Photo by Melinda Tse

Rams host OUA badminton championship this weekend

By Andrea Elliott

BURLINGTON, Ont. – So nice, they did it twice, and now the Toronto Varsity Blues will look to make it three in a row at the 2018 OUA Badminton Championship. U of T will hit the courts this weekend at Ryerson University against eight other squads from across the province, looking to claim the coveted badminton banner.

Details surrounding the upcoming championship can be found in the 2018 Badminton Championship Fan Guide.

Under the guidance of first-year head coach Jackie Yeung, the Blues will be vying for their third straight provincial title and fourth in the past six seasons. Yeung is no stranger to the Blues success, as he was twice named an OUA All-Star and earned OUA Male Rookie of the Year honours when Toronto claimed the banner in 2013.

Helping Toronto’s latest banner-seeking efforts will be four returning All-Stars from their 2017 team, including the reigning Female Most Valuable Player, Bethany So. The four-time OUA All-Star, who was named U of T’s Frank Pindar Female Athlete of the Year last season after a dominant performance at the championship, will be joined by fellow returnees Giselle Chan and Vivian Kwok to bolster a potent Blues roster.

Amidst the Blues success, the Western Mustangs have seen just their second stretch in program history wherein they have been held without a title for three straight years. Despite this streak, the Mustangs have still been a mainstay on the podium, and will enter this weekend’s action as 2017 silver medalists.

Looking to help the Mustangs put an end to this streak and do one better than last year’s finish will be 2017 All-Star Jack Hall. Fellow All-Star Samantha Zhengwill also be helping the purple ponies gallop to victory; as will second year player Sean McGowan, who earned the only victory in Western’s 6-1 loss to Toronto in last year’s gold medal match.

From a team who has been a mainstay in the sport to one that is taking part in the championship for just the second time, the UOIT Ridgebacks will be looking to turn their regular season successes into similar winning ways in the season finale. Freshmen Wil Hausenblas and Zhiyi Chen have made an immediate impact on the team, and both will look to continue this impact on the championship stage.

Chen, a recent OUA Peak Performer, has already reached the A Flight finals at the Ryerson Open - a program first – while Hausenblas picked up a number of big wins on the year, including one at the Yonex Ontario Elite tournament.  The UOIT women's team, meanwhile, has continued to improve throughout the season and is looking forward to another year of provincial championship play.

The McMaster Marauders are no strangers to success, having reached the podium in each of the last two banner events. After their silver medal in 2016, the Marauders took home the bronze at last year’s final, thanks in large part to reigning OUA Male Most Valuable Player, Clement Chow. The All-Star went undefeated in six matches – five singles – at last year’s championship event, to lead the maroon and white, but the team also brings a strong supporting cast to the table.

Chow is joined by fellow 2017 All-Stars Muhammed Kamaruddin and Joletta Cheung, while two-time All-Star and former OUA MVP Jacob Kao and 2016 standout Sommer Chou help round out the menacing Marauders roster.

The team that McMaster toppled last year in the bronze medal match, the Waterloo Warriors, will return to the championship looking to find the podium this time around. The reigning fourth place finishers will once again be led by Emily Lam, who enters play as the team’s only 2017 All-Star. Along with Lam, however, comes a pair of 2016 All-Stars – Larry Liu and Caitlin Lee – who will help the gold and black recapture their championship effort from three years ago.

Playing host to all of these talented crews will be the Ryerson Rams, who will be buoyed by the hometown crowd in their quest to build on their sixth place finish from 2017. The Rams, who will continue their quest for the first badminton title in program history, will see several talented players take to the courts, including early-season standouts Adwin Lau, Bernita Ng, and Richard Lai. This trio helped the Rams find success in both doubles and singles play at the IUCC Mandarin Tournament earlier in the year; something they’ll undoubtedly want to see more of this weekend along with last year’s standouts Alison Chiu and Renee Wong, among others.  

The uOttawa Gee-Gees, meanwhile, will enter the OUA finale with back-to-back fifth place finishes, but will do so without international standout Andrew D’Souza, or fellow 2017 All-Star Austin Flannigan, but will be hoping that the next crop of talent can help the team gallop to victory. Leading the charge for the Gee-Gees will be Allison Tran and Aswini Ganesh on the women’s side, along with player-coach Chyna Ouimet Liu, while the men’s squad will be led by Alan Fok and Ipellie Foo.

Also taking part in this year’s championship will be the Carleton Ravens and Queen’s Gaels.

Action will kick off at the Kerr Hall Gymnasium at Ryerson University on Friday, February 16, with pool play taking place throughout the day. Pool play will continue into Saturday, before championship and placement matches begin. Semifinal and medal matches will round out the weekend’s activities on Sunday, February 18, to be followed by the banner and awards presentations.

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