It was a job well done for the Muskie and Rainy River Owls badminton teams last week.
There are plenty of representatives from both schools at the NorWOSSA finals being held today in Dryden after advancing through the qualifier last Wednesday in Atikokan.
For the Muskies, three teams punched their tickets to Dryden.
Tayah Badiuk and Lauryn Marchant continued their strong play this season in senior girls’ doubles, finishing atop the four-team division with a perfect 3-0 record.
After dropping their first set 18-21 to Alexiuk and Ribey of the host Voyageurs, the Muskie duo locked in and rattled off set wins of 21-13 and 21-9 to claim the match.
Badiuk and Marchant followed that by sweeping Kayla Michl and Mackenzie Jolicouer of the Owls (21-18/21-11) and Manford and Arnold of the Voyageurs (21-13/21-11).
“With only four entrants in the senior girls’ doubles pool and the top three moving on, the only team eliminated was that of Rainy River,” noted Muskie coach Brian Church.
“As usual, Tayah and Lauryn took the first little while to get settled in and start hitting their shots consistently.
“Once they get warmed up, they can be deadly,” he stressed.
“They are a strong team and have worked together for a long enough time to know where each other are on the court and which shots they must cover, and which they can leave for their partner,” he lauded.
It was a deadlock in senior boys’ doubles as Muskies Dakota Jernberg and Ryley Booth tied for first with Pitura and Chalifoux and King and Palmai of Atikokan with identical 2-1 records in the four-team field.
“With a small pool of only four teams, it turned out that Fort Frances and the two Atikokan teams each ended the day with a 2-1 record,” said Church.
“Since the top three advance to NorWOSSA, where they will play a full round-robin tournament in a pool of six teams, it was not necessary to determine first second, and third place–so all three were declared tied for first place.”
Jernberg and Booth downed Pitura and Chalifoux in three sets (18-21, 21-14, and 21-13) but only needed two sets to dispatch Prince and Boyd of the Whitefish Bay Winterhawks (21-3/21-8).
But their final game saw them fall in two sets to King and Palmai (15-21/20-22) for their only loss of the tournament.
“Dakota and Ryley were playing well all day, and their single loss came in their last match, where they lost by six points and then by only two,” Church recalled.
The final Muskie team advancing was Jake MacKinnon and Brett Schram, who finished second in junior boys’ doubles with a 5-1 record.
The duo opened play with a sweep of fellow Muskies Marcus Morrisseau and Ty Wagar (21-11/21-12).
The after dispatching Kevin Abbott and Adrian Trenchard (21-9/21-16) and Mike Vogan and Jack Wood of Rainy River (21-9/21-10), MacKinnon and Schram suffered their first loss to Kehl and Vos of Atikokan in two sets (18-21/15-21).
But they rebounded in a big way with wins against Lacosse and Zacharias of the Voyageurs (21-16, 18-21, and 21-19) and Qualie and Delascaille of the Ignace Falcons (21-6/21-8).
“Brett and Jake are a good combination of height and power–with Brett–and speed and precision–with Jake,” Church lauded.
“Although they still gave away points by hitting short serves on occasion, overall they were very competitive with a 5-1 record on the day, placed a solid second behind the undefeated team of Vos and Kehl of Atikokan.
“They are excited to play in Dryden [this] week for the NorWOSSA finals,” he added.
It was a much tougher time for Isablla Ward in senior girls’ singles, as she compiled a 2-3 record to finish just shy of advancing in fourth place.
In her first match, she defeated fellow Muskie Michaela Putzer in three sets (21-15, 11-21, and 21-15) which was she had has ever beaten Putzer in head-to-head competition.
But Putzer wasn’t feeling well and went home after the first game, so this win did not count for Ward in the qualifier as the other players did not get to play Putzer.
Ward then fell in two sets to Delescaille of the Falcons (15-21/13-21) before also being defeated in three sets by Paige Stamler of the Owls (16-21, 21-15, and 14-21).
Then after losing to LaFond of Atikokan (13-21/20-22), Ward ended her season with a convincing 21-19/21-9 win over Aubree McQuaker of the Owls.
“As a first year senior, Bella played very well, and was competitive,” Church enthused.
“She improved on her previous scores against some of the same opponents and was pleased with her performance. Of course she had hoped to place in the top three to be able to continue to the NorWOSSA level.
“Work and other commitments had prevented Bella from getting as much practice as she would have liked prior to this tournament,” he conceded.
Sean Huziak and Andrea Schram compiled a 1-4 record in senior mixed doubles and wound up in sixth place.
After losing their first game in two sets to Hayes and Young of Atikokan (8-21/9-21), the Muskie duo rebounded with a three-set win over Deschenes and Ferrara of Ignace (21-18, 11-21, and 21-9).
But they ended play with losses to Krassey and Bailey of Atikokan (12-21/13-21), Anysley Williams and Liam Pearson of the Owls (18-21, 21-18, and 11-21), and
Micaela Jolicouer and Carlin Drennan of Owls (18-21/25-27).
Going into their final match of the day, had Huziak and Schram won, it would have put both Ignace and Fort Frances at 2-3, and since Fort Frances had beaten Ignace in the round robin, Fort would have placed third overall and qualified for NorWOSSA.
This put Ignace in third, Jolicouer and Drennan in fourth with a 2-3 record, and the Rainy River duo of Williams and Pearson in fifth with a 1-4 record, with their sole win being against the Muskies.
“Sean and Andrea played well all day, they were a new doubles team and didn’t have a lot of time as partners before the competition,” said Church.
“It seemed that the stress of the last game got to both Sean and Andrea as they started missing shots they had been making earlier in the day.”
Piper Danylchuk and Issy Taylor compiled a 1-3 record in junior girls’ doubles, just finishing shy of advancing to NorWOSSA in fourth place.
After opening with a two-set win over Carmen Gill and Kailey Olson of the Owls (21-19/21-18), the Muskie duo lost to Learning and Brigham of the Voyageurs (16-21/1-21).
The followed that up with pair of two-set losses to Dufresne and Caron of Atikokan (16-21/20-22) and Madison Kreger and Tala Quran of the Owls (15-21/17-21).
Marcus Morrisseau and Ty Wagar rounded out the Muskie contingent, winding up in seventh place in junior boys’ doubles with an 0-6 record.
That included losses to each of fellow Muskies Schram and MacKinnon (11-21/12-21), Qualie and Delascaille of Ignace (8-21/7-21), Kevin Abbott and Adrian Trenchard of the Owls (23-21, 13-21, and 9-21), Kehl and Vos of the Voyageurs (2-21/8-21), Mike Vogan and Jack Wood of the Owls (9-21/12-21), and Lacosse and Zacharias of the Voyageurs (8-21/9-21).
Overall, I was pleased with the play of the team. The seasoned players were very competitive and demonstrated honed skills and smart choices during their games,” said Church.
“The newer players showed their lack of experience in some shots by feeding the bird to their opponent, only to be attacked immediately. With the short season that badminton is, it is difficult for a new player to gain the skills necessary to be competitive within a few short weeks,” he conceded.
That being said, Church also noted that the Muskies’ junior players that came to practice improved their skills and showed quick improvement over the season.
“Unfortunately, only three pairs of players will be representing FFHS at NorWOSSA, but I believe they all have a good chance of advancing to NWOSSAA the following week,” he predicted.
As for the Owls, hey had nine players qualify for the NorWOSSA finals today.
Jackson Arpin continued his strong play and had the best showing for Rainy River as he was tops in senior boys’ singles.
Kirsten Armstrong wound up third in junior girls’ singles.
Naomi Carradice and Caleb Jack-Gibbins were second while Kiera Govier and Joe Tiboni took third in junior mixed doubles.
Paige Stamler finished third in senior girls’ singles while Madison Kreger and Tala Quran were third in junior girls’ doubles.
“We were pleased. Atikokan has a strong program and they qualified a lot of players,” Owls’ coach Guy Arpin said of having nine of his athletes qualify for NorWOSSA.
“That made it tough for the rest of us,” he conceded.
“They [the athletes] represented our school well, both with their level of play as well as their character.
“All our teams showed improvement from the exhibition to the qualifier,” he lauded.
“As a team, we will be in tough trying to get many players moving on to the NWOSSAA level,” he predicted.
“I think we will be represented . . . just hard to say how many.”
Players must place in the top two of their respective divisions at the NWOSSAA championships in Thunder Bay next Wednesday (April 24) to qualify for OFSAA, which is slated for May 2-4 in North Bay.