CHARLESTON | T.F. South knew it had the school's first state badminton title early in the day Saturday.
But injuries in the late rounds hampered the Rebels' celebration.
“We won, but it feels like we lost,” T.F. South coach Bob Tengstrand.
By ‘lost,' Tengstrand was referring to the knee injury suffered by T.F. South's Jessica Gomez during her third-place match in the singles bracket.
Gomez fell, grabbing her knee during her game against Alisa Li of Naperville Central. While fighting to return to play, Gomez fell to the ground again and Tengstrand called the match in which his player was favored to win.
Because of her injury, Gomez finished fourth in the state in singles play.
Her win in a morning match gave the team 13 1/2 points at that point, enough to secure the state title. The Rebels finished with 16 1/2 points.
After watching the match with Gomez’s injury, the doubles pair of Shannon Pollard and Jenna Pasko played in the championship finals against Reavis' Denna Zayed and Marissa Mangala.
Before the match, T.F. South’s second doubles pair of Jhennie Corupz and Cassie Breshock had lost to Riyan Yanes and Jessica Bachleda, also of Reavis High School, during a three-game match in the consolation semifinals.
Tengstrand, nicknamed “T” by his players and fellow coaches, tried to inspire some energy in Pollard.
“(Reavis High) just took down one of your teams,” Tengstrand said. “You gotta have their backs.”
That energy dropped when the Rebels watched Gomez fall to the floor in pain. Pollard and Pasko won their first match 21-13, but the Reavis pair rallied 22-20 and 21-18 in games two and three.
There was a look of sadness in Tengstrand’s eyes as he sat next to an injured Gomez on the sidelines and watched two more of his players walk off the court.
The sadness from assistant coach Sean Coultas may have been for the pain he knew his girls were all in, or he knew he had just won a state championship in a way none had ever wanted.
“This is what he's been waiting for for over 20 years,” Coultas said. “We won it and everybody had a role. Even (Andriana Johnson’s) two points put us on top yesterday, and we rode that wave."