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Dulaney badminton finishes perfect, set for future

Dulaney High badminton players, from left, Ivy Li, Will Paranzino and Hojin Yoon, all won medals in the Baltimore County individual tournament. The junior co-captain the Lions.
Dulaney High badminton players, from left, Ivy Li, Will Paranzino and Hojin Yoon, all won medals in the Baltimore County individual tournament. The junior co-captain the Lions. (staff photo by Brian Krista)

The end of the badminton season at Dulaney High School is the start of the next season for longtime coach Sharon Spangenberg. That's when Spangenberg starts fretting about the Lions' future. It reflects the success of the sport at the Timonium school.

Dulaney is regarded as Baltimore County's top program, building a tradition that's tough to duplicate.

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"I worry at the end of the year," Spangenberg said. "When you lose your top players, you are like, 'Will we be able to survive? How will we be next season?' "

The Lions have won three of the last four Baltimore County championships. They won this year after going 13-0.

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Despite Spangenberg's worries, Dulaney should be pretty formidable again next fall.

The Lions should return 11 of their top 12 players from a squad that won the county team title convincingly over Towson and produced three gold medal double champions in the county individual tournament.

They include the girls doubles team of juniors Jiexi Hu and Ivy Li, the boys doubles team of sophomore Ari Wu and senior Steven Zhang, and the mixed doubles team of juniors Michelle Wu and Hojin Yoon.

They'll form the nucleus of the 2015 Lions. Spangenberg acknowledges the future looks bright.

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"I always tend to look ahead," said Spangenberg, who has been Dulaney's coach since 1998. "I think next year is going to be a very, very good year. And this has been one of the best years we ever had."

Spangenberg said the off-the-field contributions of her three junior captains — Li, Paranzino and Hojin Yoon — was significant.

"These kids have been phenomenal," Spangenberg said. "These kids really take charge and take the role of being captains very seriously.

"Ivy was instrumental in getting new uniforms for us. Hojin organized a party after our match against Towson, win or lose, to celebrate our season, and Will took it upon himself to order longsleeve shirts for the group."

The captains and their teammates excelled on the court, too. Especially in the county individual tournament. The results of the boys doubles jumped out at Spangenberg.

The Lions' No. 2 team of Wu and senior Steven Zhang beat Dulaney's No. 1 team of juniors Zhiyi and Anton Pozharskskiy in the championship match.

Zhiyi and Anton Pozharskskiy topped last year's silver medal team of Towson High juniors Ray Fu and Leo Lei.

"Our guys were so strong," Spangenberg said of her two doubles teams. "I was real impressed with how quickly these guys were able to win their first-, second- and third-round matches. Our No. 2 doubles team went undefeated."

Hu and Li play at a high level. They blanked Towson seniors Sweekriti Kharel and Anneliese Feldman in the final, 15-0, 15-0.

"The girls doubles went undefeated and most of their matches they were able to breeze through," Spangenberg said. "They only lost one game the whole season. It went three games in the team championship against Towson."

Spangenberg also praised her mixed doubles team of Wu and Yoon, who cruised past the team of Pikesville seniors Christina So and Macky Diculen in the championship.

"They worked so well together," she said of Wu and Yoon. "A big part of doubles is communicating with your partner. You can be the best of friends, but not good doubles partners."

Paranzino had the best performance of any individual in singles, winning a brozne.

"These kids are so into badminton and really want to improve," Spangenberg said.

Many of Dulaney's 18 team members play in the Loch Raven Badminton Club at the Northeast Regional Recreational Center in Parkville. It helps explain the success of the Dulaney program.

"At school, we practice maybe an hour," Li said of the daily practices. "At the club, we can practice maybe four hours. It helps us take badminton to another level."

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