Sudbury curlers wasted little time getting right back into the groove as all four teams which advanced to the championship final of either the Cameron's Brewing Mixed Doubles Cashpiel or the Oakville Under-25 Kickoff included content from the Nickel City.
In mixed doubles play, the team of Keira McLaughlin/Tanner Horgan upended the tandem of Kira Brunton/Brett Lyon-Hatcher for the win while the women's final of the U25 tournament would see Isabelle Ladouceur (Jamie Smith, Lauren Rajala/Katy Lukowich) topple Abby Deschene (Britney Malette/Mya Smith/Marie-Elaine Little) by a final count of 8-1.
With six straight wins to their credit - versus Tori Zemmelink (8-4); Thea Coburn (6-3); Bella Croisier (9-2); Maddy Warriner (8-3); Warriner again (SF - 6-3) and finally Deschene - the newly formed Team Ladouceur walked away pleased, even while acknowledging that this is hardly a finished product.
"It's so early in the season that I think every team on the ice, including ourselves, were a little bit rocky," said Ladouceur, a 20 year-old long-time Nova Scotian who curled out east with Jamie Smith last year and has now moved to Sudbury, though she continues her studies at Wilfrid Laurier University.
"No one was at their best. We had very limited practice time before-hand, but honestly, it just felt good. It felt like we all clicked, right away, which normally takes a little more time, but I think it helped that I had curled with Jamie and Jamie has already curled with Lauren."
Indeed, this new rink, which will morph midway through the season to account for the double provincial championship set-up of 2021-2022, brings together both familiar and unfamiliar teammates.
Because both Ladouceur and Smith are consider overaged juniors this year, Team Ladouceur will effectively become Team Lukowich/Smith for the post-January portion of the curling campaign, with Ladouceur stepping back from her role as skip to focus completely on her studies and Lukowich moving from the position of fifth to a back-end role.
Given all of the juggling, Ladouceur is thankful that she, Smith and Shaw managed to squeeze in some semblance of normal curling in '20-'21. "Because we were in Nova Scotia and cases were low, we actually had some sort of a season where we got to play really good women's teams and junior teams in the Maritimes," she said.
"Honestly, what I took away most was the mental resilience."
Maintaining the proper mindset is critical at virtually any time, but perhaps even more accentuated given the world in which we currently live.
"We were really pushing positive attitude and communication and that gave us an edge over some teams," said Ladouceur. "It was only the first tournament of the season so there was no real stress."
While Ladouceur might have a handle (pardon the curling pun!) on some of her teammates, she is venturing into completely new ground when it comes to the likes of both Rajala and Lukowich.
"At the start, I just try and keep it simple until I figure out what people love, what are their bread and butter shots," she said. "I watched their sliding to see if they had any tendencies to slide wide or tight, are their releases clean and positive or do they pop with small turn-ins or dumps."
"I also try and watch their break point, which can change depending on the rotation and whether they are right or left-handed," added Ladouceur. "It's a lot of gathering of information."
The team is back in action from September 10th to the 12th, taking part in the U21 Royal Slam being hosted at the K-W Granite Club in Kitchener.
Team Deschene advanced to the finals after posting a 3-1 record in preliminary action (beat Emily Deschenes 6-5; beat Kaitlin Jewer 5-4; beat Paige Brown; lost to Rachel Steele 9-2) and eliminating Thea Coburn in the semi-finals, 8-5.
Team Croisier opened with a win over Maddy Warriner (5-3), but suffered three successive setbacks to Coburn (5-4), Ladouceur (9-2) and Zemmelink (3-2) and did not advance.