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Fleury makes it four - and Sudbury abounds on the new Team Mann
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The winter of 2022-2023 was not a perfect season for the rejigged version of Team Homan - but it was pretty darn good - not to mention one that was closed out in style.

With Sudbury native Tracy Fleury now throwing vice rocks for Rachel Homan, the tandem who curled all winter with Emma Miskew (second) added Albertan Rachel Brown at lead for the Kioti Tractor Champions Cup in Regina in early May, the final event on the Grand Slam of Curling calendar.

Make it four Slam titles for Fleury, two for this version of Team Homan and an astounding 13 victories for Miskew and Homan as the Ottawa-based rink edged Kerri Einarson 9-8 in an extra end in the final to claim their most recent crown.

A twelve team field featured a five game round robin format which served only to create a tie-breaker like few ever seen before. American Tabitha Peterson posted a 4-1 record, putting her exactly one game up on the next seven rinks, all deadloceked at 3-2, a clustering that included Team Homan.

Fleury and friends actually beat Peterson 7-4 in the second draw before falling to both Jennifer Jones (10-0) and Team Hasselborg. Thankfully, the eventual champs bounced back with wins over Marianne Roervik from Norway (6-3) and Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland (7-5), earning a berth in the quarter-finals.

Up against Hasselborg one more time, the Homan rink rode a five-point score in the fourth end to a 7-6 triumph, booking their spot in the finals with a 9-2 beat down of Peterson before going to nine ends to claim their second Slam win of 2022-2023.

And while that closed off this season of curling, chatter continues towards the fall to come, including the latest version of Team Mann with all sorts of Sudbury cross-connections.

The new lineup features Lauren Mann at skip, Stephanie Barbeau at vice, Abby Deschene at second and Candice Jackson at lead, with the first three all at least somewhat familiar with the nickel city.

Deschene, a graduate of Lockerby Composite and working as an accountant in Timmins, still found time to curl with the Laurentian Voyageurs this past season, including during their appearance at nationals in her hometown.

It's also a hometown that she shares with Lauren Mann, though the latter moved away to the Ottawa region quite early.

The same cannot be said for Stephanie Barbeau, a graduate of Coll├Ęge Notre-Dame who made three trips to Junior Nationals as a member of the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club roughly two decades ago, once with Jennifer Horgan (Wylie) as her skip and twice on teams that were anchored by Tracy Horgan (Fleury).

Following a small handful of years of post-secondary studies at Cambrian College, the 34 year old mother of two made her way to the Cornwall region, where she has resided for the past 11 years.

Stepping away from the sport for a few years immediately following her junior run, Barbeau would find her way back somewhat organically upon her arrival in the southeastern corner of the province.

"The first place you go when you don't know anyone is somewhere that's familiar to you," said Barbeau, explaining her involvement with the Cornwall Curling Centre that would eventually lead her to connect with Jennifer Harvey.

"We had a fairly competitive ladies team at our club," said Barbeau. "For a club team, we did fairly well."

That said, the time had come for Barbeau to look for more - and in typical curling fashion, a new rink was formed.

"Lauren and Candice curled on the junior circuit together and I had always played against Lauren," explained Barbeau. "And Abby had stayed connected to Lauren the past few years."

Then the other shoe dropped when Barbeau returned to Sudbury in early March, taking some time to get out and throw some rocks in a setting she knows all too well. "I was just out throwing some rocks and met Abby; she had some connections to my mom."

"Things kind of transpired very quickly from that point on."

A calendar of some six to eight bonspiels has now reached doubled digits, plus playdowns. "If we were going to commit, we were going to commit," said Barbeau with a laugh.

"This will be my most competitive team since junior days, much more intense than my Tuesday night once a week ladies."

"I can't believe this has happened."

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