It was a good day to be #1 on Thursday. Both #1 seeds in singles and doubles duplicated their triumphs from seven days earlier in winning the 2023 state badminton championships. St. Paul again was the focal point. The Johnson first doubles team of Birdy Xiong and Alexis Xiong beat the Edina first doubles pair of Ivy Peterson and Sanna Coma that derailed their undefeated season the night before on the way to the Hornets first state team title. The Xiongs are the seventh Governor pair to claim the doubles title, tied for the most of any school for doubles titles along with Harding. It also marks the twelfth time a St. Paul city champ doubled up in winning the state title too. It is also the twelfth time a singles city champ has turned the same trick in the state. Sunshine Vang kept the state title in the Highland Park trophy case joining HaNeul Jeong McDonell from last year and Gao Lee from 2012.
This marked the fourth time that Sunshine Vang of Highland Park and Kanlaya Thao of Harding battled each other. In March Thao topped Vang in three. Since that time Vang has three straight wins. In the city match last week Vang won in two sets. Thursday night in took three. Vang got runs on her fourth and fifth service in the first set to take a 10-5 lead. Thao’s only run came on her seventh which closed the gap at 12-10. A fifteen stroke block by Vang caused Thao to do the splits to make it 17-13. Despite delivering more winners in the first set (12-7), it was the lack of errors on Thao’s part (14-3) that secured the first set win.
Once again in set two Vang led early 11-5 with two runs on service two and four. The HP senior maintained that lead out to 18-13 when Thao mounted a furious rally. The Knight came up with well placed runs on her last three services to turn what looked to be a two set loss into victory. Thao stared down four match points after trailing 20-17. First came a four stroke smash. She added a seven stroke drop on the left. Vang broke a 20 all tie with her own four stroke smash. Thao immediately got the bird back with a two stroke smash. Two hitting errors later and we were headed to a culminating third set. This time it was Vang that led in winners by the narrow margin of 11-10. But the errors mushroomed from three to 13.
Just like the previous two sets Vang led in the middle of the set with two runs on service two and seven—that came at the turn with the side out at 11-7. Thao had her only run of the third set right after to close the gap to 13-11. Vang got the bird back on a two stroke smash and added a critical 13 stroke clear followed by a seven stroke smash. That gave her a 16-11 margin. Two two stroke hitting errors later and Thao would need to perform the same job she accomplished at the end of set two. This time Vang shut down Thao’s serve. A two stroke drop to the left ended the night.
Vang finished the day with five wins, going 10-1 on sets. The diminutive HP senior had great footwork getting to many birds near the net to save a rally and her racquet work was like an artist with a paintbrush—-smooth and delivered with style.
|Longest side out string||3||3|
|Longest point string||5||4|
|First serve||1, 2||3|
|First point||2, 3||1|
|First run||1, 2, 3|
|Point generated off serve||.540||.431|
|Points after 11||30||32|
|Points after own errors||11||19|
|Winners after own errors||8||13|
|Strokes per point||5.111||5.294|
|5+ rallies (%)||27||24|
|2- rallies (%)||20||12|
|Even Stroke Winners||16||18|
|2nd Stroke Winners||8||8|
|Odd Stroke Winners||13||12|
|Even stroke errors||12||19|
|2nd stroke errors||4||7|
|Odd stroke errors||9||15|
|Largest Lead||6, 7, 8||1, 2, 0|
|Set Point %||2/7-.286||1/1-1.000|
I was able to watch this match thanks to the coaches eye app. I recorded this while watching the first singles match. I don’t think I would be able to write everything down as it happens live in doubles. This was the third match up with these two top ranked teams. All three matches took place at the Edina Activity Center. This one on center court with the state at attention. A key factor in the win for the Governors was the ability to limit any Hornet damage to perhaps one point on service. Edina only had one run the entire two sets. That came in the first set on Sanna Coma’s second service and put Edina up 6-5. That was it. Johnson had four more runs after that. Right away came the first. It began on a missed serve. But the key break point came on Alexis Xiong’s third service with the score 13-11. Right before Alexis delivered a six stroke smash to get the bird back. She led all players with six smashes for the match. She added five more points to make it 18-11. Three times in that run Birdy Xiong set up hitting errors for Edina. At the higher levels of play the rallies last a good long time. One long rally, a sweet 16 smash to the left by Alexis Xiong made it 19-12. The quick points seen in singles do not register that much at the higher levels of doubles. For example, there were 32 two strokes or less points in the singles final. In doubles there were only nine in total.
In set two the Governors got a jump with the first of two runs. Alexis Xiong again was the instigator on her second service to push the margin to 6-3. The break point in this set came on Alexis next service opportunity. The score was 9-7 after a four stroke clear by Birdy Xiong to give Alexis the chance. Remember I just pointed out two stroke points were a rarity. Well three straight times the Hornets had two stroke errors and the lead grew to 12-7. Johnson wasn’t done yet scoring. The next three points came on winners capped by a nine stroke smash by Alexis. Earlier in the set on point three for Johnson, Birdy Xiong finished a 22 stroke rally with a smash. That was the longest rally of the match. With Edina struggling to find offensive rhythm, and the deficit growing to 18-8, Johnson had to basically maintain. They did, going 4-5 down the stretch. With the win Birdy Xiong turned a silver medal from a year ago to gold. Her partner last year was Ashley Her.
I will have updates to the records, and analysis of the 2023 season and tournament out later—probably at some point Sunday.
|Category||BIRDY X||ALEXIS X||PETERSON||SANNA|
|Side out when receiving||5/11-.455||11/16-.688||6/21-.286||9/20-.450|
|Longest point string||3||7||2||3|
|Scoring on service||5/9-.556||6/9-.667||4/9-.444||4/9-.444|
|Pt generated off serve||.163||.419||.214||.214|
|2nd Stroke Winners||0||0||0||0|
|SET UP POINTS||4||11||10||6|
|2nd stroke errors||0||0||1||3|
|Points after 11||21||11|
|First points||1, 2|
|Longest side out string||3||3|
|Strokes per point||5.535||5.964|
|Largest Lead||7, 9||2, 1|
|Last lead||21-15, 22-13||6-5, 3-2|
|Set Point %||2/3-.667|