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Team McCarville: This is the team that we are
2022-01-22
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I am not entirely sure if 300,000 re-tweets constitutes going viral or not - but it sounds pretty darn impressive to me.

That is roughly the traction that was gained via a mid-week photo of Team McCarville, following a rather lopsided loss in the middle of the Olympic Trials in late November in Saskatoon.

Captioned “you know you had a bad night when you get home to watch the end of the broadcast that you were the feature game in” and spotlighting a shot of Sudbury native and vice-skip Kendra Lilly, back in the hotel room with teammates Krista McCarville, Ashley Sippala and Sarah Potts on an evening that they suffered a 9-2 loss to the Tracy Fleury rink, the Twitter moment captured most wonderfully the very essence of a team that understands where the game in which they excel fits in within the entire context of their lives.

Just to be clear, curling is a game that these ladies play well enough to be preparing for their fifth trip to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in the past seven years, having actually passed on the opportunity one year ago due to the restrictions that the guidelines of the pandemic (and the bubble format in Calgary) would have imposed upon their respective family routines.

Serious curlers? Absolutely - but with their feet planted firmly on the ground.

“We were a little hesitant at first (regarding the tweet), just because we didn’t want Curling Canada to think that we are not serious about the opportunity to be there,” acknowledged Kendra Lilly, a 30 year-old Lockerby Composite graduate and the only team member not residing in Thunder Bay.

“I think it showed who we are, as a team.”

“I would like to say that win or lose, we’re always having fun - well, maybe sometimes, not quite so much fun,” she added with a laugh. “Sometimes it’s just not your day and that’s OK. You can learn and move on. It’s nice to put our curling in perspective, sometimes, because it’s easy to get wrapped up in that notion that it’s life or death.”

Not only did the afore-mentioned tweet create a remarkable buzz, with positive feedback galore and a guest appearance on “SC with Jay Onrait”, but it marked the start of a three-game winning streak, propelling Team McCarville into the Olympic Trials’ tie-breaker, beating Kerri Einarson 4-3 before falling 8-3 to Jennifer Jones in the semi-final encounter.

Their sport and life balancing act garners attention and discussion, though that is clearly not their intention.

Silver medallists at the 2016 Scotties (nationals) and playoff participants in 2017, 2019 and 2020, Team McCarville has been known throughout this stretch as one of the teams that limits their participation in bonspiels, throughout the season, far more than most of the other front-runners in the field.

“No matter all of the articles that come out or all of the comments that we hear, we are comfortable with the schedule that we have,” said Lilly. “We know that we train super hard. We’re all on the same page on how often we want to play - I think we make up for it in other ways.”

That ability to go with the flow was tested, once again, in Saskatoon. Sitting on the sidelines with a record of 4-4, Lilly and company needed Kelsey Rocque to upset two-time reigning national champion Kerri Einarson, just so that the perennial Northern Ontario reps could squeeze their way into a tie-breaker.

Rocque did her part, doubling Einarson 8-4, with Team McCarville eliminating the latter from Olympic contention with a 4-3 extra-end win in tie-breaker #2. “It was such an emotional roller-coaster,” suggested Lilly. “We had literally packed our suitcases Thursday night. We were grateful just to be in the tie-breakers, playing on borrowed time.”

For those who doubt the inner resolve of Team McCarville, the win over the Einarson rink spoke volumes. “It was nice to go out there and play that well in that game,” said Lilly. “We don’t have the opportunity that often to show that’s the type of team that we are.”

All four team members certainly had at least some idea of the type of team this could become when they first gathered in 2015, with McCarville having taken a couple of years away from the sport to focus on family. None of the four likely envisioned quite the combination of success and pleasure that this talented crew have enjoyed.

“It’s almost hard to put into words,” Lilly confessed. “We all just clicked; we all just get each other. It just works - and the more that we play, the better it gets.”

“It’s exciting to see where it goes.”

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While there was certainly some uncertainty in recent months, the fact is that the 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts is a go, running from January 28th to February 6th in Thunder Bay. With no fans allowed, Team McCarville will miss out on the hometown advantage that would have been huge - though no use fretting over what you cannot control.

The de facto NOCA champions will be in the same pool as Team Fleury (Tracy Fleury, Selena Njegovan, Liz Fyfe, Kristin MacCuish), as well as the remaining two wildcard teams (Chelsea Carey and Emma Miskew - skip of Team Homan). A year ago this time, it was Carey who stepped in to replace Fleury at the 2021 Scotties, the local product opting to care for her young daughter at home at that time.

Play begins next Friday, as McCarville battles Carey while Fleury and New Brunswick (Andrea Crawford) go shot for shot. Fleury and McCarville will meet in the very last round robin game for both teams, part of Draw 17 at 2:00 p.m. on the afternoon of Thursday, February 3rd.

The playoff format this year sees a bit of an expanded process, with the top three teams in each pool advancing. Pool winners advance directly to a Friday (Feb 4th) evening encounter, while #2 vs #3 meet up in a pool crossover game earlier in the day, winners moving on to face top pool seeds.

Interestingly enough, all four of those teams now comprise the page playoff format, as the two teams that emerge victorious Friday evening will claim the 1/2 page game, while the losing teams slide into the 3/4 contest.

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