Lansdowne badminton squad learning on the fly

Although the 10 players on the Lansdowne High badminton team haven't won a game yet, they will always be remembered as the ones who helped coach Tyler Martin restart the program.

Martin, the Vikings' varsity lacrosse coach, had been bugging athletic director Todd Hawkins for years to restore the program to varsity status.

"I'm trying to offer every level of every sport, which we have now, and that is fantastic," said Hawkins, noting the school also added allied soccer this fall.

Hawkins said its has been at least 20 or more years since the Vikings boasted a badminton team.

Juniors Daniel Bawi, Darwin Interiano and Jesse Lovelace, sophomores Maisha Camonayan, Tara Gillespie, La'Erica Smith, Miranda Tyler and Terea Williams and freshmen Morgan Dampier and Mahidul Islam are the 10 new pioneers.

Bawi plays No. 1 boys singles and nearly came away with victory in a season-opening 9-2 loss to Owings Mills.

He lost the first of the best-of-three match, 15-0, rallied to win the second game, 17-16, and fell, 17-15, in the final game.

"I couldn't count the scores yet, so I really didn't know what the score was until I lost," said Bawi, who moved to Lansdowne from his native Burma at age 13. "Now, I'm starting to count the scores, so it is getting easier for me."

Bawi, who also played varsity tennis, has improved his game by watching the Internet.

"I go to You Tube and look at the skills that I need, like back shots and the jump smash," Bawi said.. "I often ask my coach what kind of skills are going to be good for me."

Smashing, jump smashes and drop shots are his favorite strokes and why he prefers badminton to tennis.

"Daniel is new to badminton, but he's very talented and athletic, and he's a sponge," Martin said. "He goes on You Tube and looks up different shots that I've never seen before. He brings them in and, as a (physical education) teacher, I can help him break them down bio-mechanically, and teach him to do them."

Martin is pleased with the progress of Bawi, No. 2 boys singles player Islam and No. 3 Dampier.

"Our boys are very close to getting their first singles wins," Martin said. "I feel like Daniel could step on the court with any No. 1 and give them a run, if not beat them."

The fourth boy on the squad, Interiano, plays mixed doubles with Tyler.

No. 1 girls singles Camonayan and No. 3 girls singles Smith are the only ones to have won a match, beating rivals from Owings Mills.

No. 2 girls Gillespie and the girls doubles team of Williams and Lovelace fill out the roster.

The squad has had some obstacles to overcome.

Normally, the team plays away when the volleyball team is home, but the Lansdowne badminton team assumed the schedule of Kenwood after that school dropped its program.

"We didn't even know our full schedule until yesterday (Sept. 19)," Martin said.

The Vikings were also excited about getting their team T-shirts.

"We finally have everything ironed out," Martin said. "It's taken a couple of weeks of patience and waiting and learning."

Martin also praised new volleyball coach Carla Privateer for her cooperation.

"Carla Privateer has been awesome, so helpful," Martin said. "She and I sat down and ironed out a practice plan. I have to give her a lot of credit. She has sacrificed a lot to help these kids and I can't thank her enough."

Martin, who started playing badminton in middle school and continued in classes at Towson University, fell in love with the sport when a former Olympian came to Towson and played against him.

"He played against me and he crushed me, which was awesome, because I don't lose," Martin said.

Now, he wouldn't mind if someday one of his players beats him.

"I hate to say it, but no kid has had a chance to beat me, but some are getting close," said Martin, who is enjoying tougher workouts as the Vikings improve.

Bawi would just like to beat his high school peers.

"I still need more experience to win," said Bawi, whose previous badminton experience was in his back yard. "I'm still learning the rules. I never played with lines and stuff and all we did was just hit it back and forth."

Watching badminton during the summer Olympics peaked the interest of his athletes, giving Martin hope that the program can grow.

"Every year we are going to get more and more bodies," Martin said. "It's tough going against a team like Dulaney that has 40 kids, but we have no seniors. There is a lot of room for growth."

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