After a mediocre first half by Calhoun’s standards, the Lady Colts turned things up a notch from a 4-2 start and stormed into the Nassau County playoffs on a six-match winning streak and playing their best badminton of the season.
Their momentum continued and ultimately brought the program’s first county title since 2011. Calhoun beat two-time defending champion Port Washington, 5-2, at Bellmore-JFK High School on May 22 to claim the crown. It marked the fourth consecutive year the teams met in the finals.
“Our seniors did a great job leading us,” Lady Colts coach Dan Bowker said. “All the girls had a focus and a belief that we’d get better as a team every day and play our best come playoff time.”
Senior Alyssa Waterman secured the championship with an incredible three-set victory at third singles, 21-19, 20-22, 21-18. With straight-set wins by senior Jen Chen at first singles, seniors Giovanna Raheb and Sarah Clahane at third doubles, and senior Gabriella Librizzi and junior Rebecca Woods at fourth doubles, the Lady Colts needed to secure just one more court for the title.
“Three matches were going to a third set, and the seventh match was just getting started,” Bowker said. “They cut our lead to 3-2 and all eyes were on Alyssa’s court. Her match was back-and-forth the whole way.”
Leading 20-18, Waterman hit a cross-court drop that her opponent returned into the net for the final point. “The etiquette of the sport is nobody celebrates until everyone has completed playing,” Bowker said. “So we had to wait a little while for the applause.”
Juniors Niamh Woods and Claire Murphy won at second doubles to provide the final margin for Calhoun (13-2 overall) after Port Washington squeezed out wins at second singles and first doubles.
“It was great,” Bowker added. “All the girls worked so hard.”
The Lady Colts, who outscored their last nine opponents 52-11, reached the finals by eliminating Syosset, 7-0, in the quarterfinals, and Jericho, 5-2, in the semis. Calhoun won the last three courts, including a big come-from-behind triumph by Chen, and a 27-25 third-set victory by Waterman, to beat Jericho. Both Chen and Waterman earned All-County honors this spring, along with the No. 1 doubles tandem of seniors Angela Lin and Rebecca Schneider.
The doubles combinations of Niamh Woods and Murphy, and Raheb and Clahane, were named All-Conference. Both tandems produced 14 wins against one loss, as did Librizzi and Rebecca Woods. Senior Katherine Kustas was a key piece of the puzzle at second singles, while Nicoletta Freese, Zoe Burke, Rachel Gott, Elayna Wally and Stephanie Steinberg also contributed to the team’s success.