets were hosting the semifinals, third place and championship matches of the Badminton Team State Tournament and were the No. 4 seed. They were tabbed to face top-ranked St. Paul Johnson, the seven-time defending champion in the semifinals.
“Not only was it a challenge to get through the day, we also knew what we faced in the tournament,” Watz said. “As amped up as we were to be playing, there was a sense of calm that if we took care of our jobs, good things were going to happen.”
Boy, did they ever.
Watz was the catalyst that led a spirited Edina performance that paved the way to two upset victories and the school’s first-ever state championship in Badminton. The Hornets capped their historic day with a 4-3 victory over No. 3 Burnsville in the championship match. While the team championship was the 199th state title and added to Edina’s unprecedented history in high school athletics, it was the Hornets’ first in Badminton. And just to get to the championship match, Edina staged the upset of the season with a 4-3 victory over top-seeded St. Paul Johnson.
At the heart of both victories was Watz, who captured the fourth and deciding point in each match. In the championship, Watz defeated Burnsville’s Molly Murray 21-14, 21-9 at No. 4 singles to secure the title. Watz was so focused that she didn’t initially realize the significance of the victory until her teammates triggered the celebration.
“I had a sense, both in the semifinals and championship, that those matches were maybe going to decide it,” Watz said. “You could feel it. It really is a special feeling right now, and to do it on our home court, makes it even better.”
It was the first time since the Badminton State Tournament started in 1996 that two suburban teams met for the team championship. It was also the first time since 1999 that a team from the St. Paul City Conference wasn’t in the final. Burnsville, which upset No. 2 St. Paul Highland Park by a 4-3 score in the other semifinal, was attempting to win the team title for the first time since winning three in a row from 1996-99.
From 2002 through 2022, a team from the St. Paul City Conference had won the team championship. In that span, Johnson was 12 times. The tournament was cancelled in 2020 because of a global pandemic.
St. Paul Johnson rebounded after Wednesday's loss to Edina to record a 6-1 victory over St. Paul Highland Park in the third-place match.
The individual portion of the state tournament will be played Thursday, May 18, also at Edina High School.