Howard Zheng leads Jericho to the Nassau boys badminton team title | Jobi Cool

Howard Zheng has been a leader for the Jericho boys badminton team all season, coming up again and again for them.

On Friday, facing his biggest challenge of the season, Zheng was called upon to do so again.

After dropping the first set 21-14 to opponent Justin Choi and the team’s season hanging in the balance, Zheng won the next two sets 21-13 and 21-11 to lead the Jayhawks to a 4-3 victory over Great Neck South. Nassau Boys Badminton Championships at Plainview JFK-Old Bethpage Middle School.

“After I lost my first set, I told myself to keep working hard to give my 100% because this is the last match of the fall season,” Zheng said.

Zheng lacked aggression against Cho early on and didn’t feel his approach would give his team the eventual victory it needed.

“In the first set, my speed was very slow and I didn’t use many attacking opportunities,” Zheng said.

“In the second and third (set) I was more confident and started to attack more and it worked.”

After securing the final point against Great Neck South, Zheng and his teammates rushed the court screaming in celebration of their championship, which happens to be their fourth straight title.

“They have so much heart,” coach Mark Burkowski said. “These guys have been on fire all season.”

That fire showed when Jericho (15-0) won first doubles over Jonathan Chow and Jerry Zhang (21-16, 21-15), second doubles over Siddhant Tandon and William Wang (21-15, 21-9) and third doubles with Vincent Cue and Anvit Vemuri (21-11, 21-18). Great Neck South (12-4) secured wins at final doubles and second and third singles. The fate of the season rested in Zheng’s hands.

“Howard is our workhorse and our leader … if there was anyone who deserved to be that last player on the court, it’s Howard,” Burkowski said.

Moving forward, Jericho will have a long layoff before taking on Suffolk in the Long Island Championship in June. In its debut last year, Jericho defeated Half Hollow Hills to become the first-ever LI boys badminton champion. According to coach Burkowski, the team wants to repeat more than ever because of the love they have for the game and for each other.

“These kids come to play, there’s unfortunately no scholarship for these kids in college right now, so they’re here because they want to be here.”

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