Irvine Valley freshman Michelle Chen reached the singles final of the 2018 California Community College Athletic Association State Women's Badminton Individual Tournament on Saturday at San Diego City College.
Chen won four straight matches, including beating Pasadena City's top player in three sets in the semifinals, before losing to tourney favorite and defending state champion Yukari Naono of Grossmont in the final.
Naono came out on top, 21-16, 21-18, in a hard-fought final.
Naono became just the third player in the sport's history to win back-to-back singles and doubles championships on Saturday at San Diego City College.
Irvine Valley's Thuy Hoang was one of those players, winning titles in 2010 and 2011.
After taking just 12 minutes to win her semifinal over Fresno City's Soua Kong, 21-6, 21-4, Naono had a tougher time against IVC's Chen.
Chen outlasted Pasadena City's Xiaoming Yao in the other semifinal, 21-14, 10-21, 21-16.
Naono swept Chen in the finals, but it was close throughout.
Chen led early, 6-5, in the first set and trailed just, 12-11, midway through the first set.
Two drop shot winners and an overhead smash gave Naono a 15-11 advantage on her way to a 1-0 sets lead.
In the second set, Naono used a back-to-the-net, no-look backhand winner for a 7-1 lead.
Chen didn't quit and used several smashes to cut it to 11-6. Naono had two backhand saves, the second for a point that got a fist pump and yet another big grin from the Japanese international student.
Again Chen rallied as she went on a 6-1 run to cut it to 19-18.
But Naono prevailed, scoring the next two points to wrap up the singles crown.
It was the third time this season that Naono defeated Chen as the two met in Pacific Coast Athletic Conference matches. Naono used many backhand winners and drop shots that just cleared the net to get the advantage over Chen.
"I was nervous coming into the match," Naono said. "Chen surprised me with her smashes. It was the hardest match I've played in my two years at Grossmont. I'm more of a doubles player so I was able to respond to her smashes with some of my own. My backhand shots worked well. I am very happy to win two straight titles."
IVC sophomore Anne Olsen won a match in singles in the main draw before losing in the second round. And in doubles, Olsen and freshman teammate Sally Li reached the finals of the consolation bracket. The duo lost in the opening round of the main draw, received a bye in the first round of the consolation draw and then won two straight matches. Olsen and Li lost in the consolation final to a team from Skyline.