Senior Katie Vespa’s second Lyons Township High School varsity badminton season has meant handling the significant transition from No. 7 singles in 2021 to recently No. 2 and No. 2 or 3 doubles to now sometimes No. 1 with junior Elle Ownby.

Katie Vespa

During one doubles match this season, Vespa quickly turned defending a smash into a point.

“[The bird] kind of ricocheted off the racket just right there [on their side],” Vespa said. “There are moments that are just playful. It’s the unexpected.”

Vespa hopes that her good fortune can continue by qualifying for her first state meet. Senior No. 1 singles standout Aamina Qureshi finished 2-2 at state in 2021. The Lions will find out this week, when they compete at the IHSA sectional meet at Carl Sandburg High School.

“Hopefully, fingers crossed [for state],” Vespa said. “[This season] was a little challenging at first with the transition because we did have COVID, so we lost a year. But besides that, I’ve enjoyed it. I’m trying to make the most of it.”

“Katie is a hard worker and probably has the best footwork on our team,” LT coach Sue McClenahan responded. “Both [Qureshi and Vespa] have been leaders. They lead drills, give constructive feedback but also are very encouraging to their teammates.”

Aamina Qureshi

A fourth-year program member, Vespa has plenty of LTHS connections to help her success. Her mother, Cindy (Hughes), and aunt, Susan Hughes, both were badminton standouts for the Lions.

“[Badminton] kind of runs in the family, so I thought I would do it. [I began playing] just backyard and then I did intramurals at LT so that’s how I got into it,” Vespa said.

Vespa also seeks insight from former LTHS players, such as 2019 graduate Katie Materik, now a women’s tennis player for College of Wooster, and new assistant coach Stephanie Lin, who won three straight state singles titles with the Lions from 2013-15. Vespa also trains at the Midwest Badminton location in Woodridge.

The extra work has helped Vespa enjoy the sport further and handle the sometimes harried pace of matches.

“But it pays off,” Vespa said. “I like that it’s fast paced in some places. I think it’s different than other [sports].”