Jones shooting for ninth crown

Reaches Sunday’s Scotties final with 8-0 round-robin record


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St. Vital’s Jennifer Jones will be gunning for an unprecedented ninth provincial women’s curling title Sunday afternoon.

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St. Vital’s Jennifer Jones will be gunning for an unprecedented ninth provincial women’s curling title Sunday afternoon.

The St. Vital skip, who last ruled Manitoba in 2018, upended Kaitlyn Lawes of Fort Rouge 9-5 at the East St. Paul Arena to finish the championship round at the Provincial Scotties Tournament of Hearts 8-0, and thereby advanced directly to Sunday’s 2 p.m. final.

Lawes, Jones’s teammate for 11 years until last March, completed the championship round at 7-1 and will face East St. Paul’s Abby Ackland, who beat Assiniboine Memorial’s Beth Peterson 9-3 in a seven-end tiebreaker, in a Sunday morning semifinal at 9:30.

Ackland and Peterson both finished the championship round at 5-3.

Team Ackland, skipped by Meghan Walter, forced a tiebreaker with a 9-5 victory over Pearson in the final game of the championship round and won all three games it played Saturday.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s epic Lawes-Jones battle was tied 5-5 in the ninth end when the No. 2-seeded Jones negotiated a delicate tap for two to take a 7-5 lead.

“(It was) massive,” she said. “That’s probably a big turning point in the game. To go up two is so much different than just being up one. And not an easy shot. The girls swept it from my hand and made it perfectly for me.”

The 48-year-old Jones lauded her young teammates, who include second Mackenzie Zacharias, 23, third Karlee Burgess, 24, lead Emily Zacharias, 21, and 21-year-old alternate Lauren Lenentine.

Lenentine subbed for Emily on Saturday afternoon.

“The team chemistry has been way easier than I ever imagined it could be,” said Jones. “We have a slight age difference – just a little bit. So I wasn’t sure if that would have any impact and how it would go. But I’ve felt so comfortable. They’re so easy to be around. They’re mature beyond their years and we’re having a lot of fun. I feel like we’re growing as a team every week.”

Lawes, whose team entered the week as the event’s No. 1 seed, has now lost all three match-ups with the Jones crew in 2022-23.

“It was a great way to get some time on that championship sheet,” said Lawes. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t our best game but we kept it close and had a shot to try and go to an extra end. Hopefully we can just be a little bit sharper tomorrow and hopefully things will go our way.”

Lawes fully expected her squad to raise its game in the semifinal.

“I think we controlled some of the ends and had some chances and we just didn’t capitalize early,” said Lawes. “So at the end of the day, we’re just out here shooting some shots and hoping to make someone make some good ones and get the crowd into it… It wasn’t our sharpest game. We’ve been playing a little bit better than that. So look forward to just regrouping and coming out sharper (Sunday).”

Mackenzie and Emily Zacharias will be making their seventh appearance in a provincial final, having previously earned three under-18 crowns, two under-21 titles as well as the 2022 Manitoba Scotties championship with Mackenzie as skip.

“We’ve been super fortunate to find ourselves in a lot of big games and I think that just helps us prepare for each bigger game that we play in,” said Mackenzie Zacharias.

“This is exactly where we wanted to be,” she added. “I mean, the first time around it was a little bit unexpected to go straight to the final but I mean, we’re sure happy with it. This time it was our goal to be able to go straight through to the final and get that chance to represent Manitoba, potentially, again. We’re thrilled.”

Mackenzie Zacharias was pleased to avoid the perils of playing in the semifinal.

“It’s worth a lot, we get to sleep in a little bit more, which is nice,” she said. “You get the hammer as well going into the final so that always means a lot, too, and in those big games we’ll take any little advantage that we can get.”

Earlier Saturday, Lawes improved to 7-0 with a 9-1 win over Lisa McLeod of Portage la Prairie while Jones eked out a 9-7 win over Peterson.

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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