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Young curlers taking full roster to national event

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Kayla Curtis and her team had plenty of success this season with only three players.

Now, they’re going to see how they perform with a full roster.

The team of 15- and 16-year-olds won the provincial 16-and-under curling championship despite being short a player.

Curtis, who plays skip, third Jordyn McIntyre and lead Rachel Morris beat all challengers to earn a trip to the Optimist International Under-18 Curling Championships, scheduled for March 27 to 31 in Surrey and Langley, B.C.

"It was pretty thrilling," said McIntyre, a 15-year-old St. Vital resident. "We played with three, so I wasn’t really expecting (to win). When we got to the final we were all tired, but we got through the last game and pulled off a huge victory."

It was the second provincial championship for the team, which Curtis said has improved drastically since winning the 13-and-under title back in 2010.

"We just want to keep improving and learning," said the skip, who also lives in St. Vital. "I thought we played pretty well. We were pretty comfortable the whole week."

When they head west to take on teams from across Canada, the U.S., and even a rink from Japan, the Curtis team will have its new second, Sara Oliver. The 16-year-old from Marquette, Man., joined the team too late in the season to be eligible for the provincial championship, but she’s eager to contribute in the Optimist event.

"It’s definitely going to be easier with four people," Oliver said. "It was tough for them (with only three), but I wasn’t surprised that they won."

None of the players have been involved with a national or international competition before, so they aren’t sure what to expect from the other teams in B.C. — other than the likelihood they’ll be the youngest team there. But that doesn’t change the expectations of their coach, Curtis’s father Ken.

"They’ve played older teams here and won it," he said. "So my expectations are that if we curl to our potential, I’d think they have a good chance to win it."

McIntyre said the bonspiel presents a valuable opportunity to experience an event with a similar atmosphere to a Canadian junior championship, something she and her teammates would love to play in one day.

"By doing this, I think if we were ever to go to a nationals later on we’d be more experienced," she said.

The team practises two or three times a week, in addition to any competitions it plays in. Oliver said the team’s strength lies in its hitting game, but Curtis said they’re constantly working to add new shots to their repertoire.

"The main thing we’re trying to work on is our communication," said the skip.

More information about the Optimist bonspiel, including live results, is available at www.u18curling.ca.

avi.saper@canstarnews.com

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