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Anything but social isolation for the new Team Deschene
2020-05-14

Abby Deschene has played, previously, with all three remaining members of the 2020-2021 version of Team Deschene.

Still, there is sure to be at least some period of adjustment, some degree of chemistry that must be built up.

Neither Lauren Rajala (vice), Jessica Leonard (second) or Mya Smith (lead) have ever played together before.

The rink, which will be based out of Curl Sudbury and will compete largely in the U21 bracket with an eye on qualifying for junior nationals, assembles four well-respected curlers with a common bond.

"When putting together this team, I wanted people with the same goals, people that wanted to play more spiels," said Deschene. "I think we are all very like-minded players, very dedicated to the game. I've had fun playing with each of them in the past."

Having celebrated her 19th birthday earlier this month and beginning her second year of Business Administration studies in the fall, Deschene admitted that the quartet are not above tinkering with the roster, if need be, come what should be a (hopefully) very busy season of curling.

"We are still early in our planning stages, but we are all in the same boat, we all want to be successful," she said. "If something isn't working early in the season, we would be open to changing our lineup."

A senior at Lasalle Secondary School, whose pursuit of a degree in Forensic Sciences at Laurentian starts in September, Rajala slides over to her new team after a highly successful stretch with the Bella Croisier rink.

A two-time national champion in 2018-2019 (U18 nationals and the Canada Winter Games), Rajala's most recent campaign was highlighted by her appearance at the 2020 Youth Winter Olympics in Switzerland, serving as Canadian flag-bearer at the event (as well as competing with the Team Canada mixed curling team).

Also preparing for her first year at L.U., Mya Smith is essentially a Blind River native (though she was technically born in Sault Ste Marie), a soon-to-be Sports Administration major at Laurentian, and two-time defending NOSSA curling champion with W.C. Eaket Secondary School.

"I was actually very fortunate that when I started curling in Blind River, there was a group of us that were all around the same age, and we all wanted to get together and curl competitively," said Smith, whose father introduced her to the sport after being brought aboard as ice manager of the local club.

"Because my curling club was so small, I gained a lot of trust and friends through the game," she added. "I liked how different it was compared to basketball and volleyball. You didn't need to be a certain height to succeed, it was your own skill-set."

Positionally speaking, Smith will make the largest jump, a life-long back-end player who will now throw first stones. It is, however, her duties after her shots are done that most excites the 18 year-old newcomer to Sudbury.

"I love sweeping," she admitted. "Ever since I started curling, I've always looked at Kaitlyn Lawes and other good sweepers and strived to be good at that important part of the game."

"I am just excited to be part of the team and hopefully master the front end and learn some things in the meantime."

Rounding out the quartet next year is Jessica Leonard, fresh off yet another appearance at Junior Nationals, this time as a member of the Kira Brunton squad. The pair captured gold at the inaugural Canadian U18 Curling Championships in April of 2018, with Leonard adding an OFSAA banner to the mix one year later as part of a foursome that also included Sydnie Stinson, Elizabeth Huska and Deschene.

"I'm really excited, because they are all very accomplished curlers - and they're all so much fun to play with," said Deschene. "I think we are going to try and play as early as we can in the season, hoping the season does start in September, given the current pandemic situation."

At the risk of stating the obvious, building chemistry is challenging in times of social isolation.

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