The Muskies and Rainy River Owls represented their schools extremely well at the OFSAA badminton championships last week in Windsor.
Jackson Arpin of Rainy River had the strongest showing of all, nabbing a silver medal in the men’s ‘C’ flight.
Facing Lai of TDSSAA, both players were evenly matched in the final as the first set went back-and-forth throughout, with Lai eventually winning 23-21.
Lai then took the final set 21-15 to claim the title and leave Arpin settling for silver.
This year, OFSAA tried something new by creating two divisions in men’s and women’s singles.
As each association could send two representatives, only one rep could be a club player (open division) while the other had to be a high school player (high school division).
All 40 players started out in ‘A’ flight and in most cases, the first-round games matched up an open division player against a high school division player.
As the tournament plays out (first and second rounds), players who lose would drop down a division.
Open players could go no lower than the ‘B’ flight and therefore only high school division players would be in the ‘C’ flight.
“Jackson had a fantastic OFSAA experience,” enthused Owls’ head coach Guy Arpin.
“Jackson’s goal this year was to win one match as he knew that the quality of badminton at this event is outstanding.”
Arpin opened OFSAA play with a loss against an open player, Tso (YRAA).
Although he played very well, he was defeated by scores of 14-21 and 11-21.
His second match was in the ‘B’ flight, where he played another high school player in Melanson (NEOAA), which he easily won by identical scores of 21-6 and 21-6.
His third match was against another club player, and also last year’s ‘C’ flight gold-medalist, Soo (ROPSSAA).
In what was Arpin’s strongest showing so far, he gave Soo a great match but eventually lost in straight sets (13-21/11-21).
That dropped Arpin into the ‘C’ flight, where his fourth match was against Hanrahan (CISAA).
“He had to work hard in this match as both players showed both skill and determination,” Guy Arpin recalled.
Jackson ended up claiming the match in three sets (21-12, 15-21, and 21-7) to earn a berth into the ‘C’ semi-finals.
There he squared off against Ali (CWOSSA).
After losing the first set 20-22, Jackson battled back to win the next two by scores of 21-12 and 21-7 to advance to the gold-medal match.
“This was a battle,” Guy Arpin said. “Jackson showed a lot of composure and gradually improved every game he played.
“Jackson finished his second OFSAA experience with a 3-3 record and with three wins and a silver medal, he far exceeded his goals,” he added.
“As a coach, I am always proud of my athletes when they work so hard to achieve success,” Guy Arpin added.
“When that hard-working athlete is your own child . . . the feeling is priceless,” he beamed,
Guy Arpin also noted his son’s OFSAA medal win is the fifth in RRHS badminton team history.
The Muskies also had solid showings at OFSAA despite not coming home with any hardware.
Aaron Bujold advanced to the ‘A’ flight quarter-finals, which was his best-ever finish at the all-Ontarios.
He opened play with a straight-sets win over Liam Shad of NEOAA (21-8/21-15).
Bujold’s second match was against Martin Truong (EOSSAA), which was a much closer battle than the first one but he managed another two-set win by scores of 21-18 and 22-20.
Having won two matches in the ‘A’ flight meant Bujold no longer could drop down to the ‘B’ side.
Friday’s action saw Bujold square off against Kevin Wang (ROPSSAA), a junior player who is ranked fifth nationally.
Wang took the match in straight sets (13-21/10-21).
“He played very well and was competitive,” Muskie head coach Brian Church said of Bujold.
“Kevin Wang went on to win the gold medal in the ‘A’ event.”
The loss dropped Bujold into the do-or-die ‘A’-consolation pool.
There he battled Ryan Chan (YRAA) and dropped the first set 12-21. But Bujold came back strong in the second set and battled to a 21-23 loss.
“As he competed against the stronger players, Aaron’s game play improved and he came very close to advancing,” Church noted.
“Even though he did not medal, Aaron achieved a level of play never before reached by a Fort Frances High School student in badminton,” he said.
“To finish in the top eight in men’s singles at OFSAA is a very impressive result.
“Aaron is extremely proud of his achievement and happy with his performance against some very talented opponents,” Church added.
The Grade 10 duo of Tayah Badiuk and Lauryn Marchant, meanwhile, also were impressive in their first OFSAA badminton appearance in the women’s doubles event.
“Playing against older, more experienced players for the most part, they got over their nerves quickly and started to play very well,” Church said.
They opened play with loss to Josee Philips and Danika Mayer (GBSSA).
“Taking a little time to get comfortable on the big stage, they dropped this first match with set scores of 13-21 and 12-21,” Church noted.
That result dropped them into the ‘B’ flight, where they hit their stride in their first match.
Playing against Carly Demontigny and Amelia Melancon (NEOAA), Marchant and Badiuk managed their first OFSAA victory by scores of 21-13 and 21-8.
“This win kept them in the ‘B’ flight and meant they would have a third match to play on the first day,” Church explained.
Their next opponents were Haley Barclay and Hannah Manders (WOSSAA), who proved to be slightly tougher opponents as the Muskie duo fell 12-21 and 18-21.
The loss meant moving to the ‘C’ flight for the second day of the tournament on Friday.
Their first match was a tough straight-sets loss (14-21/10-21) to Autumn Hamilton and Sara Underwood (SWOSSA), the host association.
“The girls played well but didn’t hit their stride in this first match of the day,” Church recalled.
“However, they were not done as they moved to the ‘C’ level consolation event, where teams must win to carry on.”
In what turned out to be their final match at OFSAA, Marchant and Badiuk played strongly against Laura Dang and Linda Liu (GHAC), battling hard before losing by scores of 13-21 and 17-21.
“The duo of Dang and Liu carried on with two more wins before being defeated in the semi-finals of the consolation round in the ‘C’ event,” noted Church.
“For a young pair of players in their first appearance at OFSAA, Lauryn and Tayah played a smart game and were competitive in all matches,” he lauded.
“They are sure to be a contender in the years to come.”
Church said he and fellow coach Louis Bujold were proud of their players’ success this season and their sportsmanship exhibited at all events.
“Being that it was Aaron’s ‘swan song’ in high school badminton, it was nice to see his improvement over previous appearances and how competitive he was against some of the best players in the country,” Church said.
“The hours of practice put in by these players over the years has honed their skills to a level where they are competitive at the provincial level.”
As for next year, Church said Marchant and Badiuk plan to improve and implement better rotation on the court with each other, as well working on technique to increase power for high clears and smashes.
“Unfortunately, Aaron [Bujold] will be off to college next year, so he will not be around the high school to help advance the level of play for the up-and-coming students,” he noted.
“However, we have a strong group of players who did well this year who should make our team competitive next year.”