In the tradition of athletic excellence at Fresno City College, the women’s badminton program, which started in 2000, captured its first state championship in the spring of 2016.
Before the season started, not a whole lot of people, including members of the team, expected the team to end up as state champions.
Carol Kadingo, the head coach of the team since its inception, said she had doubts at the start of the season about whether their team had what it took to win a state title.
Kadingo said her doubts were related to the scarcity of talent and absence of other teams in the Central Valley.
“No one in the Central Valley Conference plays badminton,” said Kadingo.
“Every time we need to play someone on the road, we are going to San Francisco City College; we are going to Skyline college; we are going to De Anza College, Mission College.”
Those Bay area colleges also have the advantage of recruiting from a much larger pool of athletes and therefore have more talent because “badminton is much more popular in the bay area than it is here,” she added.
Although the team went undefeated, the players still had to work through some issues early on in the year.
Sophomore Leslie Lam said the issues were related to unfamiliarity among some of the players.
Still, the talent level was there for FCC; as the season progressed, the team’s skills started to show up in the results, and those results caused a boost of confidence.
“In the beginning of our season, we were all starting out fresh; some of us had played previous years, and some of us were starting our first years,” Lam said.
“This became a slight obstacle; we had to learn how to work together, but also be a team player.”
The struggles didn’t last for very long.
Both Kadingo and numerous other players were quick to point to a match against De Anza in mid-April as their turning point when they hit their stride as a team.
“By the time that we got through the first round, I had a pretty good idea and suspicion that we might be able to end up being the conference representative in the state championship,” Kadingo said.
Sophomore Belinda Vue agrees with her coach.
“At one point in the season, while we were still competing in the league and went against De Anza and beat them with a great score lead, that’s when we hit our stride as a team.
Once the Rams got on a roll, there was no stopping them from going where they intended, a state title.
Badminton in California is unique as there is only one round of playoff, the final game.
“There are no regionals,” Kadingo said.
“If you are the conference champion in northern California, you also immediately get elevated into the state championship,”
You leapfrog all those other sports that play many levels of playoffs.”
Winning the conference guaranteed that the Fresno City College team would make just its second appearance in the final, both under Kadingo.
In its previous state championship appearance in 2007, the Rams lost 19-2.
Kadingo and her team were determined to not allow history repeat itself in Pasadena.
The final matches in both singles and doubles competition were fierce and hotly contested.
In order for Fresno to win it all, the players needed some big time efforts from the bottom part of the team’s ladder.
Fortunately for the Rams, the depth of talent on the roster was very strong.
This allowed Fresno to come back even though their first two players on the ladder lost to their opponent, Pasadena City College.
In a turn around, the Rams’ depth saved the day as the bottom three of the ladder of Wenting Liang, Lam and Vue all won their second matches, securing victory.
Players and coaches were ecstatic in describing their experience in Pasadena and winning a state championship.
“This is the seventeenth year of women’s badminton at the college,” Kadingo said.
“I have been the head coach the entire time, and so it was very exciting that it was the first time that we were successful and were state champions.”
Lam said that what comes to her mind when she hears the words ‘2016 Rams badminton’ is the facial expression on the coaches and players when the team won its last match.
“The faces were priceless, and it was hard to believe that we won,” Lams said. “And to this day, it is still hard to believe that we won our title as state championships of 2016.”