Scott Lyons and Thomas Foschino discuss the beginnings of the Connetquot badminton program, and what rewards and challenges they have seen in the program's first year before its first-ever home match on Thursday, March 21 at Connetquot High School. Credit: Newsday / Melissa Kramer

No badminton team, no problem.

Connetquot's Scott Lyons and Thomas Foschino, who were sophomores at the time, petitioned the school district to add a varsity badminton program.

The two enjoyed playing badminton in gym class and thought others would participate if a team were available to them.

"We had so much fun in gym we decided to ask the athletic director if we could start our own school team," Lyons said. "Our athletic director challenged us to go out and get 60 signatures on a petition to start the process for a new team."

Lyons and Foschino, now seniors, did yeoman's work. They went out and secured more than 400 signatures over five days and handed them to Mark Dellecave, the district's director of athletics.

"These guys ran with it and they showed me,” Dellecave said. “They did the school district and their parents proud.”

Connetquot put its first boys and girls badminton teams on the hardwood this spring.

"It was hard going up to people we didn’t know and saying, 'hey, do you want a badminton team?'," Foschino said. “And a lot of people said yes, so that kind of worked out. It’s a pretty rewarding experience to see all the students that normally wouldn’t be on a team come out and try their hardest."

Both the Thunderbirds boys and girls teams lost their March 19 opener against Long Island powerhouse Miller Place, 9-0.

Two days later, Connetquot's girls team fell to Smithtown East, but experienced a small victory as the fourt-doubles team of Arina Junaid and Destiny Velez earned the school's first win, 15-3, 15-1.

And Velez is looking forward to winning some more.

“It’s pretty crazy to think that we won the first match in Connetquot history,” she said. “It means a lot to me because I never thought that I’d be the one to say that I won the first match ever. I believe one day our team will be one of the best.”

It was a short wait for the first team victory. Connetquot girls beat Smithtown West, 5-4, on March 26. it was a sign that things are looking up for the Thunderbirds.  

The boys team is still in search of its first team win. But senior Philip Neunzig got Connetquot’s first boys victory, winning at first singles against Smithtown East on March 21. 

"I see the program growing as our team is getting stronger," Neunzig said. "We're learning from our opponents.”

With only six graduating seniors, the program will continue to build, with students at the middle school level being informed of the new opportunity.

"We have a lot more younger students involved," Lyons said. "We’ll have more of a future if we can start to train the younger players."

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