BURLINGTON, Ont. – The top university badminton teams from across the province will invade the Tait McKenzie Centre on the campus of York University this weekend for the 2017 OUA Badminton Championship.
For additional information on the OUA Badminton Championship, click here for the Championship Fan Guide.
Action gets underway Friday, Feb. 17 at 9:00 a.m. and concludes with the medal matches on Sunday, Feb. 19 at 1:00 p.m.
Last year, it was the University of Toronto Varsity Blues who claimed the OUA championship banner, winning their fourth title in program history since the event moved to a team competition in 1996-97. With a victory on Sunday, the Blues would become the first team to repeat as OUA champions since the Western Mustangs accomplished the feat in 2011 and 2012.
Of the Varsity Blues three 2016 OUA women's all-stars, only fourth-year veteran Bethany So (Toronto) is back to represent her hometown team. However, the Toronto roster received a much needed boost when Vivan Kwok (Stouffville, Ont.) transferred from the crosstown rival Ryerson Rams. Kwok is three-time OUA all-star, who has won a medal in each of women's singles, women's doubles and mixed doubles in her career.
Now in his third season with the team, 2016 OUA all-star and 2013 Rookie of the Year Jackie Yueng (Toronto) returns to help the Varsity Blues as they look to defend their title. The Blues will look also to Jim Zeng (Mississauga, Ont.) to provide some veteran leadership as he's currently participating in his seventh season of OUA badminton.
Joining Yueng is another former OUA Rookie of the Year as third-year statistics major Andrew Wilkinson (Toronto, Ont.) is back for the Blues. Wilkinson, who won the award in 2012, has previously represented Canada at a Summer Universiade event.
The 2016 OUA Championship hosts and silver medalists, the McMaster Marauders, will make the trip to Toronto this weekend still in search of that illusive first team title in program history. After capturing bronze in 2015 and 2nd a season ago, the pattern would surely suggest that 2017 could be the Marauders year.
As a rookie last year, Sommer Chou (Missisauga, Ont.) was an integral part of the Marauders success and the Integrated Science student-athlete will surely have McMaster in the mix come the medal round again this weekend.
Now in his fourth year studying computer engineering at McMaster University, Jacob Kao (Hamilton, Ont.) will be another Marauder to keep an eye on this weekend. Kao is a two-time OUA all-star and was named MVP back in 2015. The Marauders are also hoping for big things once again from Muhammad Kamarrudin (Kuanthan, Malaysia), the 2015 OUA Rookie of the Year.
No team in OUA has hoisted the championship trophy more than the Western Mustangs. However, now two years removed from their last title, you'd have to go all the way back to 1996-1999 to find the last time they were shut out in three straight seasons.
The Mustangs stampede into the OUA championship led by 2016 OUA all-star Bryan Jok (Toronto, Ont.). The Mustangs will also look to third-year standout Jack Hall (Toronto, Ont.) to have a big weekend at home in front of friends and family. As a rookie, Hall finished second in the men's singles competition at the 2015 OUA championship.
On the women's side, Karissa Chan (Richmond Hill, Ont.) was named an OUA all-star in just her first season in the conference. A pair of fifth year players, Christina Yuen (Mississauga, Ont.) and Hanyi Chen (Windsor, Ont.), will provide some veteran leadership to a relatively young Mustangs squad.
Chasing their fifth OUA title in school history, the Waterloo Warriors would like nothing more than to take back ownership of the championship trophy for another season. In search of their second championship in three seasons, the Warriors have several key returning student-athletes, including Stephen Lau (Richmond Hill, Ont.), the 2016 OUA Male Rookie of the Year.
Of the Warriors four OUA all-star selections from last year, Larry Liu (Markham, Ont.) and second-year standout Caitlin Yee (Thornhill, Ont.) are both back for Waterloo.
If there is one player this weekend that fans won't want to miss any time he steps on the court, it would be University of Ottawa Gee-Gees standout Andew D'Souza (Ottawa, Ont.). At one point the top ranked player in Canada, D'Souza has as impressive resume as you'll find in the OUA that includes a Pan Am Games silver medal and a gold medal with Team Ontario from the 2015 Canada Summer Games.
As a team last year, the Gee-Gees finished fifth at the OUA championship.
The Ryerson Rams roster added a key piece prior to the season when former University of Toronto Varsity Blues standout Adwin Lau (Markham, Ont.) transferred to the team. Just a couple weeks ago, Lau teamed up with senior Cliff Yuen (Markham, Ont.) and won the men's doubles event at the Independent University/College Circuit (IUCC) event in Mississauga.
On the women's side, Alison Chiu (Markham, Ont.) is one the Rams top ranked players and enters competition Friday with several strong showings this season. Chiu, along with partner Renee Wong (Hong Kong, China), reached the quarter-final round at the Ryerson Open and late last month fell in the semifinals of an IUCC event with teammate Avenie Lee (Thornhill, Ont.)
York will be looking to take full advantage of playing at home in front of a pro-Lions crowd this weekend. Look for Hok Poy Lo (Markham, Ont.) to have a strong tournament for the home team, as the second-year information technology major, was named an OUA all-star as a rookie at last year's event.
For the first time in school history, the UOIT Ridgebacks will participate in the OUA championship after establishing the program earlier this year. On the men's side, look for Sheng Chen (Richmond Hill, Ont.) and Jonas Albaira (Whitby, Ont.) to turn a strong regular season into a solid showing this weekend. For the UOIT women, Emilee Carmichael (Stouffville, Ont.) and Bonnie Chung (Scarborough, Ont.) formed a dynamic duo in doubles matches this season.
The Queen's Gaels, Guelph Gryphons and Carleton Ravens round out the competition.
New for 2017, with 11 teams now participating in the championship, teams will be placed into one of three groups based on last year's results. Following the opening round, the first and second place teams from each pool will play each other in the main knockout group for positions 1 through 6. The first place teams in pools A and B receive a bye into the semi-finals of the main knockout group. The winners of both semifinals will advance to Sunday's gold medal match.
Major awards and banner presentation will take place at the conclusion of the gold medal matches on the final day of competition.
Click here for a full schedule for the 2017 OUA Badminton Championship.