The Chicago area has had its fair share of sports curses, but Barrington’s badminton has finally ended one that has plagued them for years.
“I just wanted to end our curse,” Barrington senior Hanna Gross said of her qualifying for the IHSA state finals, the first Fillies player in eight years to do so. “So I told coach at the beginning of the year that all I wanted to do this year was qualify for state.”
Eight years may seem like a reasonable amount of time in between appearences for most teams, but for the Fillies badminton team, who always put added pressure on themselves since the sport isn't as mainstream as the other more popular sports, that was too long a lay off. So Gross took it upon herself to do something about the lack of state appearences.
“She told me during tryouts that she wanted to go to state,” Barrington’s coach Ted deBruin said of his senior captain. “She has been committed, and done a fantastic job all year to get there.”
Gross, who started her quest for state finals qualification last year, played as the number one singles player on varsity as a junior. Entrusted with the responsibility, Gross utilized her opportunity and analyzed the highest level of competition throughout the state. With the new found experience Gross knew what she had to do.
“I worked extra hard with a professional player in the off-season and now my play is drastically different,” Gross said. “I’ve always had power hitting but now I have worked on being well-rounded.”
And the hard work paid off throughout the year as Gross notched first place victories in the Elk Grove Invitational and the Hoffman Estates Invitational. Gross also padded her resume with consistent play that helped the surging Fillies to a fourth place finish in the talent loaded MSL Meet and a respectable conference record (5-3).
“I told (Hannah) to not be too concerned about conference play or her record, but to just work on her game” deBruin said.
Gross qualified for the state finals by finishing fourth at the Park Ridge Sectionals. Gross dropped her first match (13-21, 21-19, 19-21) before winning out her remaining matches in straight sets (21-16, 21-11), (21-15, 21-14), and (21-16, 21-15).
“I think in that first match she just needed to settle her nerves,” deBruin said of Gross. “But she responded by playing with ‘good anger’ over her loss and went on to win.”
The fourth place finish by Gross at the Park Ridge sectionals helped Barrington tie for third place with 7.5 team points, matching the total by Wheeling. Stevenson won the sectional (15.5) followed by Prospect (12.5).
Gross will be back on the court Friday and will face 14th seeded Torrie Graham, a junior from Elmhurst (York). A difficult opening round but Gross is optimistic about the state finals.
“I’ve worked hard, have been very fortunate and the team has really supported me,” Gross said prior to extra practice with teammates.
“I’m going to go (to state), try hard and enjoy myself,” Gross went on to say of her last badminton matches as a senior.
Although Gross was the only Barrington player to qualify for the state finals tournament held this Friday and Saturday, May 13 and 14, at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, there were many Fillies players on the verge, but just came up a little short.
“Everyone had a chance to qualify going into their last match,” deBruin said of the remaining members who were unable to win their crucial last match.
Honorable mentions go out junior Shirley Ni and the sisters’ doubles team of sophomore Alyssa Slager and senior Sydney Slager who were unable to advance to the state finals despite a strong showing at sectionals.