A gutsy and determined effort has earned the Cardinal Newman girls’ doubles pairing of Meagan Miotto and Daniella Balaz a trip to next month’s Ontario high school badminton championships.
The Newman representatives battled through pain and illness to defeat their opponents from T. A. Blakelock, 2-1, in a match for second place at the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference badminton championships on Thursday (April 18). The first and second-place finishers from each category advance to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations tournament May 2-4 in Chatham.
Miotto and Balaz, who split the first two sets of their hard-fought final against Oakville’s Goszynski and Newman, held a lead midway through the 15-point tiebreaker. That’s when Miotto crumpled to the court while going for a shot. She stayed down on the Burlington Notre Dame gym floor for about 10 minutes while her injured left knee was examined.
When she got to her feet and decided to continue – putting on a friend’s brace — controversy arose about what the score should be. Was it 12-6, 12-7 or 12-8?
After that got sorted out by the officials led by convener Cailin Miziolek – it was 12-8 for Miotto/Balaz – play resumed. One point later, however, Miotto’s leg buckled again. She hit the deck in agony. After another short delay, she got up limping and hopped around on one foot for the remainder of the match to avoid putting pressure on the knee.
In the end, the Newman duo nailed down the final three points they needed to take the third set. But as they packed up to leave Notre Dame, both Miotto and Balaz said they were headed to hospital for tests.
“I was determined to go to OFSAA,” Miotto said after her compelling victory. “I’m super happy. That’s the only emotion I have right now.”
Miotto, who won last year’s Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association senior singles title, said she’s never previously had a knee problem in her life.
“I jumped for a shot and, when I landed, I heard this huge pop,” she said. “I screamed. I didn’t even mean to. It was pretty painful.
“I knew 100 per cent I would continue. Nothing was going to stop me.”
It was the same Blakelock pair that defeated Miotto and Balaz earlier Thursday during the double-knockout competition.
Balaz had her own physical problems throughout the morning portion of the schedule.
“It was a struggle,” Balaz said. “She (Miotto) was completely fine all day. I was the one who was hurting. I was the one taking it slow.”
Cardinal Newman coach Bernadette Farewell deserved some credit, too. She was filling in for regular senior head coach Henry Stachurski, who recently underwent surgery for an arm injury.
A former singles player, Balaz said: “We want to thank our coach. She had to step in to all this drama, commotion and injuries. This is all new to her. She’s a junior coach, not senior.”
It was Farewell who picked the team, had two practices and one tournament prior to the GHAC finals.
“I’m so proud of the girls,” Farewell said. “They pulled together. They deserve to go to OFSAA.”
The only other HWCAA representative to advance was Tina Thomas of St. Jean de Brebeuf. She grabbed second place in girls’ singles.
Cathedral’s Kevin Huynh and Jordan Nguyen went to three sets in their second-place game of boys’ doubles but came up just short. So, too, did Hamilton’s other representatives: Alisha Donnelly, St Mary (girls’ singles); Andrew Tran, Cathedral (boys ‘singles), Nick Hill, St. Mary (boys’ singles); Pawel Jedrzejewski and Rey Omar Mina, Cathedral (boys’ doubles); Keana Ballitoc and Lorraine Lopez, St. Thomas More (girls’ doubles); Peter Diep and Tina Tran, Cathedral (mixed doubles); Ira Bugtai and Brent Lukasic, Cathedral, (mixed doubles).
Huynh said it took a while for players to get used to the ventilation system in the gym.
“The ventilation in this gym changes the speed and how you contact the bird in so many ways,” said Huynh, a city doubles champion who is in his final year at Cathedral. “It throws off your shot. You try to contact the bird faster if you know the ventilation is going to blow it down. A lot of players were switching courts.”
Miziolek, the tournament convener from Milton Bishop Reding, wasn’t aware of any ventilation issue.
“There aren’t any fans that would obstruct the birdie or cause it to change paths,” Miziolek said. “So I’m not sure what he’s referring to.”
The HWCAA junior badminton championships are May 8 at the F.H. Sherman Recreation Centre.