Muskie, Owl ‘birders’ earn OFSAA berths

Jamie Mountain

It was a successful endeavour for the Muskie and Rainy River Owl badminton teams at the NWOSSAA championships last Wednesday in Thunder Bay.
Muskies Aaron Bujold, Michaela Putzer, Lauryn Marchant, and Tayah Badiuk, along with Jackson Arpin of the Owls, all qualified for the all-Ontarios that runs tomorrow through Saturday in Windsor.
“[We] were impressed with the play of the entire team and proud of their accomplishments,” Muskie head coach Brian Church said about he and assistant coach Louis Bujold’s thoughts on the Muskies’ performances.
Fort High placed fourth overall in school points in the senior division, with Atikokan coming in second in the team event, which is based on points earned by all players.
NorWOSSA took first place over NSSSAA and SSSAA at the association level.
At the junior level, Muskie girls’ singles entry Bella Ward earned Fort High a fifth place overall among the 13 schools participating.
This, combined with Atikokan’s excellent performance, earned NorWOSSA first place in the association standings at the junior level.
The first- and second-place finishers in each event advance to the OFSAA finals this week in Windsor.
“Competition will be tougher, as it is with each level of advancement, and as would be expected at the all-Ontario level,” Church warned.
“Unfortunately, Michaela cannot make the trip so Aaron Bujold, Lauryn Marchant, and Tayah Badiuk will form the FFHS contingent this year at OFSAA,” he noted.
“The team is excited to be making the trip, which is Aaron’s fourth and final OFSAA appearance in badminton, and Lauryn and Tayah’s first.”
Church conceded that nerves can get to some when hitting the big stage.
But “once in a game, the years of practice and training usually take over and it ends up being just another match against a worthy opponent,” he noted.
“The school and coaches wish the players all the best as they head off to a well-deserved appearance at the provincial level,” Church added.
Bujold was dominant in going 5-0 en route to the senior boys’ singles crown last Wednesday in Thunder Bay.
That included straight-sets wins over Arpin (21-11/21-7), Gianni Mascarin of Saint Patrick’s (21-11/21-10), Mason Ray of Lake Superior HS (21-5/21-1), Nicholas Littlefield of Saint Patrick’s (21-6/21-11), and Alex Tremblay of ESC Trillium (21-12/21-16).
“Aaron had another strong performance, earning him his second-straight NWOSSAA gold medal in senior boys’ singles,” said Church.
“All matches were won in two-straight games, with opponents commenting on what a great player Aaron is,” he added.
“Alex Tremblay of ESC Trillium had the strongest match against Aaron, points wise, but he had also lost to Jackson Arpin of Rainy River earlier in the day so Jackson locked up the silver medal.”
Putzer, meanwhile, earned a silver-medal finish in senior girls’ singles play.
She opened with a straight-sets loss to Destinee Lafond of Atikokan (19-21/16-21) before rebounding with three-straight wins over Patricia Ndebele of Saint Patrick’s (21-15/21-11), Stacey Lefebvre of ESC Trillium (21-18/21-11), and Sonja Juan of ESC de Laverendre (Thunder Bay) (21-1/21-0).
Putzer then ended the day with a straight-sets loss to Tammy Lefebvre of ESC Trillium (15-21/11-21).
“Having lost that match, Michaela thought she was at best third and had changed and prepared to head home,” Church noted.
“Then they announced that she was in a three-way tie for second place, and there would be a playoff.
“Michaela’s name was drawn first, so she sat out while Lafond and Ndebele played a single set to determine a winner,” he recalled.
“Ndebele and Lafond battled back and forth in a very close game, which ended with Ndebele winning 24-22.
“That meant Michaela would play Lafond first.”
Putzer then downed Lafond 21-2 to set up a second tie-breaker against Ndebele, winning the single set 21-16 and claiming the silver medal.
In senior girls’ doubles, the Muskie duo of Marchant and Badiuk compiled a 4-1 record to finish with silver.
They opened with a straight-sets win over Rebecca Potter and Nicole Baranesky of Red Lake (21-17/21-10) before downing Emma Harland and Faith Hebert of St. Patrick’s in three sets (21-17, 14-21, and 21-16).
The duo then lost in straight-sets to Gaister and Julia Gervais of Manitouwadge (15-21/16-21) but rebounded with straight-sets victories over Majlinda and Drita Voca of St. Patrick’s (21-14/21-14) and Mya Prusky and Kendra Shuurman of ESC Trillium (21-18/21-7).
“Tayah and Lauryn played strong all day, with only one lost match against the eventual gold-medal winners,” said Church.
“[They] showed perseverance and persistence throughout the day, and played strong and consistently to earn the silver medal.”
Ward went 5-0 in junior girls’ singles to finish in first place, which included straight-sets wins over Phoebie Deschenes of Ignace (21-12/21-9), Allison Farrish of Saint Ignatius (21-14/21-11), Makenna Firman of Hornpayne (21-18/21-18), and Sarah Sanzo of Saint Patrick’s (21-6/21-6).
She then capped the day with a three-set win over Alana Zawadski of Manitouwadge (21-17, 14-21, and 21-19).
“Bella played confidently all day and managed a first place finish overall,” said Church.
“Her most challenging matches were against Makenna Firman of Hornpayne and Alana Zawadski of Manitouwadge,” he noted.
“Her match against Alana, in particular, was very close and the only opponent she actually lost a game to.
“In the end, she won that set 2-1, garnering her the first-place certificate,” Church added.
Since the NWOSSAA junior event is the end of the season for those students, and is hosted as a “bonus” by NWOSSAA, they do not issue official medals but instead print certificates.
Arpin, meanwhile, booked his spot at OFSAA by claiming the silver medal with a 4-1 record overall in the boys’ singles division.
He opened with a straight-sets loss to Bujold (11-21/7-21) but bounced back with four-straight wins.
That included straight-sets triumphs over Ray of Lake Superior HS (21-4/21-10), Littlefield of St. Patrick’s (21-8/21-14), Tremblay of ESC Trillium (21-5/21-9), and Mascarin of St. Patrick’s (21-7/21-11).
“I was very proud of his play,” enthused Owls’ head coach Guy Arpin.
“He started out slow in his first couple of matches but got stronger as the day progressed.
“This worked out well because his last game determined who the second seed would be for OFSAA,” Guy Arpin added.
“This will be his second trip to OFSAA,” he noted, adding Jackson is “looking forward to the very strong competition and seeing how far he has progressed from last year.”