Between a rock and a hard place

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U of R fails to advance out of round-robin at CIS curling championships

Jonathan Hamelin
Sports Editor

Close just did not cut it for the University of Regina Cougars women’s curling team.

This past weekend, at the Canadian Interuniversity Sports curling championships at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Alexandra’s Williamson Regina rink posted a round-robin record of 2-5 and failed to advance to the playoffs.

Three of Regina’s losses came by two points or less. The U of R finished tied for fifth with the Guelph Gryphons, behind the Alberta Pandas (4-3), Memorial Sea-Hawks (4-3), Brock Badgers (4-3), Saint Mary’s Huskies (5-2) and Laurier Golden Hawks (6-1), so Regina could have advanced in the tournament by turning those close losses into wins.

“The breaks seemed to be against us in the beginning of games,” said Williamson via email, whose team also consists of third Kelsey Michaluk, second Stephanie Gress, lead Jade Ivan, alternate Chantel Martin, and coach David Miller. “All our games were very close, and if we had got just an extra point here and there we could definitely have advanced I think.”

These close losses for the Cougars all came in the first couple of games.

Williamson’s rink opened up the tournament with an 8-7 loss to Alberta. It was a back-and-forth affair. The score was knotted at one after the second end, as each team scored with the hammer. The Pandas brought home two in the third, before Regina responded with singles in the fourth and fifth to tie it up again. Over the next four ends, each team scored four points, tying the game at seven heading into the 10th. Alberta scored once in the 10th to take the win. Shooting was a problem for Williamson and company in the game, as the Cougars shot only 67 per cent.

Draw 2 saw the U of R suffer another tough defeat, dropping a 7-5 decision to Saint Mary’s. Regina looked poised to win this contest, jumping out to a 4-1 lead after the fifth. However, Saint Mary’s outscored the Cougars 6-1 the rest of the way. In the eighth, Williamson’s rink allowed the Huskies to steal three. The U of R shot 68 per cent in the game.

In the next draw, another late surge by the opponent doomed Williamson’s squad. Brock scored three in the ninth and tenth to squeak out a 6-5 victory. Regina had faced a 3-2 deficit heading into the seventh, but three unanswered points put them ahead 5-3. Shooting was once again a problem for the U of R, as their percentage dropped to 66 in the game, though Williamson clocked in at 74 percent.

Finally, in Draw 4, Regina was able to come out on the winning end of a close game, topping Guelph 5-4. Williamson’s team almost saw their lead diminish again, as Guelph scored once in the ninth and tenth to bring the score within one. Even in the victory, Regina posted its worst shooting percentage up to that point at 63 percent. Williamson was key in the game once again, shooting 74 percent.

It all seemed to come together for the Cougars in the next draw, as they trampled Saskatchewan 8-3, scoring early and often. The U of R’s shooting percentage skyrocketed to 74 percent, with Williamson (81), Michaluk (78) and Gress (75) putting up solid numbers. At this point in the tournament, Regina was tied for fourth at 2-3, still in playoff contention.

However, things only got ugly from here for the U of R. Regina fell 9-2 to Laurier and 10-2 to Memorial, effectively ending its chances to advance. They averaged a 60.5 shooting percentage in these two games. Statistically, after round-robin play, Regina finished last in shooting percentage at 66. The only U of R player to finish in the top five for shooting percentage at her position was Gress (third, 75, one game played).

By not advancing, the Cougars also failed to defend the U of R women’s title from last season. At the 2010 nationals in Edmonton, Alta., Brooklyn Lemon’s U of R women’s squad beat Saint Mary’s 6-5 to pick up the school’s first women’s title. This year, Laurier defeated Brock 7-4 to claim the crown. In the men’s final, Memorial just got by the Manitoba Bisons with a 7-6 win. The winning teams earned the right to represent Canada at the Karuizawa International Curling Championship in Karuizawa, Japan next year.

“I think to some extent we were maybe a little disappointed to not defend the title as we had planned,” said Williamson. “At the same time, we did go there and hope for the best and we did our best to try and defend the title. Even though we didn’t end up winning and advancing, we thought we represented the University or Regina to the best of our ability.”

Even though they failed to advance, there were plenty of good things that came out of the trip to nationals for the Cougars.

“We did a lot of sight seeing and, from our hotel, we had a view of the harbour, which was absolutely amazing,” said Williamson. “We went to a couple of tourist attractions such as Signal Point and a cove that was located not far from our hotel room, walked down many streets and wandered into the different shops and such, and socialized with the other teams and got to know many people very well. We are hoping to make it back next year, so that we can visit and get to know other people as well.

“I believe we are a stronger team after the experience we had at this national event. We had no idea what we were getting into in the beginning, or what it would be like. In the end, it turned out as a great experience for us. As a result, I think that our team is stronger because of it and we now know what to expect for next year’s competition. If we do make it out there next year, we will be heading to Niagara Falls, which would be a great experience for us all.”

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