November 18, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 44  

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Badminton team cruises to OUA Championship

By Alison Stolz
Gazette Staff

Ian Howes/Gazette
TIGER UPPERCUT. A player from the Western badminton team performs a Sagat-inspired serve during Sunday’s OUA Championships. The Mustangs captured the OUA title, triumphing over Waterloo.

With quick reflexes, a large supply of bananas and loud thunder sticks in hand, Western's badminton team defeated the University of Toronto 12-1 in their Ontario University Athletics semi-final Sunday at Thames Hall.

The Mustangs dominated the court with strong serves and smashes, and smart play.

"We feel good about today," said fourth-year player Lauren Winter. "We were favoured coming into this, but we tried not to be overconfident."

Western entered the tournament with an undefeated regular season and the potential to come out on top. The Mustangs had a full gym of rowdy fans in attendance, and along with the vocal support of Western students and parents, the team shared a box full of bananas to give them the potassium needed to keep their swings at a maximum.

At the other end of the gym, there was an unexpected turn in the semi-final game between Waterloo and York; the Warriors upset the Lions in a close match that ended with a 7-6 score.

Preparing for a tilt with York in the finals, Western was shocked to learn they would be facing Waterloo. "We were surprised -but it will be a great match," Winter stated before the match. "It could be really close -Waterloo is good and they have a strong women- side, which is something we haven't really faced yet. It should be a good challenge." Winter's thoughts were echoed elsewhere on the team. "We didn't think [Waterloo was] as strong as York, but I guess they proved us wrong," said team captain Ken Lockhart. "We set up a strong strategy to play against York, but it won't affect us that much. We're confident that we can adapt." Waterloo also felt confident after besting York. The Warriors knew Western was a strong team, but believed the match was far from predetermined. "We planned to beat York. We knew we had it in us," said Waterloo coach Alex Tam. "It's not going to be easy [to beat Western], but it's not impossible either. It could go either way." After a long six-hour day of badminton, the Mustangs obliterated the Warriors 12-1. "I'm very happy with the outcome today," said Western head coach Kevin Eng. "We came out to play and brought a lot of intensity to the courts. We didn't let Waterloo build their momentum and it paid off for us in the long run." Eng was impressed with the team and the entire season. The Mustangs were undefeated all year and worked hard to get to the championship. "Our competition was a little weaker than any other year, but by no means was this season a walk over," he said. "Our individual matches were a lot more close in score than our overall statistics, but our training paid off." Aside from the victory, the Western-hosted tournament ran well, with the exception of a shortage of birdies. "We spent the rest of our budget before the championship on birdies," Lockhart said. "But it looks as though we may have to dig into personal supplies." The high calibre of play created more broken birdies than usual and the Mustangs had to go looking for more.

The end of the championship caused the onset of festivities for the 2003 OUA badminton champions. For the badminton team, season's end also means saying good-bye to graduating players; nearly half the team will be graduating this year and not returning to the courts next season. Western is left with a young team, but one that will still be strong.




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