PILLEY’S ISLAND, N.L. — Dorset Collegiate of Pilley’s Island are now back-to-back provincial badminton champions.
As defending champions of the School Sports Newfoundland and Labrador Varsity Badminton provincials, the athletes and coaches were confident in their ability to repeat against a field of 12 teams in St. Lawrence. However, they had to overcome some major challenges to achieve their goal.
Even before the tournament started, another school trip left the team without some of its key players for the tournament. It was an opportunity for other athletes to step up and fill the void in playing a key part of earning a provincial championship.
The team opened the tournament at St. Lawrence Academy with a 4-1 victory over Marystown Central High. However, adversity would again hit the team when they dropped a 3-2 decision to Glovertown Academy. The team regrouped and got back on the winning track with a 5-0 victory over Heritage Collegiate of Lethbridge.
Heading into the qualifying round, Dorset made some changes to its lineup, moving several players to different encounters.
The team would again be in for a close battle. This time they squeaked by Canon Richards Memorial Academy of Flower’s Cove 3-2 to earn a berth in the semi-final. This was a rematch of the two schools that played for the badminton provincial title last year. They would then get a rematch against Glovertown to play in the championship, this time reversing the outcome with a 3-2 victory.
In the final, they would square off against undefeated Northern Lights Academy of Rigolet. It was another tight affair in the championship match, with the team out of Pilley’s Island narrowly winning the provincial title with another 3-2 win.
“We came into the tournament with our spirits high, but we took a bad loss in our second encounter where we didn’t think we were going to lose,” player Ty Winsor said. “Everybody kind of got down on themselves, but we managed to pick ourselves up and beat the team that beat us to get into the finals, and we pulled out the win.”
Winsor — who paired up and went undefeated in the tournament with Ben Tizzard in boys doubles — believes the changes in their lineups were key to their success in the elimination matches.
“There was a lot of nerves going into the tournament,” he said, noting losing their mixed team from the regional tournament to other commitments was a big thing to overcome. "It was a big relief after winning it. It was just a pleasure. It feels amazing to be able to compete with everybody again, and to come out on top.”
Angel Wiseman is a graduating student at Dorset, so she said the title meant that much more to her.
“I am really happy,” she said. “It meant everything to me. I have been playing badminton since Grade 8, and it is my favourite sport. This is the best thing that can possibly happen to me in my last year.”
She believes the coaches did a good job in helping the team overcome the early defeat, and after that the team fought really hard to obtain their goal.
“We are one of the strongest teams in Newfoundland and Labrador — the strongest considering we got gold,” Wiseman said.
Ashton Thomas won gold in boys singles, while Wiseman earned a bronze in girls singles. Winsor and Tizzard remained undefeated in the individual boys doubles competition to grab gold. Wiseman partnered with Brianna Warren to win girls doubles gold and Winsor and Warren teamed up to take the gold in mixed doubles.
Winsor is especially proud of his undefeated tournament with doubles partner Tizzard.
“We have really good chemistry,” he said. “Neither one of us are trying to control the court, we are just playing as a team.”
Dorset Collegiate are also four-time provincial champions in table tennis, earning their fourth straight title earlier this season.