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Draper at ease against the best

Tristan Draper wasn’t fazed when she took her first loss in the second round of the Naperville North Sectional badminton tournament.

The DeKalb junior lost in a tough three-set match to Naperville North’s Kyleen Jan, the sectional’s No. 1 seed and eventual champion, and Draper was relegated to the consolation bracket, one loss away from falling short of the state tournament.

“She really keeps her head during tournaments. She doesn’t get down,” DeKalb coach Duane Cowley said. “Obviously, she’s disappointed when she takes a loss, but I don’t see a letdown when she comes out.”

Draper rallied to win her next three matches, advancing to the consolation finals and securing a spot in the state tournament, something she set as a goal at the beginning of the season.

“It was kind of surreal. It didn’t really hit me at first,” Draper said. “I was really excited, but really nervous, too.” 

Draper finished fourth in the Naperville Sectional and starts play in the state tournament today at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. She is scheduled to play Mt. Propsect’s Kiley Walsh, who won the Lake Forest Sectional, in the first round.

Draper consistently has played against top competition all season, often elevating her game when competing against the state’s best. She was the only player to win a set against Jan in the sectional, taking the first set before falling in the final two.

“She played some really talented girls – she took some tough losses but she always played competitively,” Cowley said. “I think that really helped her prepare for sectionals.”

Draper became the first DeKalb badminton player to qualify for state since Ika Lambogo in 2007. That same year Jackie Do and Jenny Stahl also qualified as a doubles team for the Barbs.

Draper hasn’t set specific goals, but Cowley said he thinks winning a few matches isn’t out of the question for her in her first trip to the state tournament.

“I’m very confident in her ability. She’s seen some of the best girls in state,” Cowley said. “There aren’t any tricks or surprises that she hasn’t seen.”

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