By Samantha Thompson

Despite the relative infancy of the club, the lack of uniforms, and the large number of freshmen on the team, the UC Santa Cruz Badminton Club emerged from its first trip to the National Collegiate Badminton Championships with an impressive fifth-place finish.

“It was kind of intimidating, because we were the new people and had never been to nationals,” said fourth-year Tran Nguyen, Badminton Club President. “Some schools came with their own coaches and had fancy uniforms. We were like the dark horse.”

The Slug’s two best players, Serge Blanchet, who won last year’s singles championship, and Lauren Todt, the No. 6 women’s singles player in the nation, each finished well in their divisions. Blanchet took third while Todt won the singles title. The two finished third in mixed doubles – a fine showing, but short of the pair’s goal.

“Mixed [doubles] was disappointing. It just was not clicking,” Blanchet said. “We could have easily won the tournament, but I guess it’s 90% mental or whatever they say.”

The Slugs brought 11 players to the competition, most of whom were freshmen.

“Most [freshmen] didn’t have much experience in tournaments, so they were a little scared and nervous,” Blanchet, a sophomore, said. “But we had nothing to lose, because we were coming as underdogs.”

This new experience has put a fire beneath the underclassmen to work toward more strong appearances at the national level.

“Having many of our freshmen players go to nationals has allowed them to become more determined and want to train a lot more,” Tamsey said. “Their spirits have just been refreshed and renewed, as if they’re re-loving the game all over again.”

Despite being initially disappointed with the number of matches won, the Slugs were proud of their team finishing in fifth.

“Having the team go to nationals is such a good thing. It allows us to get our name out and get more people to join, and it’ll allow for more funding,” freshman Renald Tamsey said. “I’m proud to be part of this experience. A very big door has been opened for this club, and we hope that we’ll be continuing this streak of success we’ve been having.”

Blanchet attempted to put the trip into perspective.

“This is definitely something I’m going to look back at,” Blanchet said. “There will hopefully be many more years to come and maybe someday we’ll win the team cup.”

Kevin “Skippy” Givens, director of intramural and club sports, also recognized the young team’s talent and potential for the future.

“Lauren Todt is only a freshman and Serge Blanchet is only a sophomore, so those guys are going to be around for a while and they’re going to be the cornerstones for the team,” Givens said. “So just with that in place, they’re going to have a lot of advantages and their quality is going to continue to grow.”