Newsday Players of the Year: Ryan Wu, Great Neck South, Sr. and Kayla Wu, Great Neck South, So.
As young children, Ryan and Kayla Wu would trade wins on the badminton court. Back and forth they’d go, Ryan and Kayla, successful products of a badminton family bred to win.
“Me and my sister were always very close,” said Ryan Wu, a senior. “We always hung out together because we understood each other way more than others. Growing up, we were very competitive when it came to badminton. She would beat me and I would beat her.”
Now, they beat everybody.
Ryan Wu won the singles championship at the Nassau individual tournament for the third consecutive season and was named Newsday’s Player of the Year for boys badminton. Kayla Wu won the girls singles title at the Nassau individual tournament and won at first singles at the first girls badminton Long Island Championship since 1983, and was named Newsday’s Player of the Year in girls badminton.
“In my opinion, Kayla has more potential than I do,” Ryan said. “She has this ability to figure out things more naturally. She has the talent to get any shot over with perfection, even if she’s in an unbalanced state.”
Badminton is clearly in the genes. The pair’s father, Chibing, is a coach who owns badminton centers in Westbury and Flushing. Ryan, already the best player on Long Island as a junior, refined his skills for his final season at Great Neck South by playing against former professional singles players.
“I think my footwork and offense improved the most this year,” Ryan said. “I’ve always had a good idea (on) defense, but my offense was the biggest problem. I had no opportunities to finish at attack. Training with (the professionals) helped me improve my soft touch, my footwork and my smashes.”
Ryan, who is already playing nationally in adult tournaments, was 11-1 in the regular season.
Kayla went 10-0.
“She’s become more confident,” Great Neck South coach Allison Romeo Gottfried said. “She’s worked on consistency and accuracy, which all of the best players need to do.”
BOYS FIRST TEAM
Jaiveer Gujral, Half Hollow Hills, Sr.
He won the Suffolk individual singles title, defeating his younger brother Rajveer, 21-14, 21-16. Gujral, a great in-game adjuster, finished the season 19-2.
Rajveer Gujral, Half Hollow Hills, Fr.
The Suffolk individual singles runner-up. He fell to his older brother, Jaiveer, in the final, but finished the season 19-2. Gujiral has great court awareness.
Melvin Thu, Great Neck North, So.
He was the singles runner-up at the Nassau individual tournament. Thu was 11-1 and was the only player to beat Ryan Wu. He has excellent footwork that allows him to cover the whole court. He makes all the right shots at all the right times.
Danny Chipetine, Sr., and Joon Choi, Jr., Commack
They won the doubles title at the Suffolk individual championships, defeating Half Hollow Hills’ Max Kim and Dawood Tirmizi, 21-16, 21-18. Both will dive all over the court to save a point.
Anshul Vemuri, Sr., and Josh Dong, Sr., Jericho
They won the doubles title at the Nassau individual tournament, defeating teammates Jerry Zhang and Jerry Huang, 21-11, 21-18. Dong brings aggression; Vemuri mixes in finesse and strategy.
Coach of the Year: Mark Burkowsky, Jericho
His team won the first Long Island Championship in boys badminton, topping Half Hollow Hills, 8-1, last month. Jericho only lost two sets during the dominant victory. Last fall, the Jayhawks defeated Great Neck South to win the Nassau team championship, their fifth straight title.
GIRLS FIRST TEAM
Delaney Hart, Ward Melville, So.
Hart placed second at the Suffolk individual championships, falling to Commack’s Ashley Park, 21-18, 15-21, 18-21. Including playoffs, she was 23-2 and plays a fundamentally sound and aggressive style.
Judy Liang, Jericho, 8th grade
She was the singles runner-up at the Nassau individual tournament, falling to Kayla Wu. Liang was 8-2 in the regular season. She morphed from a player that played a finesse-based style into one that was a little more aggressive.
Ashley Park, Commack, Jr.
She won the singles title at the Suffolk individual championships, defeating Ward Melville’s Delaney Hart, 18-21, 21-15, 21-18. She finished the regular season 14-2 and has superior shot placement.
Nicole Yim, Sr., and Bernice Wong, So., Great Neck South
They won the doubles title at the Nassau individual tournament, defeating Jericho’s Devon Jin and Michelle Dong, 21-10, 21-9. They were 15-0 this spring.
Ariel Dubler, Sr., and Lindsay Bank, Sr., Half Hollow Hills
They won the doubles title at the Suffolk individual championships, defeating Miller Place’s Lindsey Kreyling and Lauren Neri, 21-12, 23-21. They’ve been playing together since freshman year and can anticipate each other’s movements.
Coach of the Year: Allison Romeo Gottfried, Great Neck South
It was hard to match the dominance of Great Neck South this season. They won the first Long Island Championship in girls badminton since 1983, defeating Ward Melville, 9-0, last month, an afternoon that had them lose only one set. Great Neck South won the Nassau team championship for the second straight year, topping Jericho.