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Amundsen Badminton Team a Cultural Melting Pot

By Justin Breen | April 29, 2013 7:08am | Updated on April 29, 2013 10:40am

RAVENSWOOD — Dianne Lagunday grew up in the Philippines playing badminton.

But when she came to the United States three years ago, she had nowhere to play.

That changed recently, when the Amundsen High School senior became part of the school's first girls badminton team.

"I've been waiting for this for three years," said Lagunday, of Albany Park. "Now I get a chance to exercise, make new friends and play my favorite sport."

The squad does not face other schools. It uses badminton equipment from the school's physical education classes. During matches, none of the players keep score.

But, the club has given the competitors a nice after-school activity.

"So far I really like it, and I'm really enjoying it," said senior Katrice Yulo, originally from the Philippines and now living in Lincoln Square.

All of the 16 players in the club are originally from other countries. They hail from the Philippines, Iraq, Vietnam and Mexico, said coach Jorie Malone, who is an English as a Second Language teacher at the school.

Malone created the club earlier this school year, and it had its first session in April. The players use the school's auxiliary gym for about two hours every Monday and Wednesday.

"Most of them said they wanted a chance to exercise and something fun to do after school," said Malone, of Wicker Park, who played badminton while a student at Lyons Township High School.

Malone, who is not paid to coach the team, would like to see the club expand into a varsity outfit next school year. Malone said her players make up what is the equivalent of a "good JV team" in the suburbs.

Senior Ximema Orta is one of Amundsen's best players, but she doesn't care if she wins matches.

The Ravenswood resident and Mexico native is just happy that her teammates have become a "new family."

"It's really fun because we don't fight," Orta said. "We just play for fun. If we fail, it's like, 'ha ha ha, we failed.'"