QUEENS — The Mary Louis Academy badminton team has a message to every Long Island opponent it plays — “We are from Queens.”
“We’re from Queens and we’ve embraced that and love that,” said first-year coach Katie Flynn, who said all of her team's opponents hail from Long Island.
“The girls think it’s so funny and they want to put it on every single article of clothing for badminton.”
The team has struggled to hold its own against more established competitors, but with time — and the efforts of a new coaching staff — the varsity team picked up their first win against their Long Island foes, defeating Sacred Heart Academy 4-3 on April 11.
Mary Louis proved that win was no fluke Monday, beating St. Mary’s of Manhasset 7-0.
“I think it confirmed the fact that we are making improvements and this program can grow into something bigger,” said coach Katie Flynn, 23, who along with Erin Flynn (no relation) took over the program this year.
Like many of her players, Katie Flynn had no prior badminton experience. She had played basketball and was on the swimming team at St. Francis Prep.
“We came in Day One and said we’re going to run and do sprints and different exercises I did use in basketball because they all needed to learn fast, quick movements, which a lot of them didn’t have last year,” said Katie Flynn who, like Erin, is a religion teacher at the school.
The students said the change is evident.
“It was pretty amazing,” junior Alex Quan said. “In the past we’ve struggled, but ever since we had new coaches they trained us more, it’s more hard core. We’ve worked harder this year.”
“I felt really proud because we had new coaches, new ways of practicing so we all got better,” said junior Jolie Chow, who plays third doubles.
Returning players like Roseanne Hernandez, a senior who has been on the team since her sophomore year, said the change has been a shock to the system — in a good way.
“The training is much more intense, a lot of conditioning,” the third doubles player said. “Before when we joined it was like, ‘Oh, we don’t have to run that much, but now it’s like track. It’s good conditioning, though. It’s very healthy.”
Senior Melanie Joy Tupas was hesitant to try out for the team three years ago because she didn’t know how to play the sport.
“I think it’s unique to play here,” she said.
“But my friends encouraged me to play and I practiced a lot to get on the team,” she said. “At first I really didn’t know how to play badminton, I didn’t know how to serve. I learned from previous seniors.”
When Karen Andreone, the CHSAA Nassau-Suffolk president, asked member schools about expanding the badminton league, Mary Louis athletic director Joe Lewinger approached the school’s president, Sr. Kathleen McKinney, with the plan.
McKinney, it turned out, played badminton in high school.
“It fits into what our approach has always been, which is to expand as many opportunities for the girls to participate in any sport or club,” Lewinger said. “We’re very fortunate to have the resources to keep expanding and maintaining such a large athletic program.”
Amy Chen was among the first to sign up. The senior was one of the few to have previous experience, playing badminton in her native China before moving to the United States just prior to her freshman year.
“A lot of my friends don’t even know what badminton is,” Chen said. “So when I heard we were having a team I was all excited and I was teaching them how to play.”
Last year, a junior varsity team was formed and the program grew.
Meanwhile, Katie Flynn, 23, became totally immersed in the sport, reading up on the rules and watching videos on YouTube.
“Since learning about it really in the past year and a half, I’ve grown to love it,” she said. “I think it’s so much fun and they’re so talented, I’m lucky enough to be able to coach them.”
Amy Chen was born in China, but now she’s proud to say she’s from Queens. And she’s even prouder of what the Mary Louis badminton program has accomplished in a relatively short period of time.
“It’s like my child,” Chen said. “It’s surprising that we could grow so fast in four years. It’s amazing.”