May 15th, 2018 12:00 PM
OPRF state qualifiers (left to right) Grace Cho, Gaby Simone, Halley Bergin and Maeve Heflin show their school pride. (Courtesy Paul Wright)
By Marty Farmer
The Oak Park and River Forest High School badminton team sent two doubles teams to compete in the state tournament at Eastern Illinois University over the weekend.
The Huskies' top tandem of Halley Bergen and Maeve Heflin fared reasonably well at state, splitting four matches in Charleston.
After a loss to Wheaton-Warrenville South in the first round, Bergen and Heflin rebounded nicely with two straight wins in the consolation bracket. They defeated Audrey Treadwell and Jordan Walters (St. Charles North) 21-15, 21-15 and consolidated that result with a 21-15, 18-21, 21-12 victory against Felice Espada and Caitlyn Krueger (Lockport).
Hinsdale South's Aimee Puz and Kaitlyn Hurka ended the Huskies' run with a 21-18, 21-13 win in the quarterfinals of the consolation bracket.
"Halley and Maeve really set the tone for our doubles play all season," said OPRF coach Paul Wright. "They scored well against our conference's powerhouse teams. York, Hinsdale Central and Lyons all finished in the top 15 at state so that tells you the strength of our conference."
Gabriela Simone and Grace Cho (the other OPRF doubles representative at state) dropped a pair of matches in straight sets against Barrington and Buffalo Grove.
In the Stevenson Sectional, Bergen and Heflin won three of four matches while Simone and Cho won three of five matches to qualify for the state tournament. When the two OPRF pairs squared off at Stevenson, Bergen and Heflin prevailed with a 21-5, 21-17 victory.
Although she didn't qualify for state, OPRF singles player Emma Proctor played well at Stevenson.
"Emma just missed making it downstate by losing the qualifying match in sectionals," Wright said. "Emma and Halley will be the leaders of our program next year."
In the team standings, sectional host Stevenson won the championship with 18 points, followed by OPRF (10), Addison Trail (8), Warren (5.5) and Leyden (2.5).
During the regular season, the Huskies finished second at the Hersey, Conant and T.F. South Invites and competed well in the stacked West Suburban Conference Silver Division.
As for the future of OPRF badminton, the outlook is bright.
The Huskies welcome back Proctor, Bergen, Maya Jamroz, Annie Wren, Annika Carlson, Nelly Schalich, Evelyn Drews and Olivia Remington next season.
"The program is looking up and we have a solid foundation," Wright said. "I think we have a solid shot at finishing in the three spot in a tight conference race next season."
OPRF has had encouraging results at state in recent years, while growing an interest in the sport at the youth levels.
"For the sixth year in a row, we have qualified several individuals downstate," Wright said. "We have more girls taking badminton seriously in the offseason which has helped our program drastically.
"We started a summer camp six years ago for grades 4-6 and 7-9," Wright added. "Our numbers are huge so we are getting more girls playing badminton."
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