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Friday, May. 24, 2019
Impressive U18 curling team looking for more
by Randy Pascal

With a full year of curling now under their belt, garnering experience along the way not only in the U18 and U21 ranks, but also with matchups against the likes of Tracy Fleury and Krista McCarville last winter, the Bella Croisier rink is justifiably anxious, and confident, to continue down the path of improvement.

A core that included both Bella (skip) and Piper Croisier (second), as well as lead Lauren Rajala, had already enjoyed three full seasons of competition before welcoming vice Jamie Smith into the fold last summer. Now, the issue becomes making sure to avoid stagnancy.

“I think we've improved considerably since last September,” said Bella recently. “This year, we're going to do the U21 playdowns to try and make it to provincials. We definitely want to face the higher level of competition there. We want to be the best that we can be, and if that means chasing the competition higher up, then that's what it takes.”

It's not as though the progress of the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club bantam aged team has gone unnoticed, with recognition bringing with it certain added perks. “We did receive the Next Gen funding, so it's great that we've gotten a little bit of early season ice time, which will really help us with the upcoming events,” stated Piper.

That, of course, is even moreso the case as Team Croisier raises the bar in terms of the opposition that they are facing. Lessons learned a year ago, those key learning moments that come from facing Fleury, McCarville and others, helped carve out some sense of where the priorities for improvement should lie in 2018-2019.

“The biggest difference is probably rock placement,” said Bella. “It's just so much more precise as you move up the levels. You need to be so precise with your shots in U21 and Open Women's. In U18, it's just way more forgiving as far as where you can end up with your stone.”

Still, by any measuring stick imaginable, this talented quartet could look back with a sense of accomplishment on the year that was, not overwhelmed in the least by any of their experiences. “I think we were happy with our success, but I wouldn't say surprised, because you always want to plan for success,” said Piper.

The locals will waste little time challenging themselves against some of the very best, travelling to Gatineau (Québec) for the U21+ Crystal Slam, a bonspiel which finds them pitted against defending Canadian and World U21 champion, Kaitlyn Jones, in pool play.

Also heading to "La Belle Province" for that same event is the Kira Brunton U-21 Curl Sudbury rink that includes Megan Smith, Sara Guy and Kate Sherry, all part of a 25-team women's field.

The newly-formed Tracy Fleury Manitoba rink is another squad that is surely anxious to get back on the ice in a hurry. Competing at the Princess Auto Elite 10 World Curling Tour stop in Chatham at the end of September, Fleury and her team of Selena Njegovan (formerly Kaatz), Liz Fyfe and Kristin MacCuish posted a record of 1-3, missing the playoff round for the first time this fall.

Team Fleury certainly did not find themselves outclassed, in the least, dropping a 4-3 extra-end decision to Laura Walker of Alberta, but struggling to get things going offensively in a 4-0 loss to Chelsea Carey, also from Alberta.

The team rebounded nicely with a tough 3-2 extra end win of their own, facing the Swiss team skipped by Silvana Tirinzoni, no strangers to the winners' circle in competition that matches up some of the best women's teams in the game.

Unfortunately, the margin of victory (or defeat, in this case) was razor thin again in their final outing as Fleury and company fall 4-3 to Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg, once again with a ninth and deciding end needed to settle matters.

Thankfully, the ladies have very little time to ponder what might not have gone their way, right back in action this week, competing at the Curlers Corner Autumn Gold Curling event in Calgary. In fact, as of Saturday afternoon, Fleury and company have advanced to round three action in the "A" draw, defeating Kaitlin Stubbs of Calgary (6-2) and Un-Chi Gim of China (5-2) in their first two outings.

Also busy in what looks like an outstanding field are both the Tanner Horgan and Jordan Chandler men's teams, off to southern Ontario for the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard. Horgan, along with Mark Kean (vice), Jacob Horgan (vice) and Maxime Blais (lead) will compete in the Thanksgiving event before ramping up for an elite field at the 2018 Canad Inns Men's Classic in Portage l Prairie (MB) from October 19th to the 22nd.

Chandler, who is back with Sandy MacEwan, Luc Ouimet and Lee Toner again this year, rebounded from a 6-4 setback at the hands of Greg Smith of Newfoundland, outscoring Stuart Thompson of Dartmouth (N.S.) 8-6, and will be pitted against the loser of the Horgan vs John Epping battle currently underway.

Horgan is up 4-2 after six ends of play, this on the heels of victories over Riku Yanagisawa of Japan (7-5) and the Montreal rink skipped by Michael Fournier (9-6).

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