Muskies qualify five ‘birders’ for NWOSSAA

Joey Payeur

The Muskies and Rainy River Owls each have multiple representatives at the NWOSSAA badminton championships today in Wawa after finishing in the top two at the NorWOSSA finals last Wednesday in Kenora.
And if any of them can repeat that placement today, it’s off to the OFSAA on May 4-6 in Pain Court.
Fort High racked up 39 points to finish third out of 10 teams at NorWOSSA while Rainy River garnered 26 to wind up tied for fifth with the Dryden Eagles.
The Atikokan Voyageurs reigned all powerful on their home court–leading the way with 110 points to capture the overall team title.
The Sioux Lookout Warriors were a distant second with 45.
Muskie Aaron Bujold, already a two-time OFSAA participant, nabbed his third-straight NorWOSSA title in senior boys’ singles play (but his first as an actual senior student after winning in Grades 9 and 10 the past two years).
Bujold has yet to suffer any kind of loss this season–running his match record to 14-0 by winning all 28 sets he has played.
He went 5-0 last week in Kenora without allowing more than 16 points in any set.
Bujold tore through Ben Martin (Warriors) by scores of 21-1 and 21-6, then cruised to a 21-14/21-16 victory over Jackson Arpin (Owls).
He then kept rolling along with wins over Andrew Neil of the Kenora Broncos (21-12/21-5), Michael Bell of the Eagles (21-6/21-9), and Parker Sampson of the host Voyageurs (21-9/21-11).
“Aaron had some very spirited rallies against strong players, but would step up his game to ensure the win,” lauded Muskie coach Brian Church.
Arpin, meanwhile, shook off his loss to Bujold to go unbeaten against the rest of the division (scores unavailable) to earn silver and a berth at NWOSSAA.
“Jackson competed in the very tough senior boys’ division, where four of the six competitors were very skilled,” noted Owls’ coach Guy Arpin.
“He defeated the top player from the North Division in his first game of the day in three gruelling sets.
“As a Grade 10 student, he showed a lot of composure for his age and battled through the day, losing only one match to [Bujold],” Guy Arpin added.
“Everything for him at NWOSSAA is gravy now. We will see what happens.”
Arpin will have a familiar face alongside him in teammate Bethany Sinninghe, who went 3-0 (scores unavailable) to top the senior girls’ singles division for the Owls against a field reduced to just four players due to a withdrawal and an injury.
“Bethany played well and was only challenged in one game from an Ignace competitor,” said Arpin.
“She competed at NWOSSAA last year and learned a lot from the experience that she plans to put to good use [today in Wawa].”
Michaela Putzer maintained her streak of success in her rookies season with the Muskies, going 5-0 in junior girls’ singles play to capture gold.
“[Putzer] looked relaxed throughout the day and played her technically skilled game to definitive wins, with 12 being the most points scored against her in any set,” noted Church.
It was an all-Muskie matchup between Putzer and Isabella Ward to kick the morning off, with Putzer prevailing 21-7/21-9.
Reyhan Brown of Dryden was Putzer’s next victim (21-5/21-4), followed by Danielle Maillet-Goodfellow of the Warriors (21-1/21-3), Anawdon Keeash from the Pelican Falls Timberwolves (21-4/21-5), and Destinee Lafond of Atikokan (21-12/21-5).
But Ward didn’t let the loss to her teammate get her down–garnering four-straight wins after that to earn the silver medal and a trip to NWOSSAA.
She dumped Maillet-Goodfellow (21-4/21-5), edged Lafond in three sets (21-17, 18-21, and 21-16), then swept both Brown (21-15/21-18) and Keeash (21-10/21-15) to lock up second place.
“Isabella played strong all day,” said Church. “She played a smart and determined game.”
In junior girls’ doubles play, the Muskie tandem of Lauryn Marchant and Tayah Badiuk had their first hiccup of what had been an unbeaten season until then.
After knocking off Sadie McCallum and Autumn McKay from the Kenora Broncos in their opener (21-16/21-11), Marchant and Badiuk faced the tough Voyageurs’ duo of Tia-Ray Alexiuk and Charlotte Arnold, whom they had beaten in a tight three-set battle at the NorWOSSA qualifier in Atikokan the previous week.
This time, though, it was Alexiuk and Arnold who prevailed 2-1 (21-15, 19-21, and 21-17).
But Marchant and Badiuk pulled it together to beat Monica Young and Julia Bailey of Atikokan (21-11/21-19), Emma Lang and Cali Lappage of Dryden (21-11/21-16) and Emily Heil and Lauren Bell of the Eagles (21-9/21-9) to take the silver and advance to Wawa.
“Tayah and Lauryn played well all day,” said Church.
“Although they had a few unforced errors during some games, they were in control and played strongly.”
In senior girls’ doubles, the Muskie pairing of Sam Berg and Mykenzie Borger struggled to fifth place with a 1-4 record last week in Atikokan.
“Sam and Mykenzie were the victims of fatigue and sloppy play,” noted Church, while also saying Borger gritted her way through the event after pulling a back muscle.
Berg and Borger fell 21-12/21-15 in their first game to Shaelyn Beaulne and Cathy Topacio (Warriors), then lost 21-16, 21-19 to Faith King and Page Skrenski from Atikokan.
The Muskie duo lost again to Hailey Manford and Alexis Paquette from Atikokan (21-12/21-13) and against Jess Carter and Emma Robertson (23-21/21-15) before concluding the day with a sweep of Dryden’s Taylor Gerula and Jacey Wright (21-12/21-12).
Muskie Dakota Jernberg pushed two of his matches to the distance but ultimately finished winless at 0-5 to wind up sixth in junior boys’ singles.
“Dakota played well all day but fell victim to unforced errors with the birdie hitting slightly outside the line on many occasions,” Church said.
“He was frustrated, knowing he had the skill to beat several of his opponents, but things just weren’t clicking on that day,” he added.
“The level of competition certainly increases with each step along the way to NWOSSAA.”
Jernberg dropped his first match 21-9/21-13 to Ralph Gayogay of the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (Kenora), then fell to Jeric Briones of the Warriors (21-13/21-12), Reece Chorney of the Owls (20-22, 21-18, and 21-11), Brett Martin of the Warriors (21-17, 19-21, and 21-14), and Reed King of the Voyageurs (21-13/21-11).
Chorney wound up fourth with a 2-3 record and failed to qualify for NWOSSAA.
Other Owls participants included the senior mixed doubles team of Madison Brown and Tyler Hamm in fifth (1-4), as well as the sixth-place teams of Paige Stamler and Christian Tiboni in junior mixed doubles (1-4) and Nick Vogan and Carlin Drennan in junior boys’ doubles (0-5).
“Our players that did not advance all represented our school with talent and class,” said Arpin.
“With varying levels of badminton experience, the chance to play at the NorWOSSA championships was a welcomed opportunity.”
Church noted Sam Westover (senior girls’ singles), as well as the junior boys’ doubles team of Ryley Booth and Owen Riches, were unable to take part in the NorWOSSA finals due to illness.