The Muskies have four representatives at the NWOSSAA finals happening today in Thunder Bay.
Bella Ward, Aaron Bujold, Michaela Putzer, and the senior girls’ doubles team of Lauren Marchant and Tayah Badiuk all were “golden” at the NorWOSSA finals last Wednesday in Sioux Lookout.
In the junior girls’ singles division, Ward cruised to straight-sets wins over players from Atikokan (22-20/21-12), Ignace (21-19/21-12), Kenora (21-16/21-16), and Micaela Jolicoeur (21-12/21-17) and Kate Brown (21-13,/21-9) of Rainy River.
“Bella played solidly and confidently in all matches,” lauded Muskie head coach Brian Church.
“She showed excellent birdie placement and control on her way to a perfect 5-0 record without loosing a single set.”
Bujold also faced little trouble in securing first place in the senior boys’ singles division.
The Muskie standout cruised to straight-set wins over players from Sioux Lookout (21-7/21-8), Atikokan (21-2/21-4), St. Thomas Aquinas (21-6/21-9 and 21-6/21-12), and Jackson Arpin of Rainy River (21-3/21-15).
“Aaron Bujold had another strong performance by winning five-straight matches, each of which only went to two sets,” noted Church.
“He was relaxed and confident as he bested each opponent on his way to the first-place gold medal in the senior boys’ event.
“This was Aaron’s fourth-straight NorWOSSA gold medal,” Church added, noting Bujold has “never lost a single set at this level.”
Putzer also saw an unblemished day by going a perfect 5-0 in senior girls’ singles.
That included a three-set win over a player from Atikokan (20-22, 21-15, and 21-11) before she added straight-set victories over Ignace (21-6/21-12), Red Lake (21-12, 21-7), and Paige Stamler (21-7/21-7) and Aubree McQuaker (21-5/21-2) of Rainy River.
“Michaela Putzer got off to a slightly shaky start in her first match by losing the first set 20-22,” Church recalled.
“However, once warmed up, she played skillfully and made many smart shots to win that match, as well as her other four matches on the day,” he added.
The senior girls’ doubles duo of Marchant and Badiuk also snared gold with a 5-0 record.
The Muskie tandem cruised to straight-set wins over teams from Atikokan (21-16/22-20) and Sioux Lookout (21-17/21-14).
They needed three sets to get by Red Lake (21-17, 17-21, and 21-7) but then had straight-set victories over Kenora (21-9/21-12) and Kayla Michl and MacKenzie Joilcouer of Rainy River (21-13/21-6).
“The dynamic duo of Lauren Marchant and Tayah Badiuk played their game skillfully and defeated all opponents on their way to a senior girls’ doubles gold medal,” Church enthused.
“The combination of Tayah’s power and Lauren’s precise placement was unstoppable on the day.
“Although their match against Red Lake did go to three sets, they both managed to adjust their game and concentrate to earn a victory in the match,” he added.
“This is their first gold medal at the senior level, which will go nicely with the gold the won last year at the junior level.”
The Muskie junior boys’ doubles team of Rylee Booth and Owen Riches, meanwhile, fell just short of advancing to NWOSSAA with a third-place finish.
The black-and-gold duo opened with a straight-set win over Red Lake (21-7/21-5) before needing three sets to get past Atikokan (19-21, 21-19, and 21-7).
That was then followed with a three-set loss to a team from Kenora (21-19, 20-22, and 17-21).
Booth and Riches then rebounded with a straight-set win over another Kenora squad (21-18/21-10) before falling to Atikokan in their last match of the day (21-19, 6-21, and 4-21).
“Riley and Owen played strong throughout the day but fell just short of advancing to the NWOSSAA finals by two points in their third match against Beaver Brae,” noted Church.
“Their only two losses, both of which went to three sets, were against the eventual first- and second-place teams in the junior boys’ doubles event.
“They were the only team on the day who managed to win a single set against the eventual first-place winning duo of Krassy and Palmai of Atikokan,” he added.
Church said he and fellow coach Louis Bujold both were impressed with the play of the entire team and proud of their accomplishments.
“At the senior level, FFHS placed second overall in school points behind Atikokan in the team event, which is based on points earned by all players,” he remarked.
“With only three teams to earn them points, FFHS came away with a perfect score of 30 while the NorWOSSA team trophy winners Atikokan earned an impressive 51 points.
“At the junior level, Fort Frances’ two entries earned them third place overall as a school,” he noted.
The first and second-place finishers in each event advanced to the NWOSSAA finals today in Thunder Bay.
“Competition is expected to be tougher as it is with each level of advancement,” Church warned.
“Seniors will be playing at Superior Collegiate and Vocational Institute while the junior NWOSSAA finals will take place at St. Ignatius High School in Thunder Bay,” he added.
For the Rainy River Owls’ contingent, Jackson Arpin was the lone student to advance by nabbing silver in senior boys’ singles division.
Rainy River had a total of 17 players (11 seniors and six juniors) qualify for the NorWOSSA finals, which head coach Guy Arpin said “was a huge success for a small school with a lot of first-year players.”
Kirsten Armstrong and Ava Tom placed fourth in junior girls’ doubles while Nick Vogan and Christian Tiboni did the same on the boys’ side.
Carlin Drennan and Regan Big George finished fifth in senior mixed doubles, with Lem Carradice and Taylor Neilson right behind in sixth.
Kate Brown took fifth spot in junior girls’ singles with Micaela Jolicouer just behind.
Aidan Tom secured a fifth-place finish in junior boys’ singles division while Joe Tiboni was sixth.
Aubree McQuaker nabbed fifth in senior girls’ singles, with Paige Stamler right behind.
And the senior girls doubles’ team of Kayla Michl and MacKenzie Jolicouer finished in sixth place.
“Even though we only have one player moving on to NWOSSAA this season, we are extremely pleased with our entire team’s progress,” enthused Arpin.
“We had many players new to the sport who progressed throughout the season,” he noted.
“This only bodes well for seasons to come.
“Jackson will be moving on to NWOSSAA in hopes of capturing his second trip to OFSAA,” Church added.
“He and Aaron represented our association last year as the singles players in Chatham.”