Muskie, Owl ‘birders’ set to open season

Jamie Mountain

The high school badminton season is short, so both the Muskies and Rainy River Owls are looking to hit the ground running today at an exhibition tournament in Atikokan.
With such a small window to get in solid practice time, Muskie head coach Brian Church noted that his athletes were working hard to get as ready as possible for today’s matches.
“As usual with such a short season, practice time is passing quickly with little time to develop new skills,” he remarked.
“Those players with club experience are much more advanced and honing their skills while newer players are learning the basics.
“That being said, some new players are progressing quickly,” he lauded.
“Practises have been going well. There are a few new players, but the turnout of new junior players was much lower than we have had in past years.”
New to the black-and-gold this season are the junior boys’ doubles teams of Brett Schram and Jake McKinnon and Ty Wagar and Marcus Morriseau, along with the junior girls’ doubles team of Issy Taylor and Piper Danylchuk.
Sean Huziak also has joined the squad and will be teaming up with returnee Andrea Schram for senior mixed doubles.
The returnees include Emma Stainke (junior girls’ singles), Susan and Louise Andy (junior girls’ doubles), Michaela Putzer and Isabella Ward (senior girls’ singles), Tayah Badiuk and Lauryn Marchant (senior girls’ doubles), and Ryley Booth and Dakota Jernberg (senior boys’ doubles).
“I have high hopes for the senior players, as three qualified for OFSAA last year, and the juniors who moved up this year are strong players,” Church noted.
“Isabella Ward finished in first place last year in junior girls’ singles and Rylee Booth missed an NWOSSAA slot by only two points,” he added.
“As for the juniors, a lot will depend on the level of the competition.
“It will be a nice change for all players to meet some competition that they haven’t played before,” he reasoned.
Church also noted that with today’s matches being an exhibition, it is a great chance to see what kind of competition the Muskies will be playing against at the qualifier next Wednesday (April 10), which also will be in Atikokan.
“For the seasoned players, it’s a great chance to size up the competition and see how other players have improved over the year,” he reasoned.
“For the juniors, we are hoping to do well, but do not really know the level of competition.
“For some of the juniors, it will be their first chance to play against an opponent from another school,” he stressed.
Church was unable to attend today’s matches as he is in Toronto, but said that fellow coach Nicole Clarke would be looking for specific things from the athletes.
“We will be watching for good serves, smart play, good sportsmanship and endurance,” he noted.
“Often in practice, the intensity of continuous play at a maximum level of performance is not simulated. There is an adrenaline kick when you are in actual competition that intensifies the experience,” he stressed.
“I am hoping that players can still control their shots and play intelligently with the added stress of competition.”
As for the Owls, head coach Guy Arpin noted the he and his coaching staff of Tiffany Rittau and Gerald Arsenault will be looking at the team’s weaknesses and assessing areas upon where the athletes can improve at the exhibition matches in Atikokan today.
New to the senior squad this year are Micaela Jolicouer, Liam Pearson, Josh Indian, Carter St. Pierre, and Morgan Desserre.
Junior newcomers include Naomi Carradice, Caleb Jack-Gibbins, Carmen Gill, Kailey Olson, Madison Kreger, Tala Quran, Kevin Abbott, Adrian Trenchard, Mike Vogan, Jack Wood, Cameron Brown, and Tyson Maki.
Returning among the seniors are Carlin Drennan, Aynsley Williams, Mackenzie Jolicouer, Kayla Michl, Aubree McQuaker, Paige Stamler, and Jackson Arpin.
Those returning at the junior level include Keira Govier, Joe Tiboni, Kirsten Armstrong, and Katelyn Brown.
“Preparation has been going pretty well,” noted Arpin.
“We have been in the gym for three weeks now trying to get as much court time as we can.
“We have various levels of abilities out this year as well as various goals,” he added.
“Some players are out to learn the game and have some fun in the process, which is awesome. Some would like to go as far as possible and see where it takes them,” he remarked.
What is the mindset ahead of the exhibition in Atikokan for the Owls today?
“Don’t get lost! Have fun, do your best,” Aprin stressed.
“We have a large number of new players. The first tournament is always an eye-opener.
“Obviously, the tournament will expose their weaknesses and what they need to work on. Unfortunately, the [NorWOSSA] qualifier is only a week later, not giving us much time to implement those improvements,” he lamented.
Arpin also noted that every team/player has their own season goal and they’ll be working hard on achieving it.
“That is the beauty of badminton, as there is room for that,” he enthused.
At the qualifier in Atikokan next Wednesday, players must place in the top three in their respective divisions in order to move on to the NorWOSSA championships in Dryden on April 17.
Then in Dryden, they must place in the top two to qualify for NWOSSAA in Thunder Bay on April 24.
From there, the top two finishers in each event qualify for OFSAA, which is slated for May 2-4 in North Bay.