As the Muskie badminton teams prepare for the NorWOSSA qualifier tomorrow in Ignace, they do so knowing they have an excellent chance of advancing to the playoffs later this month.
That’s because several Muskies put in strong performances at an exhibition last month in Sioux Lookout, and the top three placings in each division will move on from tomorrow’s qualifier.
In fact, head coach Brian Church said several of his players have a decent shot at advancing to NWOSSAA.
Katie Vittie, a grade 12 veteran on the team, finished with a perfect 5-0 record in the senior girls’ singles division at Sioux Lookout.
Also doing well in the senior girls’ division there were the duos of Shaunna Cuthbertson/Crystal Caul and Siobhan Devlin/Melissa Angus, who each lost just once (both against talented teams from Atikokan).
“At the senior level, their experience is definitely a benefit,” Church said Monday night. “They start to learn who gets what shots. The longer they play [together] the better.”
He also noted many pairings are good friends off the court, which helps them during their matches.
Also competing in seniors are Benedikt Weiss, Chris Stamarski (boys singles), Courtney Calder (girls singles), and the team of Jason Brant/Jamie Booth (boys doubles).
While Church conceded their practice season was a little shorter than he would have liked (starting up just the week before March Break), he said many of the juniors have a good knowledge of the game and the necessary skills.
“We have some singles players in grade nine that already have three years’ experience [playing the sport],” he enthused, stressing that increase in talent could be attributed directly to the badminton program organized by Manami and Lawrence Alexander.
That certainly wasn’t always the case. For several years, when a player reached the high school level, he/she was picking up a racquet for the first time.
Church admitted he’s noticed the difference. “It sure shows when they come out here for the badminton season and practice for the first time,” he said.
As such, many local junior players also have a shot at a NorWOSSA medal this season. Adrian Bondett and Kendall Gamsby, for instance, both finished the exhibition tournament in Sioux Lookout in the junior boys’ singles division with 5-1 records.
In junior girls’ doubles play, Ashley Dyson and Christa Collett teamed up to finish in a three-way tie for third in a division Church called “very close” and one which could be won by a number of teams.
Other junior Muskies who will be competing include Ann Phung, Chantel Shine (girls singles), Mark Soderberg/Travis Derkson, Wade Stang/Cole Kaemingh (boys doubles), Amanda Cotterill/Megan Bale (girls doubles), Tara Svoboda/Matt Armstrong and Jen AmOrde/Tyson Storkson (mixed doubles).