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Monday, Aug. 20, 2018
Team Fleury turns season around with NOCA crown
by Randy Pascal

It's only been three years since the Tracy Fleury rink made their last appearance at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts Canadian Women's Curling Championship.

It just feels like much longer ago.

And heading into what was an all-but-assured Northern Ontario final against the Krista McCarville rink from Thunder Bay, the signs were not all that positive for the Idylwylde Golf & Curling Club representatives.

Overcoming all of the above, Fleury, along with Crystal Webster (vice), Jennifer Wylie (second), Amanda Gates (lead) and Jenna Enge (fifth) pulled a 6-4 win out of the fire opposite the quartet of McCarville, Sudburian Kendra Lilly (vice), Ashley Sippala (second) and Sarah Potts (lead) Saturday night in Sudbury, claiming the NOCA banner for the second time in the process.

The two-time defending champs had extended their recent mastery of the Fleury crew on Thursday evening, emerging victorious 7-4. The locals got that one back on Friday evening, as Fleury upended McCarville 9-4, providing at least a little momentum in the direction of the team that will be making their third appearance at women's nationals.

"McCarville has had more wins against us that we've had against them, so that was a huge momentum builder," said Webster after the final. "Just having a good game against them was important."

That said, this one appeared to be following the recent trend in favour of McCarville in the gold medal affair after the Fort William Curling Club skip executed a pretty angle raise for two in the fifth end to go up 3-2, adding a steal of one in six to double their advantage.

Then things got very, very interesting. "In the seventh end, we were in a little bit of trouble and Tracy made an absolutely incredible shot on her first one to set up the deuce," noted Webster. In fact, Fleury had drawn through a small port of two stones off to the right of the center line, slipping through with perhaps an inch or two to spare.

"It looked better at the far end," said Fleury with a smile after the game. "When I got back to the hack, I didn't like it as much. But we had thrown there two ends before, so we kind of knew what the ice was doing. There wasn't many options, and we thought that was our best one."

With McCarville pulling up light on her final stone, Fleury drew for two to deadlock the contest at 4-4. The nail-biting was full bore in the eighth and ninth, with countless stones in play, and great shots followed by near misses.

When the dust settled, Fleury and company had recorded back to back steals of one, providing the team with a 6-4 lead coming home, though McCarville would hold the hammer. The tenth end was setting up nicely for the Thunder Bay crew, well on their way to at least forcing an extra end, when Webster lowered herself into the hack, staring down a possible double with at least six feet of separation.

"I was making that shot," stated Webster, the handshakes now completed. "I felt that was our opportunity to win the game - almost. We still had to make a few more shots, but I felt that was a really key shot. I love throwing up weight doubles, so I was pretty happy about the opportunity."

"That's her shot," concurred Fleury. "Peel weight double is her shot, so I liked her chances of making it." With the McCarville stones now cleared, Fleury faced one last challenge, with the opposing skip sitting with second and third scoring stones in a grouping of three, off to the outskirts of the eight foot ring and into the twelve.

"We did think about the draw," Fleury admitted. "We had some time on the clock, so we discussed a couple of different options. I could have played the shot I played on my first shot, but the hit looked pretty good from the hack."

Fleury would spill both opposing stones, eliminating the deuce for McCarville and effectively booking her ticket to Pencticton from January 27th through until February 4th. "This one does feel different," acknowledged Wylie, moments after the championship team pictures were snapped.

"It's Crystal's first time getting to a Scotties, so we truly wanted to do it for her, and obviously, for ourselves as well." It was equally obvious that the victory on Saturday carried additional emotionality for Team Fleury, most notably with Wylie, who is now balancing her role as a mother of a newborn infant with her passion for curling.

"We've all put so much into this and the last couple of seasons have had some hard losses for us in the finals," said Wylie. "With not making it to (Olympic) Trials this year, this is nice. This was another goal of ours, and to be successful with that feels really good."

The 2018 Scotties will feature two pools of eight teams, with the top four advancing to play cross-over matches versus the quartet on the opposite side of the draw, giving way to four teams advancing to the playoffs in the end.

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