Muskie ‘birders’ took notes at OFSAA

Dan Falloon

Three Muskie badminton players are waiting for their chance to strike.
Rory Bagacki, competing in the boys’ singles division, and the girls’ doubles tandem of Chelsea Carlson and Kimika Alexander both bowed out in the ‘B’ flight at the all-Ontarios in Stratford last week.
But since Bagacki and Carlson are both in Grade 11, and Alexander still is junior-aged being in Grade 10, none of their OFSAA windows have closed quite yet.
All three said they picked up some valuable lessons that could be applied to another all-Ontario run next year.
“I watched a lot of the other games, especially the good games, seeing how the other people play there and what they do a little bit differently, and that kind of stuff,” noted Bagacki.
Carlson, meanwhile, felt she and Alexander had made great strides between their 2009 appearance and this year—falling just short of bringing some hardware back home.
The duo opened play against Keija Lin and Ava Wei, falling 2-1 in the best-of-three match by scores of 16-21, 22-20, and 21-18.
Then they captured a pair of comeback wins—first 16-21, 21-14, and 21-14 over Alice Van Ngo and Karen Nguyen before knocking off Kahei Leung and Vivian Lau 10-21, 21-18, and 22-20.
But their dreams of a medal were dashed with a 21-9 and 21-18 defeat at the hands of Johanna Roy and Alexandra Ayotte in the ‘B’ quarter-finals.
“We played a lot better than we did last year,” enthused Carlson.
“Last year, we made it most of the way through ‘C’ pool, and this year we almost got a medal in ‘B’ pool, so we improved quite a bit.”
Carlson felt she and Alexander saved their best game for Leung and Lau, which was the first elimination match they played.
“Thank God [coach] Manami [Alexander] wasn’t watching that one. She would have been in tears being so nervous,” kidded Carlson.
“It was an awesome game,” she added. “I think it was our best game in terms of me and Kimika playing together.
“That was the best we played at OFSAA. That was our peak point.”
One of the biggest lessons the pair took from that game is that one set doesn’t make the game—no matter how it went.
“This sounds kind of mean but they were quite cocky,” Carlson observed. “After the first game, I mean, they beat us pretty bad.
“But in the second game, we were ‘We don’t want to go home!’ Let’s get our heads in this and win, and then we did.
“Their biggest weakness was they didn’t expect it,” Carlson reasoned. “They didn’t expect us to come back, so they let a lot of emotion get in the way.”
Alexander also was encouraged by their ability to make a game of it after falling behind in the
opening set.
“It was a lot of rush, like ‘Chelsea, you almost gave me a heart attack!’ But I don’t mind that feeling,” enthused Alexander.
“It was fun because we ended up winning, and in the end it was a good feeling.”
However, it’s a situation Alexander would like to avoid in future competitions.
“We eventually pulled through, but I don’t want to make Chelsea worry like that next year,” she explained.
“We were so close, it could have gone either way in a lot of the games.”
Carlson also noted there was a technical weakness in Leung and Lau that they were able to exploit, which helped them climb back into the match.
“After our first round, we can usually pick up on the opponents’ weaknesses and things to pick on,” she said.
“We found out that one of their players is weaker at the back of the court, so we just kept picking on it and they were getting really mad, which really helped us,” Carlson continued.
“We got their emotions into it. How can you make a good shot if you’re frustrated?”
Alexander lauded her partner for being able to figure out how to attack an opponent, which ended up coming in handy.
“That was mainly Chelsea’s thing,” she noted. “But once she told me what their weaknesses were, I’d use that on them.”
Over the course of the week, Carlson felt the main difference was the natural progression of her game that came with an added year of competition alongside Alexander.
“It was, overall, just having an extra year of practice together,” she stressed. “Our shots were cleaner, we know each other even better than we did last year.”
Alexander also noted the benefits of getting to know her partner better, but made clear there still is work to be done in that department.
“If I do make it [to OFSAA] next year, I think a big thing is I’d have to practice more with Chelsea,” she underlined.
“Even though we are doing really good together, once it got tougher, people who were better than us could get us mixed up easily.
“They could read us well, figure out where we were going to go,” she added.
Bagacki, meanwhile, finished at 1-2 in his second-straight trip to the all-Ontarios, although he was on a doubles team with Tim Desjardins in 2009.
Bagacki dropped his first match 25-23 and 21-19 to Francis Lau, but rebounded with a 20-22, 21-10, and 25-23 comeback win over Elliot Carter.
He then was bounced from further contention with a 21-16 and 21-14 loss to Jason Lao.
“I played pretty good, but they were really good down there,” Bagacki said.
“I was doing everything pretty good, really, it’s just that they were a little bit better.”
Bagacki felt his best match came against Carter. Although he couldn’t quite put a finger on what he did well on the technical side, he had the fortitude to bounce back after an opening-set loss and pull out a tight tiebreaker.
“It was probably the second game, just actually winning a game and going to three games, it was pretty exciting, with it being so close,” he enthused.
“Just barely winning the game there.
“He [Carter] had an early lead and I somehow came back, and then towards the end there, it was just back and forth and really, really close toward the end.”
Bagacki embraced the chance to face some new competition, adding he got more comfortable as the week went along.
“I definitely felt improved after my first game and everything,” he remarked. “After all the games, I felt just that I could play better.
“Playing new people helped.
“It’s more just the club around here, you kind of play the same people all the time, where you go to a tournament like this and there are a lot more people,” he explained.
“They have a little bit different style of play, which is kind of a change and makes it a little bit more difficult.”
In related news, Rainy River Owl player Courtney Hansen captured top honours in the ‘C’ flight at the all-Ontarios, bringing home the school’s first gold medal.
The Grade 10 student dropped her first two matches, losing 21-18 and 21-15 to Melanie Genier and then 21-16 and 21-14 to 11th-ranked Bridget Tancredi.
But then she caught fire, reeling off four-straight wins, beginning with an upset of 10th-ranked Melanie Bernard by identical 21-13 scores.
From there, she beat Erin Agnihotri 21-11/21-17 and Amanda Brennan 21-7/21-11 to advance to the ‘C’-flight final.
Once there, she knocked off Monica Jordan 21-13/21-11.
“I could not believe it had happened,” Hansen said. “It seemed like a dream and it took me a few hours before it sunk in.”
Owls’ coach Guy Arpin felt Hansen had a solid all-around game, which helped her out against the tough competition at OFSAA.
“Down there, you can’t just beat them with your smash,” he stressed. “You have to play strategy and Courtney does that well.”
—With files from Ken Johnston (Rainy River Record)