Muskie, Owl ‘birders’ reach finals

Joey Payeur

The badminton teams for the Muskies and Owls had such a great time away from home the past two weeks, many of the members chose to make another road trip.
There are plenty of representatives from both schools at the NorWOSSA finals being held today in Kenora after advancing through the qualifier last Wednesday in Atikokan.
For the Muskies, four singles competitors and three teams punched their tickets to Kenora.
Aaron Bujold continued his NorWOSSA domination of recent seasons in senior boys’ singles, finishing atop the division with a 5-0 record.
Bujold routed teammate Ben Smith (21-1/21-3) and swept Jackson Arpin of the Owls (21-17/21-10).
He also needed just two games to dispatch Eric Williams (21-10/21-14) and Parker Sampson (21-14/21-18) of the Atikokan Voyageurs, as well as Braeden Morin from the Ignace Falcons (21-6/21-9).
“Aaron had a good day,” said Muskie coach Brian Church. “He managed to stave off Arpin this week.
“Both Atikokan players put forth strong efforts and are very good players,” he added.
Smith ended the day in sixth place at 0-5 (scores were unavailable at press time).
“This is a strong pool of players and Ben was meeting most of them for the first time since he did not make the exhibition tournament the week before as he was at a volleyball tournament in Thunder Bay,” noted Church.
Arpin took second at 4-1 to qualify for the NorWOSSA finals today.
Muskie Michaela Putzer was even more of a force in winning the junior girls’ singles division last week, also sweeping all five of her matches while not allowing more than 10 points in any one game.
“Again, Michaela was not to be outclassed by any competitors,” lauded Church.
“Her technical skill is obvious as you watch her play and she plays a smart game,” he added.
“She watches her opponents and keeps them moving.”
Putzer beat fellow Muskie Isabella Ward (21-2/21-9), two Owls in Aubree McQuaker (21-10/21-6) and Taylor Neilson (21-3/21-2), as well as Destinee Lafond (21-7/21-10) and Robyn Zerebeski (21-4/21-4) of the host Voyageurs.
Ward rebounded from an 0-2 start to battle her way to third place and a spot in today’s NorWOSSA finals with a 3-2 record.
She balanced losses to Putzer and Lafond (21-5/22-20) with victories over Zerebeski (21-12/21-10), Neilson (21-9/21-9), and McQuaker (21-6/21-7).
“Isabella improved as she got warmed up,” said Church. “She worked hard throughout the day and had a heart-breaking second set against Lafond.
“But when challenged by both Lafond and Putzer, [she] stepped up her game and improved her score in the second set.”
McQuaker concluded the day in fifth place (1-4) while Neilson finished sixth (0-5).
The junior girls’ doubles team of Lauryn Marchant and Tayah Badiuk had to do a little more work than their fellow Muskies but also crafted a 5-0 record to win their division.
Marchant and Badiuk were pushed to three sets by the Atikokan teams of Charlotte Arnold and Tia-Ray Alexiuk (16-21, 21-6, and 21-16) and Monica Young with Julia Bailey (21-12, 20-22, and 25-23).
“Their second match against Young and Bailey was particularly stressful and fatiguing,” recalled Church.
“The girls were working very hard and kept their composure throughout the match, and were shaking afterwards due to the stress and adrenalin brought on by such a close match.”
The Muskie duo swept the other three teams, including teammates Janissa Judson and Andrea Schram (21-17/21-14), along with Lilly Blakeney and Kayla Michl (21-10/21-10) and Lynelle Westover and Aynsley Williams (21-4/21-5) of the Owls.
Judson and Schram wound up fourth with a 2-3 record, beating Blakeney and Michl (21-13/21-11) and Westover and Williams (21-16/22-20).
But they also fell to Young and Bailey (21-16, 18-21, and 21-13) and Arnold and Alexiuk (21-10/21-11)–the latter match deciding the third and final NorWOSSA berth.
“They were disappointed but put forth a strong effort and were getting a bit fatigued,” noted Church.
Blakeney and Michl ended up fifth (1-4) while Westover and Williams settled for sixth (0-6).
Dakota Jernberg was the lone second-place finisher for the Muskies, advancing in junior boys’ singles with a 4-1 record.
He started with a three-set win over Reece Chorney of the Owls (17-21, 21-13, and 21-16), then swept Oliver Deschenes of Ignace (21-19/22-20) before suffering his only loss of the day to Atikokan’s Reed King (21-11/21-17).
Jernberg then rebounded with victories over Atikokan’s Alex Krassey (21-19/21-17) and Austin Thompson of Ignace (21-19/22-20).
“Chorney was the only opponent [Jernberg] lost to last week but Dakota managed to get him this time,” said Church.
Chorney hung on to take third with a 3-2 mark and advance to Kenora.
Muskie Sam Westover already knew she was advancing to the NorWOSSA finals in senior girls’ singles.
The withdrawal of fellow Muskie Caity Visser and Dakota Kreger of the Owls meant there were only three entrants in the division, which automatically qualified all three for Kenora.
But Westover had a tough day in Atikokan last Wednesday, losing in straight sets to Bethany Sinninghe of the Owls (21-7/21-6) and Damara Delescaille of Ignace (21-6/21-8).
“Sam was a little flat-footed and had a tough time covering the court, but played well,” noted Church.
Sinninghe won the division with a 2-0 record.
Two other Muskie doubles teams also made it past the qualifying stage by taking third place in their respective divisions.
Mykenzie Borger and Sam Berg went 3-2 in senior girls’ doubles, posting wins over teammates Cassidy McKinnon and Emma Cole (21-11/21-11), as well as against Cass Teeple and Calli Vandenbrand (23-21/21-10) and Alia Big George and Regan Big George (21-18/21-11) of the Owls.
Their only defeats came against the two Voyageurs’ teams of Melanda Morden and Alexis Paquette (21-18/21-9) and Faith King and Page Skrenski (21-17/21-11).
Teeple and Vandenbrand finished fourth at 2-3 while the Big George duo took fifth at 1-4.
McKinnon and Cole were sixth at 0-5, getting swept in all of their matches.
Besides falling to their teammates, the pair also were beaten by Teeple and Vandenbrand (21-16/21-7), King and Skrenski (21-6/21-5), Morden and Paquette (21-5/21-3), and the Big Georges (21-12/21-9).
Also in Kenora today was the Muskie junior boys’ doubles team of Ryley Booth and Owen Riches, who also placed third last Wednesday in Atikokan.
They went 2-2 after downing Liam Pearson and Tanner Neilson (21-10/21-9) and Nick Vogan and Carlin Drennan (14-21, 21-13, and 21-16) of the Owls.
The Muskie tandem lost to a pair of Voyageurs’ teams in Joel Hayes and Matt Pitura (21-8/21-12) and Carter Chalifoux and Joshua Palmai (21-12/21-18).
Vogan and Drennan finished in fourth place (1-3) but caught a break when one of the two Atikokan teams was unable to attend today’s finals–opening up a spot for the Owls’ pair to fill.
Pearson and Neilson were fifth (0-4).
In senior mixed doubles, Madison Brown and Tyler Hamm of Rainy River also benefitted from a withdrawal.
They took fourth place at 2-2 but still advanced to Kenora when another team ahead of them pulled out.
Dakota Kreger and Theren George wound up fifth in the group (1-4) while the Muskie tandem of Janelle Ball and Parker Allen was sixth (0-5).
“A lack of practice time together was an issue due to work schedules and illness,” Church said in defending Ball and Allen’s result.
As for junior mixed doubles, Paige Stamler and Christian Tiboni booked a trip to the NorWOSSA finals with a third-place result after going 2-2 last Wednesday in Atikokan.
MacKenzie Jolicouer and Hayden Haw were fifth (0-4).
“We are very pleased with the performance of our entire team in Atikokan, as we had several players who played well but narrowly missed qualifying,” noted Owls’ coach Guy Arpin.
“We also had a few players new to the sport who showed good progress in their first year and will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.”
The top two finishers in each division today will advance to the NWOSSAA finals next Wednesday (April 19) in Wawa.