They travelled west intent on learning - and learn they did.
Representing Northern Ontario at the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club rink of Krysta Burns (skip), Megan Smith (vice), Sara Guy (second), Amanda Gates (lead) and Kira Brunton (fifth) finished the week with a record of 2-6.
All but Gates were making their first ever appearance at the Scotties nationals. And while all who proudly wore the NOCA crest have participated in Canadian championships before, it quickly became evident that this is a whole other level altogether.
The locals opened with a win, 8-7 last Friday night versus the Northwest Territories (Kerry Galusha) and were sitting with a record of 2-2 following another tight victory on Monday, a second 8-7 thriller, this time over the Yukon (Laura Eby).
But facing opponents who participate regularly in World Curling Tour events proved challenging, as the Sudbury ladies succumbed to the likes of Team Canada Kerri Einarson, Ontario (Rachel Homan) and Alberta (Laura Walker), closing out the festvities with a 9-4 loss at the hands of Wildcard #3, the 2020 World Junior gold medal rink led by Manitoban Mackenzie Zacharias.
Team Burns actually went toe to toe with Zacharias for much of this outing, tied 3-3 after five ends and trailing 5-4 heading into the ninth before ceding a four-score in the second to last end.
Burns, Smith, Guy and Gates had more or less written off the 2020-2021 season in the fall, a decision that was heavily influenced not only by the pandemic but also the current stage of their academic and work careers.
In that sense, a performance which saw the Scotties newcomers finishing just a game back, in the standings, of both Zacharias and the Nova Scotia rink skipped by Jill Brothers is certainly something to build upon.