Muskie duo punches ticket to OFSAA

Lucas Punkari

After narrowly missing a berth to the all-Ontario badminton championships a year ago, the Muskie senior boys’ badminton duo of Robert Stevens and Spencer Pearce had their sights set on making it to the big dance this time around.
The black-and-gold accomplished just that—going 5-0 to capture first place in their division at the NWOSSAA playoffs last Wednesday in Marathon.
“We knew that with two games left that we had a mathematical shot at getting in,” Stevens recalled.
“But after winning our fourth game, things became a lot more clear.”
“Going into our last game against Manitouwadge, we already knew that we were going to go to OFSAA,” added Pearce.
“But beating them really gave us a huge confidence boost,” he reasoned.
The pair opened play with a straight-sets victory over Kenora (21-7/21-16), then followed that up with a three-set triumph against St. Ignatius (23-25, 21-20, and 21-13).
Stevens and Pearce then upended the host team in three sets (21-17, 13-21, and 21-17) before knocking off another team from St. Ignatius in two sets (21-15/21-13).
They rounded out the tournament with a three-set victory over Manitouwadge (14-21, 21-15, and 21-16).
However, despite a perfect record in their back pocket to go along with NWOSSAA gold, the Muskie tandem wasn’t completely satisfied with their overall performance.
“I would definitely have to say that NWOSSAA wasn’t the best that we have played this season,” Pearce noted.
“I was really struggling throughout the day myself with my shots,” he admitted.
“But in the last game, we really just picked it up and pushed to get the win.”
“As a team, we might have been a little bit off early on in the games,” echoed Stevens.
“But as they wore on, we just dug in, made some clutch plays, and found a way to win.”
With OFSAA not being held
until May 12-14 in Aurora, the Fort High duo will have a couple of weeks to sharpen their skills before taking on some of the toughest competition they have come across during their badminton careers.
“Rotation, communication, and teamwork are going to be the main things we’ll be working on,” Stevens noted.
“There’s going to be a lot stiffer competition down there, so we’ll need to pick the corners and have our shots go low and right down the line,” Pearce stressed.
While both Stevens and Pearce acknowledge some of the teams from southern Ontario are way above their level of play, they still are gunning for a third-place showing in the ‘C’ pool for their efforts—a sentiment echoed by Muskie coach Manami Alexander.
“They already know from Rory [Bagacki] going last year that the level of competition there is going to be quite high,” Alexander noted.
“But they aren’t scared, and they’re just going to go down there and try to do their best,” she added.