The coaching staff at St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School was thrilled by their team’s success Tuesday (April 19) at the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference badminton championships.
That’s because three of the Knights qualified for the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations tournament May 5-7 in North Bay. Athena Montecillo (girls’ singles) and a boys’ doubles entry of Hardy Montecillo and Jed Jay Llandino each punched their tickets to the provincial showcase event by winning second-place matches during the GHAC double-knockout competition at Frank J. Hayden Secondary School in Burlington.
“We, at St. Thomas More, haven’t been to OFSAA since 2003,” More coach John Morelli said. “It’s been a 13-year drought. So we’re very honoured to be part of this.
“These are very tough, competitive players from Halton. Many of them play year-round at clubs.”
In order to qualify through the consolation side of the draw, the More players had to play five matches.
“I’m very proud of our accomplishment,” said Llandino. “We made it to OFSAA even though we missed the last two practices. I was sick one day and working the other. So we thought we would do bad today. But we didn’t.”
The pairing of Llandino and Montecillo have been together for the past two years. They won the final over an Oakville Iroquois Ridge duo, 21-18, 21-15. “We have good chemistry and cover the court pretty good,” Hardy Montecillo said. “We’ve matured as a team.”
Llandino/Montecillo came in ranked as the No. 2 seed while More’s other pairing of Brendan Kelly-Ruetz and Marlon Ramnarais was seeded fourth. Said Morelli: “They (Montecillo/Llandino) played with a lot of team work and communication. They are very coachable. They were able to pick up on the weaknesses of the opponent … and there weren’t many.
“Kudos to our guys because we can only talk to them once during the match. They were able to adjust and played phenomenally.”
In girls’ singles, Hardy’s sister, Athena, defeated Georgetown’s Katie Abrams, 21-8, 21-14, to nail down a second-place berth to OFSAA. More coach Kyle Berdan has guided Athena’s high school career on the court for the past four years. As a singles player she has captured three Hamilton Catholic gold medals and one silver.
“I could tell there was something special about her when she first stepped on the court in Grade 9,” Berdan said. “She’s worked extremely hard and turned herself into a champion. I’ve said it before, but Athena is the best player I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching.”
According to Berdan, Montecillo executed to perfection in the final.
“Her clears are really what owns her the court,” he said. “She controls the opponent. She moves great and her deep shots are beautiful.”
All the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association representatives knew they were stepping up in competition against traditionally experienced and skilled badminton players from Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Georgetown. Berdan said HWCAA players often tend to be multi-sport athletes with badminton not being their go-to sport.
“I’m pretty satisfied with how I performed,” Athena Montecillo said.
Other players from the HWCAA who saw action were: Syned Parangan (Brebeuf); Joe Lee (Tonnos); Sofia Pasquini (Newman); Rosemary Twonmey and Anna DaCouto (Brebeuf); Deere Llandino and Meia Pinero (More); Patrick Cupido and Annie Cupido (Brebeuf); Tyrell Hebert and Stephanie Cordero (Newman).
The Hamilton Catholic junior badminton championships are scheduled for May 4 at Cathedral.