It was a slow climb up the ladder of Suffolk girls badminton supremacy for the doubles team of Sydni Berkenfeld and Jolie Greenbaum. But boy, was it sweet when they finally got to the top.
Berkenfeld and Greenbaum, who play for Half Hollow Hills, won their first Suffolk championship with a 15-2, 15-5 victory over Commack’s Stephanie Sack and Kim Colella at the Suffolk Individual Championships Tuesday afternoon at Half Hollow Hills East.
Berkenfeld and Greenbaum finished second last year, third the year before, and fourth as freshmen.
“Each year, we thought it was going to be the year,” Berkenfeld said. “So, it’s been frustrating that, each year, we’ve struggled at the end. But, it made this year even more special…I think, after three years making it here, we learned what we have to fix in order to accomplish it.”
Greenbaum said that the duo kept the birdie low during the championship match, asking Sack and Colella to do most of the heavy lifting.
“You’re basically on the offense and they’re on the defense trying to recover after every shot you hit, while you’re just attacking until they can’t handle it anymore,” Greenbaum said. “We did that pretty well today…We placed it in places that they wouldn’t expect us to.”
The path to the championship began, in earnest, after their freshmen year. The duo, a 13th seed in that tournament, surprised themselves when they were still alive in the semifinals. After that, they knew a championship was possible and their entire outlook changed.
“Four years ago, we just saw this sport as an opportunity to have fun,” Greenbaum said. “…From then on, we just kind of took it more seriously. In practice, we would just work at it so we would be prepared at counties. It was more of a serious sport, rather than just having fun.”
Commack’s Emily Haber won her second consecutive singles title, defeating Miller Place’s Grace Beers 11-5, 11-2. Haber said she’s battled a small labrum tear and an irritated rotator cuff in her right shoulder for virtually her entire high school career. Despite her range of motion being hindered, she’s been able to move to the top of the county — and stay there.
“I was happy with the way I was able to move (the birdie) around (today),” Haber said. “My shoulder kind of hurts. I just had to push through and be able to get it deep or short when it needed to be.”