Mepham High School’s girls varsity badminton team was recently named Conference IV champions — their first conference championship since 2008.
With a 10-2 overall record, and 8-2 in conference play, they earned the championship game win on May 9 against Baldwin High School.
The Pirates had a school record 10 all-conference selections, which included seniors Amber Benevento, Amanda Navarro, Daniela Mathieu and Mishal Atiq.
Theyhad great senior leadership throughout the year, which included captains Hannah Bienstock, Kristina Schwab and Christina Gargano.
"These three girls have been members of this program ever since they were freshman and they have the character, work ethic and leadership that I look for when making the captain selections,” said coach Dan Ortiz.
Hannah Bienstock, who was an all-conference selection this year, led the team from the third singles positions with an individual record of 9-2.
"She put in the time during the off-season and was determined to get better each and every day and it was evident by her play this year," Ortiz added.
Junior Anna Kamelhar, who was the team's first singles player, elevated her play dramatically as she transitioned from a doubles player to a singles player.
“It is a tough slot to be positioned in as she is matched up against the other team’s best player every time out,” he said. “She is such a crafty player and she has worked tremendously hard this year and I couldn’t be more proud of her play this season.”
Newcomer, Jill Geller, shook up the conference with her relentless play from the second singles position, finishing the year with an outstanding 12-1 overall record.
“She is someone that every younger player should try to emulate. Her intensity and work ethic during practice and gameplay is unmatched,” according to Ortiz. “She wears other players down with her strong shot and has the ability to capitalize when they make mistakes near the net.”
Sophomore players, Erika Lilli and Nicole Vaccariello, both thrived in their first season on the varsity as teammates.
“Making the transition from junior varsity to varsity is tough to do in any sport but to do so with the success they had is quite the accomplishment,” added Ortiz. “A 9 -2 overall record, an All-Conference selection and winning the deciding match to win the conference championship is a tough act to follow, but I can’t wait to see what they produce next year.”
Six players on the team; Mishal Atiq, Daniela Mathieu, Amber Benevento, Amanda Navarro, Hannah Bienstock and Jill Geller, were selected to compete in Nassau's individual and doubles county tournament on May 12, the most selections the team has had in almost 10 years.
“These group of girls have worked so diligently throughout the course of this year and have earned their spot to compete with some of Nassau’s best players in this tournament,” concluded Ortiz.