by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
There were a fair amount of new names standing on the podium at the 2017-2018 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Badminton Championships held February 10 - 11, 2018 at The Kings University Eagles gymnasium.
Concordia University of Edmonton Thunder's Takeisha Wang is in the only familiar name from last year's men's and women's singles medal winners.
Wang, who was named the 2017-2018 ACAC Women's Badminton Player of the Year, defended her women's singles crown by defeating Eagles' Abby Ledda 21-9 21-7.
"She was definitely the favourite in this event," said Thunder's Coach Kevin MacAlpine.
Last year Wang had defeated Ooks' Ryo Kuramochi at the 2016-2017 championships held in Olds.
Wang's younger brother and teammate, Desmond Wang , claimed the men's singles by beating teammate Nicolas Pittman 21-13, 21-13.
"It made sense to go with our best players in men's singles championships with NAIT going for men's doubles and having strong teams," admitted MacAlpine.
Pittman had easily disposed of Kings' John Li 21-1 21-8 in the semi-final while Wang beat Ooks' Tyler Walsh 21-4 21-11 in the other semi.
Walsh would go on to claim the bronze medal beating Li 21-5 21-8.
In previous years, the NAIT Ooks had dominated men's singles in postseason, winning six of a possible eight titles.
Held since 1970-71, with a hiatus from 2012-2014, the sport of badminton has only had one athlete to win ACAC men's singles four times with NAIT Ooks Dan Kai (2007-2009 2010-2012).
Ooks' Yang Sun won the women's singles title four times also (2007-2011).
In men's and women's doubles it was an all NAIT final.
Nick Roque and Imran Wadia were victorious over Luc-Ly Nguyen and Tyler Walsh 21-7 21-12.
"I am a glad that they can all make it to compete at nationals," said Ooks' head coach Sinead Cheah. "We are in competition with ourselves in doubles and it may be a good thing or a bad thing. We will have to wait and see."
Wadia, who for the second year in a row was honoured as the ACAC Men's Badminton Player of the Year, won the ACAC title last year with teammate Andy Ko.
Wadia and Ko would advance to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Badminton Championships held in Toronto, Ontario and hosted by Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology, bringing a men's doubles silver back from the east,
Roque is no stranger to the ACAC men's doubles medal round, having partnered with Jeff Ko for gold in 2015-2016 and silver in 2014-2015.
Bronze went to Thunders' Braxton Wong and Raphael Wong. Braxton had teamed up with Nguyen, now with the Ooks, to win silver last season.
Caitlyn New and Kaitlyn Wibee edged teammates Bea Bernardo and Ryo Kuramochi 13-21, 21-16, 21-15 for the women's doubles banner.
"It is great for the girls. They were very close in competition," said Cheah.
New and Wibee had a ACAC silver medal placement in 2016-2017.
Mixed doubles went to Ooks' Jeffery Ko and Eyota Kwan against host Eagles' John Li and Abby Ledda 21-6 21-9.
"All of our No. 1 spot teams are definitely contenders for gold medals at (CCAA)," said Cheah of the 2017-2018 CCAA Badminton Championships to be held February 28 – March 3, 2018 in Edmonton at Concordia.
Representing the ACAC, which has host and Wild Card status, are the following ACAC student-athletes.
An athlete may only compete at one event at the national level.
Men's Singles: Desmond Wang , Concordia and Nicolas Pittman, Concordia.
Women's Singles: Takeisha Wang , Concordia; Kaitlyn Dougan, Olds College Bronocs
Men's Doubles: Nick Roque and Imran Wadia, NAIT; Luc-Ly Nguyen and Tyler Walsh, NAIT
Women's Doubles: Caitlyn New and Kaitlyn Wibee, NAIT; Bea Bernardo and Ryo Kuramochi , NAIT
Mixed Doubles: Jeffery Ko and Eyota Kwan, NAIT; John Li and Abby Ledda, Kings
Prior to heading into the team event Saturday the Ooks lead team standings with 498 points after three ACAC regular season tournaments while Concordia were in second at 433 points.
In third was Kings with 391 points and Olds at 255 points.
The final result would remain the same in order of finish.
Of hosting the CCAA finals, MacAlpine said: "It's a pretty cool thing. I have been part of this program since 2001 when I played and have been coaching since. We are a small school and this is a big-scale event and this is our first CCAA championship hosting for any sport.
"We are hoping to get as many people out as we can and pack the gym. It is high-caliber badminton and a great championship. In the ACAC we are all on the same page, so we will be rooting for each other. On the national level, Ontario ((Ontario Colleges Athletic Association))is always strong and if we came come out on top against them....that will be great."
In the most recent CCAA polls, the OCAA had four schools ranked in the Top 10 along with the No. 1 Humber Hawks while the ACAC showcased three with the NAIT Ooks at No. 2.