St. Paul Johnson edges St. Paul Washington for record 12th badminton crown
Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2022 - 9:12 PM
St. Paul Johnson junior Alexis Xiong says she and her badminton teammates are quick learners. Just more than two weeks ago, Washington recorded a victory over Johnson, the reigning state champion, to gain a split of their two matches during St. Paul City Conference play. There was a hunch afterward that the teams would meet again soon, and the stakes would be much higher.
That played out Wednesday, May 18 at Eden Prairie High School when the powers played one last time this season with a state championship on the line. With perhaps some lingering thoughts on its only loss of the season, Johnson reversed course to record a tense 4-3 victory for its seventh state championship since 2015 and state-best 12th overall since the sport began holding a state tournament in 1996.
“We made some mistakes the last time we played them,” Xiong said of the Governors’ 4-3 setback on May 2. “We told each other, this is OK, let’s move on, learn and do much better the next time.”
Xiong spurred the team victory by teaming with Lena Nguyen to record a stirring 14-21, 21-17, 21-16 victory at No. 3 doubles to secure Johnson’s fourth victory of the match. It was one of three matches that went to a third game before the Governors could celebrate. Xiong, in her first varsity season, and Nguyen have been playing as a duo for about two weeks. Even after dropping the first game, Xiong remained poised.
“We said, no problem, let’s do this,” she said.
“That was maybe the most intense match I can ever remember,” said Johnson coach Mark Fischbach, who has led the Governors to eight of their championships. “To have three of those matches go to a third game is really something. But this team is really something, too. We talk about the importance of the next person up on this team. The girls do whatever it takes for the team and each other. They want to keep (this success) going. We’ve got six alums that are back, too, helping out and wanting to be a part of this.”
Johnson advanced to the championship with a 5-2 victory over St. Paul Highland Park and Washington defeated Burnsville 6-1.
Washington was playing in the championship match for the fifth time since 2015. All of those runner-up finishes came after losing to Johnson.
Burnsville bounced back in the third-place match to edge Highland Park 4-3.
St. Paul Johnson 4, St. Paul Washington 3
No. 1 --- Cinderella Nwe, Washington def. Yeng Lai Thao, 21-15, 21-7. No. 2 --- Rain Htoo, Washington def. Nicharee Lee, 16-21, 21-17, 15-2. No. 3 --- Sandy Vang, Johnson def. Britney Lao, 21-14, 21-15. No. 4 --- Josey Lee, Washington def. Victoria Yang, 17-21, 21-14, 19-21.
No. 1 --- Ashley Her-Birdy Xiong, Johnson def. Cho Oo-Dun Htoo, 21-19, 21-10. No. 2 --- Faith Moua-Hope Moua, Johnson def. Ariel Fang-Paw Eh Soo, 21-11, 21-12. No. 3 --- Alexis Xiong-Lena Nguyen, Johnson def. Puja Gurung-La Joe Paw, 14-21, 21-17, 21-16.