Collège Boréal Vipères badminton head coach Mike Dionne was going to enjoy a great weekend regardless. His women's doubles team simply added a little icing to the cake.
Dionne opened up the OCAA East Regionals on Feb. 3 in Sudbury with a special tribute to the assistant coaches, right across the board, a segment he would cap off, in style, by proposing to Boréal assistant coach Valérie Breen, much to the delight of the assembled badminton enthusiasts (yes, she said yes).
By the time that Saturday afternoon rolled around, Dionne and Breen had more to celebrate, as the Vipères tandem of Michelle Kozlowskyj and Emilie Roy earned silver medals with a record of 3-1, advancing through to the provincial championships Feb. 17-18 at Georgian College in Barrie.
While the Kozlowskyj/Roy pairing were the only Boréal athletes who moved on, plenty of others found themselves right in the mix, providing very solid accounts of themselves on a young local roster.
Women's singles competitor Aurilia Rochon narrowly missed winning a couple of sets, victories that would have found her in contention for a bronze medal, with everyone below the top two all pretty evenly matched.
"Megan Tallon and Domynik Huot surpassed my expectations," said Dionne. "They took a set off St. Lawrence, and were not afraid of the stronger teams. They took chances, challenged the other teams and went down swinging hard."
Both are freshman at Collège Boréal this year, with Huot staying in town after graduating from École Secondaire Catholique Sacré Coeur last year, where he represented the Griffons at one set of OFSAA badminton playdowns.
"Before, I really didn't have coaches who could teach me everything," said Huot. "The competition here is more at a peak, the players all know how to play. It's much harder than NOSSA, where some people would play just for fun."
For Huot, badminton was not the primary sport in his youth. For years, he competed as a member of the Nick Mancini coached GSSC (Greater Sudbury Soccer Club) Impact team that maintained their spot in the Central Soccer League for several years.
"My agility in badminton is good, moving around the court," said Huot. "It's much easier for me to move because of my soccer experience."
Though quite athletic by nature, Huot was steered away from his first choice of divisions in his rookie year at Boréal, for very good reason.
"Personally, I really like singles play," he said. "I get to move around a lot. But the competition for singles is extremely hard, so this is better."
That said, Huot knows where the improvement would be needed should he decide to pursue singles play before his college days are done.
"Number one would be strategy, placing my shots and making the other person move around to my advantage," he said. "Also, technique on my backhand shots and stuff. I would need to learn to be able to make any shot I want at any time."
Competing in what was likely the toughest of all divisions, the men's doubles team of Raphael Hawey and Fabien Martel were commended for their "grit" by Dionne.
"This was the best I had seen them play all season," he said.
"I can speak for all of the coaches and athletic staff when I say that we are all beyond thrilled with how each player represented themselves, their team, their coaches and college," said Dionne. "This has been the most fun group of athletes I've had the privilege of coaching."
The top three finishers in all five categories were as follows:
1st - Nicky Aung (Seneca)
2nd - Howard Ng (Centennial)
3rd - Alisan Shalwanl (Centennial)
1st - Yunji Kim (George Brown)
2nd - Tiffany Yeung (George Brown)
3rd - Logi Thedchanamoorthy (Seneca)
1st - Alex Chao/Ben Yong (George Brown)
2nd - Ethan Zhao/Eric Kern (Georgian)
3rd - Mhammad Azam/Raman Kumar (Seneca)
1st - Rachel Nham/Christine Ngvyen (Seneca)
2nd - Michelle Kozlowskyj/Emilie Roy (Boreal)
3rd - Jin Cheng/Jessica Zhen (Centennial)
1st - Vision Wong/Yan Zhou (Seneca)
2nd - Angeline Alviar/Ivan Chan (George Brown)
3rd - Phil Bruce/Tammy Do (Georgian)