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Comeback leads to Acton District OFSAA badminton gold

Brayden Neville rallies for seven straight points on way to C flight triumph
Brayden Neville returns a shot at the OFSAA badminton tournament in Barrie. Neville staged a second-set rally on his way to winning Acton District School's first-ever OFSAA badminton gold medal.

Brayden Neville knew he was in trouble.

Having already lost the opening set of the gold-medal match at the provincial high school badminton championships in Barrie, he now found himself trailing 18-12 in the second set of the best-of-three match. His opponent needed just three more points to secure the victory. 

But the Acton District School student had worked far too hard over the previous years to just let this opportunity slip away. 

“I knew if I lost I was done for the season,” he said.

So during a timeout, Neville and Acton coach Virginia Houston came up with a plan. Neville needed to slow the game down and be more strategic with his shots.

Down 19-14, Neville scored a point. And then another.

“I wasn’t really celebrating,” he said. “I was just going point-by-point. Each one was just one step closer.”

At 19-17, he began to think, ‘Maybe….’

After winning the next two points, it was tied.

Brayden Neville, a Grade 12 student at Acton District School, won his last four matches to win the C flight gold medal at OFSAA badminton in Barrie. OFSAA photo

“I was forcing him to make errors,” Neville said. 

Neville then won his sixth straight point to take the lead. And then taking the play to the net, he played a drop shot that his opponent popped up a little too high, setting up an easy smash for Neville to claim the set and tie the match.

“You could tell he was beating himself up,” said Neville, who carried the momentum into the final set. He built an early 6-2 lead on his way to a match-clinching 21-12 victory.

“I was mentally exhausted,” Neville said after becoming the first Acton student to win an Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations badminton gold medal since 2006. “After the doubt, feeling like I had lost it early on, and all the different emotions after that.”

The Grade 12 student’s roller coaster ride had started two days earlier on the opening day of OFSAA when he lost his first two matches, despite pushing two experienced opponents to three sets.

“Both of those matches were against club players,” Houston said. “After those he ended up in the division (C flight) he should be in with the rest of the high school players.”

Once in C flight, Neville won three straight matches to reach the final. Houston said his ability to bounce back, both after the opening day and in the gold-medal match, showed how much he had improved. 

“I think his mental maturity is where we saw the biggest growth,” his coach said.

“Last year in the same situation (in the final), I would have been throwing my racquet,” Neville said. “This year, I just pushed through it.”

After qualifying for OFSAA last year where he finished fourth, Neville discovered how tough the competition is at the provincial level. He came back more determined this year, spending extra time on the court focusing on his footwork and also working on his shot sequence, using one shot to set up the next.

He put that all to use at OFSAA with golden results.

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Herb Garbutt

About the Author: Herb Garbutt

Herb Garbutt has lived in Halton HIlls for 30 years. During that time he has worked in Halton Region covering local news and sports, including 15+ years in Halton Hills
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