By Nelson Coffin
As a 5-2 season-opening loss to Garrison Forest showed, Roland Park Country School’s badminton squad will face major challenges from its A Conference rivals this spring.
Although they were competitive in the setback to the Grizzlies, the Reds are facing the season with decidedly different roster than the one that won it all last May.
For one thing, four juniors from the ’18 champs decided not to return for their senior campaign for a variety or reasons.
Even so, first-year coach Ashley Himmelfarb has a set lineup that features only juniors playing singles, including No. 1 Gabi Dorsey, No. 2 Lulu Lemken and No. 3 Kerry Cameron.
Senior Claire Thomas and sophomore Kayla Velez have nailed down the No. 1 doubles slot, followed by juniors Avery Menefee and Maeve Corcoran at No. 2, juniors Jaime Wyskiel and Kyla Kielty at No. 3 and senior Julianna Brunn and junior Abby Minkin at No. 4.
“This might be more of a rebuilding year for us,” said Himmelfarb, a former player at Franklin High School and Bryn Mawr College, who was an assistant under Jane Seibert last season on the Reds’ title-winning squad.
At various junctures during afternoon practice sessions, Himmelfarb instructed her players to participate in a variety of drills that featured 20 repetitions each of drives, clears, drops and smashes.
She said that different drills — including a six-shot sequence that required shots taken in a particular order — helped the Reds try to get “a feel for that touch” that competent badminton players seek.
The coach said that unlike some of her A Conference competitors, Roland Park does not have any year-round badminton performers.
“For most of them, this isn’t their primary sport,” she said. “But they’re here not because they have to be, but because they have fun. “