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RAISING A RACKET: HUSKIES TAKE SILVER AT UTM INVITATIONAL

The mixed doubles duo of Anh Hoang (left) and Ace Zeng (right) defeated Humber in the tournament's must-see match-up.
Badminton - 2018 UTM Invitational

Following a dominant display on their march to the finals, George Brown College posted wins in Mixed Doubles (Ace Zeng/Anh Hoang) and Men's Singles (Ace Zeng) to earn a silver-medal finish at the 2018 UTM Invitational Team Challenge.

Having gone 3-0 the previous day against Seneca, Georgian and UTM, GBC's place in the standings was locked in as round robin action wrapped up against Conestoga on Sunday, November 4.

Whether done for strategic reasons, practice against genuine competition, having a bit of fun or all of the above, the tournament's format allows for mixing and matching which otherwise mightn't be seen.

The highlight of these was arguably Alex Chao. Normally spotted in doubles action, singles appearances by Chao are few and far between, and his solo match against Conestoga was highly anticipated by the Huskies side.

Much to his team's delight, the 2018 Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) All-Star and bronze medallist did not disappoint. Flexing his flair and creative muscles on the court, as declarations of "It's Chao Time!" could be heard from assistant coach Howard Wong, Chao would take the W (21-12, 21-14).

From there, George Brown faced off against Georgian in the semi-finals, emerging victorious in four of the five categories. Perhaps the most important takeaway was the time Ace Zeng and Anh Hoang spent together in mixed doubles, a duo which would feature prominently in the tournament finals against Humber.

The pair, which looked fluid and in sync in their semi-final win (21-13, 21-10), would need all that and more against a strong Humber side. In what could have been billed as the tourney's marquee match-up, Chloe Rowe and Thao Le of the Hawks made GBC fight for every point, and vice versa.

After dropping the first set, Zeng and Hoang showed why they're two of the best on the badminton scene, combining steady play and star moments to grind out the three-set win (18-21, 22-20, 21-19).

"It was huge for Anh to have confidence to play against someone like Chloe Rowe, who's obviously a very good player and she's accomplished," head coach Will Schram beamed after the tournament. "It was huge for her to beat her, and then for Ace it was big because for him to be able to play for the team, get a win for the team and set us up to the point where we could have taken the tournament."

Zeng would go on to defeat the Hawks in men's singles action (21-19, 21-15), but unfortunately George Brown would be capped at two wins to Humber's three in women's doubles, men's doubles and women's singles.

Though Schram made clear that the silver-medal finish fell short of their goal, the head coach didn't belabor the point. Rather, the reigning OCAA Coach of the Year took a big picture view of the stepping stone tournament.

"It was an excellent tournament overall," said Schram. "Just unfortunately in a couple of events, people came a little bit short, too many unforced errors and mistakes. But overall they played incredibly well, and showed that they're one of the top teams in Ontario and Canada."

The UTM Invitational may be just the second event on the 2018-19 OCAA badminton schedule, but already the team is congealing, an important factor for returnees and newcomers such as Eric Kern alike.

"Obviously we have a new group of people, I'm new to this group too so I'm getting used to it but we came together as a group pretty quick and we did pretty well," said Kern, who lauded Schram as a helpful coach who pushes them hard.

"We played hard, most of our shots were precise like we wanted. Humber was a better team at the end, but hopefully we can carry this momentum into the next tournament."

One student-athlete who would be unsurprised by Kern's words regarding the team and coaching staff is Yuge "Ace" Zeng. The reigning OCAA Men's Player of the Year had nothing but praise regarding his experience as a George Brown Husky.

"He's a very nice coach, (one of the nicest) that I've ever met in Canada," Zeng said of Schram. "We got along very quick, as soon as I got here. George Brown, the coaches and teammates, make me feel like I'm home right now."

And so far as taking on Humber goes, Zeng had one message:

"We can beat them, definitely."

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Round Robin
vs. Seneca 2
- Mixed Doubles (Mike Ra/Anh Hoang) | 21-5, 21-4
- Women's Doubles (Diana Bosco/Musong Seo) | 21-16, 15-21, 12-21
- Men's Doubles (Alex Chao/Eric Kern) | 21-5, 21-8
- Women's Singles (Anh Hoang) | 21-11, 21-4
- Men's Singles (Ace Zeng) | 21-23, 21-19, 21-23

vs. Georgian 2
- Mixed Doubles (Alex Chao/Anh Hoang) | 21-14, 21-8
- Women's Doubles (Diana Bosco/Musong Seo) | 21-8, 21-5
- Men's Doubles (Ace Zeng/Mike Ra) | 21-10, 21-14
- Women's Singles (Anh Hoang) | 21-9, 21-14
- Men's Singles (Eric Kern) | 21-7, 21-5

vs. UTM 1
- Mixed Doubles (Mike Ra/Anh Hoang) | 21-17, 18-21, 21-14
- Women's Doubles (Diana Bosco/Musong Seo) | 19-21, 21-17, 21-18
- Men's Doubles (Alex Chao/Eric Kern) | 21-18, 21-18
- Women's Singles (Anh Hoang) | 21-8, 21-12
- Men's Singles (Ace Zeng) | 21-15, 21-15

vs. Conestoga 1
- Mixed Doubles (Ace Zeng/Diana Bosco) | 21-6, 21-12
- Women's Doubles (Anh Hoang/Musong Seo) | 21-8, 21-14
- Men's Doubles (Mike Ra/Eric Kern) | 21-15, 21-14
- Women's Singles (Diana Bosco) | 21-10, 21-6
- Men's Singles (Alex Chao) | 21-12, 21-14

Semi-Finals
vs. Georgian 1
- Mixed Doubles (Ace Zeng/Anh Hoang) | 21-13, 21-10
- Women's Doubles (Diana Bosco/Musong Seo) | 6-21, 10-21
- Men's Doubles (Alex Chao/Mike Ra) | 21-7, 21-3
- Women's Singles (Anh Hoang) | 21-8, 23-21
- Men's Singles (Eric Kern) | 21-9, 21-17

Finals
vs. Humber
- Mixed Doubles (Ace Zeng/Anh Hoang) | 18-21, 22-20, 21-19
- Women's Doubles (Diana Bosco/Musong Seo) | 5-21, 9-21
- Men's Doubles (Alex Chao/Eric Kern) | 21-18, 12-21, 16-21
- Women's Singles (Anh Hoang) | 11-21, 19-21
- Men's Singles (Ace Zeng) | 21-19, 21-15

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