Underdog Junior Women’s Doubles Pair Crowned National Champions
This is the first in a five-part series on the 2019 National Adult Champions. More articles soon to come!
In early December 2019, the junior doubles pair, Allison Lee (15) and Francesca Corbett (14) squared off against Esther Shi and Nicole Frevold in the Women’s Doubles championship match at Arena Badminton and Sports Club in Pomona, Calif.
The crowd was stunned and amazed by the action-packed rallies. Cheers from both sides could be heard throughout the gymnasium, as the women dove and slid across the courts. At the beginning of the finals match, Lee and Corbett struggled to find their pace as they were trailing in points. It was near the end of the first set that Lee and Corbett turned the match around and started to take control. After winning the first set, Lee and Corbett continued to stay steady and confident through the end with a 21-19 and 21-15 finish that crowned them the 2019 National Women’s Doubles Champions.
This was a complete 180 from the days before in pool play, where the pair had lost to Frevold and Shi in two straight sets (21-19, 21-16). Though they were disappointed in coming out second in their pool, Lee and Corbett refocused and remained confident that they would “make it far, as long as [they] put in [their] efforts.”
In the Semi-Finals, the pair met against the other pool’s number 1 pair, Kuei Ya Chen and Sanchita Pandey. It was a neck and neck match between these two duos, with long and consistent rallies produced by both teams. Many saw the junior pair as the underdogs of this match, as Chen and Pandey had dominated their pool. Lee and Corbett, however, proved that they are formidable opponents and secured their spot in the Finals with a two-set victory (21-17, 21-18).
“For me, I think our toughest match was the semis against Kuei Ya Chen and Sanchita Pandey,” recalled Corbett. “They are both very experienced and I had never really played a team like them before. However, once we started playing, our nerves were overtaken by the adrenaline, a refocused strategy, and in the end, I felt like we played one of our best matches.”
With the momentum of their victory against Chen and Pandey, Corbett and Lee “had a stronger and more confident mentality,” and knew that they “had to bring [their] A-game and put all that [they] had into [the Finals] match.” And the two certainly did just that, winning the Women’s Doubles Finals of the 2019 National Adult Championships in just two sets (21-19, 21-15).
“Being a National Champion did not seem real at the moment, but once I had returned back to reality it felt like all the hard work we put in had paid off,” said Corbett. “Getting the opportunity to share this win with my partner, club, coaches, teammates, and parents made me realize how lucky I am to have them in my life and supporting me.”
“The feeling is indescribable,” added Lee. “But all I can say is that it felt amazing knowing that the work had paid off. But, without the help of our teammates, friends, family, especially our parents, we could not have accomplished any of it.”
With this victory, the young duo became the youngest pair to ever be crowned National Adult Champions in USA Badminton history. Both Lee and Corbett hope to continue with training and seek to qualify in the Olympics in the near future.
Lee and Corbett also hope to inspire and set an example for younger players, as well as make badminton bigger and more recognizable in the United States.
On behalf of USA Badminton, we would like to congratulate the pair for their amazing victory. We also would love to encourage our youth athletes to continue aiming for greatness. We’re looking forward to seeing you all grow across our sport.
Catch our next article on Men’s Singles National Adult Champion, Darren Yang, next week!