Hoping to gobble up the competition

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U of R women’s curling team prepares for Winter Universiade in Turkey

Jonathan Hamelin
Sports Editor

With the recent success of the University of Regina women’s curling team, one would imagine they would have no problem getting coverage from the media.

This has not exactly been the case. Last year, for example, despite winning the CIS Championships (the only U of R team to accomplish the feat), there was not an overwhelming amount of publicity for the team. This was unfortunately true in the Carillon as well. According to team’s skip Brooklyn Lemon, however, it is all good.

“We didn’t care,” noted Lemon about the lack of coverage. “We realize that curling is not the focus of university sports, so we really didn’t notice.

The team certainly has more on its mind than how many stories it receives. Thanks to its performance at nationals, the team – comprising of Lemon, third Chelsey Peterson, second Ashley Green, lead Nicole Lang, and alternate Sarah Watamanuk – will be representing Canada in the curling portion of the 2011 Winter Universiade in Erzurum, Turkey, this Friday to Feb. 5.

Ontario’s Wendy Morgan (team leader), Loreburn’s Travis Brown (coach) and Regina’s Alison Fisher (team official) make up the coaching staff. Jonathan Beuk’s Queen’s University Golden Gaels team makes up the Canadian men’s squad, while Ontario’s Richard Henderson is their coach.

“We are very excited,” said Lemon, a second-year student preparing to enter the nursing program at the U of R. “We hope that we can go out and perform the best that we can. I’ve never been off this continent before and it’s going to be a long trip.”

For all the women, it will be the first time they have competed on the world stage. The tournament boasts powerhouse countries like the U.S.A, China, Japan, and Russia. Because of the unfamiliarity of the field, Lemon explained it is hard to predict how her team will do.

“We honestly don’t know what to expect,” she admitted. “We don’t know the calibre of curling there. The skill level of some teams will probably vary a lot. We really don’t have any expectations. Obviously, we want to go over there and win.”

While Lemon may not know what to expect, she does know that opposing countries will be expecting a competitive Canadian squad due to Canada’s legacy in curling.

“In curling, wearing the Maple Leaf on your back is kind of a target,” said Lemon. “Canada is always successful in curling so it adds pressure. We could take it in and use it to our advantage.”

The Canadians will have a chance early in the tournament to cement themselves as contenders and send a message to the rest of the field. Canada opens up against China. The Chinese usually boast a solid squad. In 2009, they beat Canada 6-5 in the final. It was a Canadian squad who had cruised through the round robin with a 9-0 record. While the players may not be the same on each team, it could be a statement game nonetheless.

“China will probably be one of the tougher teams for sure,” said Lemon.

Though Lemon’s squad has achieved so much in a short period of time, they have not all been together for that long. While one may assume they have spent years together as a team perfecting their craft, this is not the case.

The entire team has only been together for about a year. Lemon, Peterson and Lang curled together in Saskatchewan outside of university before the team was formed. Since they were having success, they decided to create a university team. They added Green to the mix and finally Watamanuk was added later. According to Lemon, the team gets along well together.

Last year, their ride to CIS was not exactly one fraught with peril. In university curling, unlike in other sports, there is not a structured league where teams compete against one another. Last year, Lemon’s team played in the Saskatchewan Curling Association and competed in events across Saskatchewan. To get to nationals, they simply had to beat one other team at the U of R hoping to earn a berth. This team was skipped by Watamanuk. Lemon’s team was victorious, Watamanuk was added to the team as an alternate, and a berth in national was secured.

Much like the world championships coming up, Lemon’s team was unsure of what to except heading into nationals, which took place last March in Edmonton. Despites this uncertainty, Regina cruised to a 4-1 record in the round robin, only losing to the Saint Mary’s Huskies. They topped the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks 11-5 in an eight-end semifinal to set up a rematch with the Huskies in the final.

Facing a veteran and motivated Saint Mary’s team, who had lost on the same stage the previous season, Regina was in tough. They fell behind 4-2 after seven ends. However, Regina bounced back by stealing two in the ninth and sending the game to extra ends. In extra ends, it all came down to Lemon.

“I had to draw to the pin for the win and I did,” said Lemon, whose squad walked away with a 6-5 decision. “It was a great feeling. To know that shot gave us a free trip to Turkey was pretty exciting.”

The victory at nationals not only gained Lemon’s team a trip to Turkey, it allowed them to jack up their training program.

“We’ve had a sports nutritionist, psychologist, and trainer helping us prepare,” Lemon explained. “Because we won, the Canadian Curling Association funded us. The win really helped us further our curling careers.”

It has truly been a Cinderella run for Lemon and her teammates. And, after going from inexperienced university curlers to CIS Champions, all that is left for them is to win it all on the world stage. Of course, all Lemon’s team has achieved so far will surely generate more exposure for curling at the U of R, regardless of how they perform at this upcoming tournament.

“I think people will realize what you can gain through curling in the CIS,” said Lemon. “I mean, we’re going to Turkey. I think lots of younger curlers will realize that curling in university, as well as other competitions, is a smart decision.”

There are plenty of ways for those interested in curling to get involved at the U of R, both at the recreational and competitive levels. To learn more or to sign up a team, visit http://www.uregina.ca/recservices.

Meet the team

Brooklyn Lemon
Position: Skip
Year: Second
Major: Nursing

Chelsey Peterson
Position: Third
Year: First
Major: Nursing (Siast)

Ashley Green
Position: Second
Year: Graduated last year
Major: Film

Nicole Lang
Position: Lead
Year: Third
Major: Business

Sarah Watamanuk
Position: Alternate
Year: Fourth
Major: Education

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