Mari Georgiadis didn't point to her brain as the key trait that made her unbeatable this season, though the New Trier senior who is thinking about majoring in economics or international business at Harvard in the fall has plenty of smarts.
She didn't point to her athleticism, though Trevians coach Deborah Ofcky said she's "one of the top five athletes I've ever had."
Instead, Georgiadis said, "Even if I don't always have the most accurate placement, I never give up on a bird. I think sometimes that frustrates people."
She spent a lot of time frustrating opponents this season.
Georgiadis not only won all 52 of her badminton matches, including the state final 21-15, 21-5 against Thornton Fractional South's Loran Pasko the Tribune/WGN-Ch. 9 Preps Plus Athlete of the Month for May didn't lose a game all season.
"Her athleticism and her aggressive play naturally made her a good singles player," New Trier teammate Dora Saclarides said. "We shake hands before every match and say a few words, and a lot of her opponents are surprised. Mari's such a nice person that you wouldn't expect her to be smashing it in your face when it comes to the game."
Saclarides suggested that her friend take up badminton her sophomore season. Georgiadis had long been a tennis and soccer player, but a broken collarbone and hip flexor injuries in soccer left her seeking a sport that wouldn't threaten her tennis career.
She and Saclarides finished third in doubles at the 2010 state tournament as juniors. After New Trier won the state team championship that season, they and their coaches decided to split up the doubles team to help their bid for a 2011 team title. Georgiadis became the No. 1 singles player, quickly learning how to play the slower, more strategic side of the game.
Georgiadis said she had one close call this season against a player from Downers Grove South. She won the first game 22-20 while adjusting to her opponent's style.
"She hit a lot of attacking and low clears, which is a little different than what you see in most singles play," Georgiadis said. "It caught me a little off guard. I kind of got a little angry."
Georgiadis won the second game 21-3. She similarly dominated the second game of the state championship, helping New Trier to a third-place team trophy without Saclarides, who was out with a shoulder injury.
"She never believed that she couldn't get to something," Ofcky said. "(In the second game of the final), the girl couldn't do anything. There was not a shot she could try. Her coach at the end said, 'I couldn't help her. I couldn't tell her to try something different.' She had tried it all, and Mari just got it back every time."
Georgiadis won't continue athletics at a varsity level at Harvard, but she imagines she'll play either tennis or badminton at the club level. She plans to "explore some new avenues" aside from sports.
"It's exciting (to move on), but you're always a little wistful," Georgiadis said. "It was a nice way to end high school."
New Trier's Mari Georgiadis will be featured during a segment on WGN-Ch. 9's "Instant Replay" at 9:40 p.m. Sunday. If you miss it, watch the video Monday at prepsplus.com.
Athletes of the Month
September: Kapri Bibbs, Plainfield North, football
October: Stephanie Miller, Stevenson, golf
November: Haley Sims, Downers Grove North, swimming
December: Ryan Boatright, East Aurora, basketball
January: Jewell Loyd, Niles West, basketball
February: Danny Thomson, Hinsdale Central, swimming
March: Kayla Beattie, Woodstock, track and field
April: Emily Naegele, Oak Forest, softballCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times