(From left) Skip Rachel Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney and lead Lisa Weagle, along with coach Adam Kingsbury and alternate Cheryl Kreviazuk. Photo provided
By Dan Plouffe
Team Homan kept their perfect record as the home team at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts alive to capture a third career national women’s curling crown on Feb. 26 in St. Catharines.
The Ottawa Curling Club rink won their first championship representing Ontario in Kingston in 2013, and were also effectively the home team when they won title #2 down the road in Montreal.
The third victory was the most nerve-racking of the bunch. Team Homan won their first 10 games in St. Catharines before dropping their final round robin game to Manitoba. They lost the 1-2 page playoff 9-8 to the same rink skipped by Michelle Englot to miss their chance to advance directly to the final.
But Team Homan then downed Northern Ontario’s Krista McCarville 7-5 to setup another rematch with Englot, this time pulling out an 8-6 extra-end win.
“That’s the hardest win we have ever fought for, I think, especially with all the pressure and everything on the line,” says skip Rachel Homan, who missed a chance to score 4 and effectively end the game in the 7th end, survived a harrowing takeout in the 10th to get to the extra end, and then scored with the hammer in 11th.
“We gave it everything we had and it was just enough,” adds the 27-year-old University of Ottawa grad now studying at the University of Alberta. “We’re representing Canada and it’s a surreal feeling. I can’t wait to put the maple leaf on.”
Team Homan will wear Canadian colours in the World Women’s Curling Championship Mar. 18-26 in Beijing, though their greater long-term objective is to sport red and white again in Asia come the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.
The World Curling Tour’s #1-ranked team is eager to ride the wave of home team success onto victory at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Olympic curling trials come December at Canadian Tire Centre.
“We watched the Brier last year, and it was great to see how many people from Ottawa were out there cheering,” highlights lead Lisa Weagle. “We hope we get the same kind of support when we’re there. It’s really exciting.”
Weagle, who’s curled with Team Homan since 2010, has never played a tournament in Ottawa with the group, and it’s been 10+ years since Homan and third Emma Miskew had a qualifier in town as juniors.
“We practice here all the time, but there hasn’t been an event here in awhile,” notes Miskew, adding that every match provides a learning opportunity leading into the trials. “Everything that we’re doing is for a purpose. We’re learning from every loss, and even every win, because it’s never perfect, but we’re always trying to maintain a high level of play.”
Each team member has put their jobs outside of curling on hold in order to focus all their energy on reaching the Olympics.
“I love it,” signals Weagle, who will return from leave at Sport Canada after the Olympic cycle. “It’s really nice to be able to just focus on curling full-time, and all those other parts of the game too, like recovery, mental training, practice and all that.”
Keeping fresh is a key focus for the team since travel and tournaments can be tiring. Not playing in this year’s Continental Cup proved beneficial, says Weagle, whose team had arrived on the first day of the 2016 Ontario Championships on the heels of the Las Vegas event, and ultimately lost the final to fellow Ottawa rink Jenn Hanna.
“We were really rested going into provincials this year,” indicates the uOttawa communications grad, noting the team had a week-long training camp in town before going to Cobourg and winning the Ontarios on Feb. 5. “That was nice to be able to get as much practice in as we could, and get time together off-ice as well to feel like we were in a really good place as a team.”
Half the rink’s roster remains based in Ottawa, while Homan has moved to Edmonton (for school and marriage), joining Joanne Courtney, the newest member of the team and an Edmonton native. But the team’s connection on and off the ice continues to grow strong, attest the players who came together with an eye on 2018.
“It’s nice to approach each season already knowing who you’re playing with – the personalities, what works, what doesn’t, and where the team is going,” highlights Courtney, who’d hardly said more than hello to members of Team Homan before joining them as second in 2014, but has since built strong friendships with each of them.
“We’re more like sisters than anything at this point,” adds the sweeping sensation. “They’re my second family.”
Team Homan will have an even greater extended family supporting them come the Roar of the Rings in town. On top of the dedicated group that’s seen them win their Scotties titles close to home, they’ll have an entire city behind them at the trials, in particular the thriving local curling community.
Team Homan revels in seeing other local curlers succeed, such as the Ontario junior-champion Rideau Curling Club crew that came within one win of a national crown, and Manotick-raised Jamie Sinclair, the Alaska-born skip of the St. Paul, MN-based team that won the USA Curling nationals in February.
“Ottawa has a really great curling scene,” underlines Weagle, noting they each came up through local Little Rock and junior programs.
“It’s nice to see those programs are alive and well,” adds the 31-year-old who began curling at Westboro’s Granite Curling Club and recently returned there for a visit. “They had so many kids there, and all really excited about curling. That’s really great to see, and it’s really great having so much support from everyone.”