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Local ladies of curling off to a great start
2022-11-12
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We’re just two months into the new curling season and it’s already become a challenge trying to stay on top of all of the recent accomplishments of Sudbury and area rock throwers.

No surprise that much of that good news is coming courtesy of the local ladies of curling.

Kudos to start to Tracy Fleury and her new team (Rachel Homan, Emma Miskew, Sarah Wilkes) who garnered their first Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling (GSOC) title in Grande Prairie (AB) last month, doubling the Kerri Einarson rink 8-4 in the HearingLife Tour Challenge final.

While this constitutes the 12th GSOC victory for Homan, it’s number three on the resume for Fleury, who made the jump to the Ottawa-based trio after spending the past few seasons curling out of Manitoba with Selena Njegovan, Liz Fyfe and Kristin MacCuish.

Fleury and company posted a 3-1 round robin record in order to make their way through to the playoffs, eliminating Kaitlyn Lawes (9-6) in the quarter-finals and Sweden’s Isabella Wrana (10-6) in the semis before slowing down the Einarson rink which has been red-hot this fall.

Next up for the Fleury/Homan tandem is the Red Deer Curling Classic from Nov 17th to the 21st, followed by the Masters Grand Slam in Oakville in early December.

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Aspiring to reach those same heights some days, Team Toner (Mia Toner, Valerie Ouimet, Justine Toner, Clara Dissanayake) still have plenty of time on their side. Competing largely in the U18 circuit – though more than a tad competitive at the junior level as well – the Curl Sudbury crew recently returned from Dundas, site of their second bonspiel of the year, beaten 4-3 in the final by Asia MacDonald from the Ottawa Granite Curling Club.

With an earlier bonspiel in Barrie representing the very first time the team had ever gathered for competition this year – Dissanayake is attending McMaster University this fall, with the remaining three still in Sudbury – seeing a progression through to this second event would be key.

“I would say that we were definitely a lot stronger,” noted Justine Toner, a grade 11 student at Collège Notre-Dame, currently 16 years old. “We were communicating well, throwing well. We’ve been able to have some time for practices and we worked on some of our routines, just to get those down.”

“We all have pretty busy schedules, so just having the time to practice is really going to be helpful.”

And while all things being equal, the very likeable young ladies would love to all be situated in the same city, life continues to move them forward, as they all try and make the best of the distance between them.

“It’s definitely an adjustment and it’s definitely tougher than when we are all together, but I would say that it makes us so excited to all be together, to see each other and spend time together,” said the younger of the two Toner siblings. “I think we’ve handled it pretty well so far.”

Team Toner reeled off five straight wins en route to the final, getting the better of Emma Penston (Westmount G & CC – 10-1), OCC U18 Academy (7-4), Katelin Langford (Peterborough CC – 5-4), Sydney Taylor (Dundas G & CC – 10-3), and Taylor again in semi-final play (8-5).

“It’s always tough to play a team twice in a row, I would say,” suggested Toner. “But I think we have to remember that it doesn’t matter who we are playing against, we need to play our game. Just focus on throwing the rocks, because the rocks don’t know who are throwing them.”

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Still with locals curling out of town, the back-end partnership of Sudburian Jamie Smith and Maritimer Isabelle Ladouceur continues to pay dividends, even as the talented duo revamped their front-end this year while making the jump to Open Women’s play.

Victories at the D & R Custom Steel Gord Carroll Curling Classic (September 9th – 11th), Stroud Sleeman Cash Spiel (October 14th-16th) and North Grenville Women’s Fall Curling Classic (October 27th – 30th) augur well for the Waterloo-based rink that added Grace Lloyd and Rachel Steele and have now cracked the top-30 in the World rankings.

“I like that we’re all the same age, so we are all going through the same part of our life,” said Smith, who began her curling career with the Coniston Curling Club. Now in her fourth year of Financial Math studies, the 21 year-old northerner is also a teammate of Ladouceur with the Laurier Golden Hawks, with Lloyd and Steele at McMaster and Guelph respectively.

“We can all relate to each other. I also like that our commitment levels are all similar. Everybody is a really hard worker, everybody wants to achieve success and is willing to put in the work to do that.”

Coming off the invaluable experience of having represented Canada at the 2022 World U21 Curling Championships in Sweden last spring, both Smith and Ladouceur are better equipped to navigate the pendalum swings that inevitable accompany competitive sports.

“There’s going to be peaks and valleys,” suggested Smith. “Finding ways to win when you’re not playing your best is a really important quality to have, just grinding it out when we’re not playing our best.”

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Meanwhile in Prince Albert (SK), it’s crunch time for local lead Amanda Gates and the Trevor Bonot squad that also includes Jackie McCormick and Mike McCarville from Thunder Bay.

After posting a record of 4-2 in Pool B preliminary round action, the Northern Ontario entry at the 2022 Canadian Mixed Curling Championships have now split their first two championship cross-over games, beaten 6-2 by Felix Asselin from Quebec but flipping the scoreboard with a 6-2 victory of their own, this one over Miles Craig from Victoria, British Columbia.

With games remaining Friday afternoon against New Brunswick (Grant Odishaw – 4-4) and Saskatchewan (Shaun Meachem – 4-4), the 5-3 NOCA champs find themselves right in the thick of a logjam to advance to the playoffs, deadlocked with both Nova Scotia and B.C. and just one game back of Ontario, Quebec and the Northwest Territories.

Playoff action kicks off Saturday morning.

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