In the afterglow of a 18-game winning streak, No. 1 badminton singles player Rebecca Tzou may be breaking the hearts of her opponents but she is winning the hearts of her teammates both on and off the court.
Introduced to badminton by her father at eight years old, the sophomore’s love of the game and her team is evident in her performance. Majoring in English with a minor in chemistry, she tutors five and half hours a week on those subjects in the ‘Zone,’ the Academic Athletic Zone space adjacent to the GM building court that provides close and safe study space for athletes.
She also champions social functions and group outings with her classmates off the court. And using Facebook, Tzou organizes fundraisers, such as tickets to America’s Got Talent, where she and her teammates can raise as much at $650 a show to help fund new uniforms and equipment and have a really good time together.
“The first thing I did when I was looking at PCC as an option was that I checked that they had a badminton team!,” Tzou said. “I chose PCC specifically because they have a great badminton team.”
Tzou not only chose wisely, but with a 3.6 GPA, she has also helped contribute to another win for the team academically.
PCC’s badminton team is due to receive the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Scholar-Baller “scholar team” award this week. The team and department have been ear-marked for the award for demonstrating excellence in both academics and athletics, with the team scoring a high-overall GPA. With it, each athletic is due to receive $500 each, with the highest GPA receiving $1,000.
The PCC badminton team has been unbeatable since head coach Jennifer Ho took over last year, with continuous wins extending their winning streak to 17 games to date. Their most recent South Coast conference win came at El Camino-Compton on Friday.
“We are a really strong team this year. The chemistry helps,” Ho said. “They are a close-knit group, inside and out of the court. So we continue to try to finish, to see if we can go two years in a row.”
Ho said that in doubles, Tzou and her partner, Sandra Maw, are very supportive of each other and she encourages them to communicate to discuss what they can improve upon in order to reach their goals together.
“We’re going for team championship this year … that is our primary goal,” Maw said earlier this season.
Beaming with confidence in her top players this year, Ho especially acknowledges Tzou’s growth as an athlete as well as a person.
“She’s more mature. Mentally she is prepared, versus last year,” Ho said. “She was new to the school and she was young. It was a different level of competition. So this year, she is out there. She rules because she is older than the rest of them, she has more experience than the rest of them, and she has more wins than the rest of them, so her confidence is shooting up!”
Pressure appears to be her Achilles heel.
“Whew, yeah. Pressure,” Tzou said with a sigh of acknowledgment.
“If she is a little bit behind, the pressure starts to get to her,” Ho said. “Instead of focusing on going on to the next point. So we are working that. And she is doing a lot better now … totally, a lot better than last year!”
But physically, Tzou still focuses on her core to better her strength. She credits lots of sit-ups, crunches, pull-ups and her least favorite, plank holding, which she does for stretches of about a minute to a minute and a half.
“The plank is difficult. It hurts every time I do it, but ‘No pain, no gain,’ right?! That age-old saying,” she said, laughing.
Pushing herself to be more precise, Tzou practices the same shot over and over again so that she can hit from any corner. She acknowledges that fatiguing the opponent, both with endurance and skill, is the goal.
“That is what makes the difference when you are playing hard games. If you can make it always consistent and always on that line, it’s going to tire that person out because you are stretching the court to its farthest areas that they have to cover,” Tzou said. “That either makes a champion or breaks a champion.”
According to Tzou, PCC is the only school in the Southern California area that is invited to the Northern Tournament.
Aside from the love of competition, Tzou likes traveling to play long-time rivals De Anza in San Francisco in the Northern Conference because “it’s good to get to know the colleges there” and “it’s a good opportunity to make friends outside of our comfort zone.”