Badminton duo reflect on OFSAA trip

Lucas Punkari

For the Muskie senior boys’ badminton duo of Robert Stevens and Spencer Pearce, the biggest thing they took away from their run at the all-Ontarios in Aurora last week was just how good the top competitors in the province are.
“The talent level there is so far above us that it’s crazy,” Pearce remarked.
“The guys down in southern Ontario play against each other nearly every day while here you have only four or five guys that are at that top level,” noted Stevens.
“So it’s makes it a bit harder just to make yourself better,” he reasoned.
But even though they may not of had the experience factor some of the higher-seeded teams had, the black-and-gold tandem still put in a solid showing—finishing with a 1-2 record.
“We weren’t going to let these guys run us over,” Stevens stressed.
“We basically said, ‘Even though you might be better than us, you’re going to have to work your hardest and try your best in order to beat us.”
Stevens and Pearce saw their tournament start off on a disappointing note on Thursday as they lost their ‘A’ draw opener to Simon Harmgardt and Trevor Hoff from T.A. Blakelock (Oakville) in three sets (21-19, 17-21, and 18-21).
“We thought that we would get some really stiff competition for our first [match], but as it turned out the other team was pretty even with us,” Pearce recalled.
“I think nerves came into it as well for us at the end,” Stevens admitted.
“As the [match] went on, we both went, ‘Holy cow, we’re actually competing at OFSAA. Now what do we do?’
“The other team was then able to sneak a couple of points on us while that happened, and they were able to get the win,” Stevens added.
With the loss, the NWOSSAA champs dropped down to the ‘B’ draw, where they faced Travis Feddemann and Mark Fyk (Smithville) that afternoon.
It also meant they had to decide which path they wanted to take in the tournament.
“We were really contemplating just taking it easy in that game and going down to ‘C’ pool, but we were really not sure what we would do,” Pearce explained.
“If we dropped down, we could have possibly faced a good team and end up going out without getting a win, or we could win our ‘B’ game and possibly get a medal if we kept going,” he added.
“In the end, we both decided it wasn’t right to just throw a game and we went for it.”
As it turned out, Spencer and Pearce swept the Smithville duo in straight sets (21-17 and 22-20).
“That [match] was probably the worst that we played during the entire tournament,” Stevens noted.
“We wound up, though, getting matched up against an easier team, and we were able to come away with the win,” he added.
Unfortunately for them, that would be their only triumph as they were eliminated from further contention Friday morning by the Toronto tandem of Wayne Fu and Calvin Sy in straight sets (21-19 and 21-16).
“It was the best [match] that we played the entire tournament, but it was just a case of them being better than us,” Stevens reasoned.
Although the tournament didn’t go the way that they wanted it to, both Stevens and Pearce enjoyed their time in the Toronto area, with Stevens getting the chance to indulge in one of his favourite meals during their stay.
“Robert loves sushi so as soon as we got off the plane in Toronto, he was looking for the nearest sushi shop,” Pearce said.
“I think I must of spent over $100 on sushi down there,” Stevens added.
The OFSAA run for Stevens and Pearce marks the end of their competitive days with the Muskies, with Stevens heading to the University of Western Ontario this fall to study engineering
Pearce, meanwhile, is undecided on his post-secondary education plans, but also is expecting to head down to southern Ontario.
“I think in both of our cases, it’s going to be a lot of competition to make a badminton team down there, if the school has one, because of the amount of competition there is,” Pearce admitted.
But while their time as Muskie players has now come to an end, both were quick to offer advice to future players who eventually may follow in their all-Ontario footsteps.
“If you really want to go somewhere in this game, you’ll have to practise,” Pearce stressed.
“It’s just so much more than making your shots,” echoed Stevens. “It’s about court awareness and knowing whether the bird will be out or not.
“And the only way to learn that is by taking the time . . . and focusing on the game,” he added.