One year and out for Team Denyer
by Randy Pascal
Officially, they will be known, this year, as Team Denyer. Unofficially, feel free to refer to the quartet of Alyssa Denyer, Jessica Leonard, Alyssa
McVittie and Abby Deschene as “Team Hodge-Podge”.
While the realities of age limitations ensure that some turnover of lineups is common place within the U18 and U21 curling system, the most common template finds
teams that are assembled based on at least two, or perhaps three of the teammates sharing a mutual background as members of the same rink.
By contrast, this assemblage of four young curlers all born in completely different years is perhaps thinking a little outside of the box. Certainly, there is a
great deal of familiarity within the foursome, with girls that have competed against one another, and even filled in, as spares, for each other, from time to time.
They just don't have a ton of built in chemistry, in terms of playing together as teammates, as they pieced together a roster relatively late in the year, by
comparison to the majority of competitive youth teams. “A lot of teams have been planning, since the summer, what events they want to do,” acknowledged Denyer, a
native of Haliburton, third year student of Sports Psychology at Laurentian, and, at the age of 20, the elder statesman of the team.
“Four us, it was a little later than would be ideal. We know that it's not a long-term thing. I age out this year, so it isn't about developing together over time.
We have four good curlers, we're not sure how this is going to work, but we're going to give it a try.”
Despite the lack of a long-term history to draw upon, the young women jumped into the new challenge armed with a great deal of enthusiasm. “It was something new,
but from what I knew of the girls, it was nothing but positive things,” said Deschene, the youngest member of the team (17) and the only one still attending high
school (grade 12 at Lockerby Composite).
“We played against everyone and kind of got to know each other over time. I spared for Alyssa's team last season when she wasn't around, and I think I spared for
the other Alyssa once.” A second year Health Promotions student at Laurentian, Alyssa McVittie teeter-tottered, just a smidge, between an undecided squad that she had
competed with in 2017-2018, and this new opportunity.
Much like her entire rink, she appreciates the balance that this crew offers, still recognizing the need for an element of competition within their curling
spectrum, while also dealing with the busyness of life, in general. “I do like the way it is now, where we do have our work schedules and our school schedules and
life,” said the graduate of Ecole secondaire du Sacré Coeur in Sudbury.
“Having a lighter curling schedule, but still looking forward to competing towards a goal is really helpful. It's lighter than it could be to other teams, but
we're not missing out, I don't think. We're going to compete at U21's, make it to qualifiers and hopefully make it to provincials. From there, being a new team, we
will see what happens.”
Jessica Leonard might best be described as the glue that holds it all together. More than any other team member, she was the one who inter-connected the dots. “I
am the one person that mostly everyone on our team now has curled with,” said the 18 year old freshman at Cambrian College (Pre-Health).
Additionally, her father (John), who is coaching the team, has also had experience mentoring some of the remaining teammates at various times over the
years. With plenty of background to draw upon, curling with the likes of Kira Brunton and Bella Croisier in the past, Leonard has seen what it takes to
achieve success at this level.
“I think we all need to be able to communicate with each other, and I find that we do that really well,” she said. “We all just kind of clicked, together, off the
ice, on the ice. It worked really well for us, especially on the weekend.”
That's for sure. Competing in the Brampton U21 Junior Women's Cashpiel last weekend with just a single game together in their back pockets, Team Denyer
posted a 3-1 record in pool play, before eliminating Hannah Don of Oshawa in an extra end (9-7) in the quarter-finals, and Siyu Han from China in the
semis (5-4), again in an extra end.
A 9-3 loss to the Chinese rink skipped by Yu Han did little do deter the sense of early season accomplishment for the locals. “We all went in with very
low expectations, hoping to win a game and not get creamed,” said Deschene. “Then we won a couple of games, and then a couple more. It was really exciting.”
“Having only curled last Wednesday, two days before the event, never having played together as a team, the fact that we gelled so well and got along so well on the
ice really helped our team dynamic to stay positive,” said McVittie.
It was something their new skip picked up on, right out of the gate. “They are all just super easy to play with,” said Denyer. “I've curled with people before,
where they could be a foot inside and super light and they don't want to hear it. These girls want feedback, they want to know what's going on and how they can fix
“I feel comfortable saying that with them,” she added. “It's the same with me. I like being able to discuss what went wrong with my shot or what went right with
Apparently, a fair bit also went right for the Curl Sudbury senior men's team of Robbie Gordon, Ron Henderson, Dion Dumontelle and Doug
Hong, opening their tournament schedule in Thornill last weekend.
Victories over Bruce Webster of Oakville (8-2), Glenn Warnica of Barrie (9-2) and Terry Corbin of Brant (7-2) propelled the holders of
multiple NOCA championship banners to the event final, where they continued their winning ways with a 4-3 win, in the final, more than covering their expenses for