San Diego--Wearing an effervescent smile on her face throughout the 2018 CCCAA State Women's Badminton Individual Tournament, Grossmont College sophomore Yukari Naono enjoyed becoming just the third player in the sport's history to win back-to-back singles and doubles championships on Saturday at San Diego City College.
After taking just 12 minutes to win her semifinal over Fresno City's Soua Kong, 21-6, 21-4, Naono had a tougher time against finalist Wan Jie Chen of Irvine Valley after Chen outlasted Pasadena City's Xiaoming Yao in the other semifinal, 21-14, 10-21, 21-16. Naono swept Chen in the finals, but it was close throughout in a 21-16, 21-18 title triumph.
Chen led early 6-5 in the first set and trailed just 12-11 midway through the first set. Two drop shot winners and an overhead smash gave Naono a 15-11 advantage on her way to a 1-0 sets lead. In the second set, Naono used a back-to-the-net, no-look backhand winner for a 7-1 lead. Chen didn't quit and used several smashes to cut it to 11-6. Naono had two backhand saves, the second for a point that got a fist pump and yet another big grin from the Japanese international student.
Again Chen would rally as she went on a 6-1 run to cut it to 19-18. But Naono prevailed, scoring the next two points to wrap up the singles crown. It was the third time this season that Naono defeated Chen as the two met in PCAC matches. Naono used many backhand winners and drop shots that just cleared the net to get the advantage over Chen.
"I was nervous coming into the match," Naono said. "Chen surprised me with her smashes. It was the hardest match I've played in my two years at Grossmont. I'm more of a doubles player so I was able to respond to her smashes with some of my own. My backhand shots worked well. I am very happy to win two straight titles."
In doubles, the Pasadena lettermen pair of Natalie Ong and Amy Huang tested Naono and her teammate Michiho Kobayashi, like Naono from Tokyo, Japan, but the Grossmont combo captured the doubles title in three sets, 21-17, 17-21, 21-12. Ong-Huang led 16-11 in the opening set, but Naono-Kobayashi went on a 10-1 scoring run to take a 1-0 sets lead. In the second set, again Ong-Huang went ahead 16-11, but it was a drop shot winner by Ong that gave the Lancers confidence at 17-11. The PCC pair forced their opponents into errors and tied the match at 1-1. In the third set, an Ong smash gave PCC a 3-2 lead. It was Kobayashi who sparked the Griffins as her long smash hits ended a few longer rallies to give her squad an 11-6 lead at the break.
Ong-Huang couldn't recover as several errors combined with some power shots from both Naono and Kobayashi finished off a 9-point set 3 win and a state doubles championship for the Grossmont ladies.
Naono joins an elite trio of players to win consecutive singles and doubles titles as the feat was also accomplished by De Anza's Pinky Li in 2013-14 and Irvine Valley's Thuy Hoang in 2010-11.
Complete Bracket Results at the following link:
Skyline's Lori Ng won the consolation singles title and consolation doubles title with her partner Denise Trinh.
Release by Robert Lewis, CCCSIA for the CCCAA