Some of his athletes were rewarded, some, not so much.
Through it all, Collège Boréal Vipères badminton head coach Mike Dionne could not have asked for much more from his crew as the six-person team competed last weekend at OCAA Regionals in Toronto.
“A lot of results did not necessarily go our way, but the effort level out on the court is exactly what I want these players to aspire to,” he said, as his group battled with the likes of George Brown, Centennial, Georgian and Seneca, with one and all hoping to move on to provincials.
While not all results may have gone their way, the Vipères did manage to secure one silver medal performance courtesy of the women's doubles team of Lynn Michel and Emilie Roy, their podium placement not at all a surprise to the coach who combined their talents.
“I knew that this ladies doubles team was going to be a thing pretty much from the get go,” said Dionne. “Both of them would have had a good chance to make it through in singles. But for either of them, singles would have been far more difficult on their bodies and minds, and I knew they were going to have an amazing chance playing together in doubles.”
“What an exciting year we've had,” stated Michel, a 56 year-old rookie with the team after serving for many, many years as the Boréal head badminton coach, before opting to pursue her post-nursing retirement by enrolling in the Carpentry for Women program in Sudbury.
“To be able to do that and attain that goal, it was a “wow” feeling,” Michel continued. “But as we played this year and we saw the other players, and seeing how well we progressed during the season, I thought we might be able to do this.”
In Emilie Roy, she has found a partner with three years of OCAA badminton experience already under her belt, and a legacy of success that has included two previous trips to provincials, including two years ago as a member of the Vipères women's doubles entry.
“I definitely find a better connection with her (Michel),” said Roy, a native of Timmins and graduate of Ecole publique Renaissance. “It's not that I didn't have a good connection with my other partner, but this is different. We vibe together. I can be playing a game and I'm getting coached at the same time.”
“She's almost like my badminton mom.”
“We were lucky that me and Emilie played lots together at the beginning of the season,” noted Michel. “That was a good thing. And then we played a lot of tournaments together, during the season, so we were able to come back here and practice, change our strategies to improve our chemistry together, and our rotations.”
In that sense, Roy can attest to the similarities, in the area of style of play, with her current partnership compared to the tandem which also enjoyed a great deal of success in 2016-2017 (Emilie Roy/Michelle Kozlowskyj). “My partner two years ago was better with the delicate play at the net, and I'm better at the back,” said Roy.
“It's kind of the same with Lynn. If there is a chance that I can get to the back, we tend to do it that way, because I do have more power and she is very good at the net, especially compared to me.”
While the men's doubles team of Jonathan Boucher and Zackary Brunet would not secure a 3rd place or better finish to advance, their record of 2-3 marked two more victories than the Boréal men enjoyed 12 months ago. “I think we did well, but I know we could have done better,” said Brunet, a 20 year-old native of Ottawa.
“We were so tense. I have to try and keep my stress and tension under control. When I get nervous, my level of play goes down. I need to play a more relaxed game, don't go all out, 100%, all of the time, because it will backfire on you. If you have a team that is more experienced, they can turn that against you.”
Garnering experience was exactly the name of the game for the mixed doubles team of Danika Mayer and Luc Demers. Completing her first year in Social Work at Boréal, Mayer brings a wealth of club background with the Midland Mavericks badminton crew, near her hometown of Tiny (Ontario), as well as a high-school badminton resumé that included two trips to OFSAA as part of a women's doubles team.
Despite this wealth of knowledge, there remained an adjustment to be endured as the 18 year old freshman kicked off her post-secondary career. “The training is more intense here, and improved my badminton a lot more,” said Mayer.
“When I played high school, we just played games in practice. I had played club, so I already knew the game. But here, we play at a faster pace, we're more serious, more focused, more into it. It's just Mike's way of teaching, all about technique. Serves are important, all of the little things. He reminds us that every point counts, every shot you make counts.”
“I think it was a good decision to maximize Danika's strength at the net and Luc's court coverage,” explained coach Dionne. “Luc trained for eight years as a squash player and now he comes to badminton and can cover the court so naturally. He's got so much untapped power.”
As for his women's doubles pairing that leaves for the OCAA Championships on February 15th and 16th at the University of Toronto – Mississauga, Dionne believes they've got a shot at a medal.
That said, given a badminton cycle that included Michel coaching at Boréal while Dionne competed for Cambrian, moving on to the duo co-coaching with the Vipères more recently, and now to accompanying one of his mentors as her coach, Dionne is sure the experience will be memorable, regardless of the results.