Alberta junior curling places fourth at nationals in Quebec

Above is Team Alberta that went to the 2018 New Holland Canadian Juniors Championship in Shawinigan, Quebec during Jan. 13-21. In front, from left, are Kayla Skrlik (skip), Ashton Skrlik (third), Hope Sunley (second) and Megan Johnson (lead). Behind them is Coach Charles Simoneau. Contributed photo.

Mac Olsen

It wasn’t quite the finish that Coach Charles Simoneau and his junior girls’ curling team hoped for, but it was quite an accomplishment to compete at the national level.

Simoneau and the Peace Curling Association’s junior team was one of 14 provincial and territorial teams to compete at the 2018 New Holland Canadian Juniors Championship in Shawinigan, Quebec during Jan. 13-21. They placed fourth overall at the end of the event.

His team consists of:

. Megan Johnson of Okotoks, lead.

. Kayla Skrlik, of Nampa, skip.

. Hope Sunley, of Calgary, second.

. Ashton Skrlik, of Nampa, third.

For him, to get to this moment has been a natural progression for the team, building their skills, confidence and experience each year.

“I was very satisfied with our results,” says Simoneau, a resident of Guy. “It was our first national championship and it was a very strong field this year. ”

“There were a lot of experienced teams there, so for the amount of intensity you need to bring to that game over eight days and 10 games, the girls conducted themselves well. Even in the games that we lost, we had a chance for a medal,” says Simoneau.

They had their share of apprehension, but they improved as the week went on, he adds.

The 14 teams were divided into two pools of seven teams, based on the previous year’s rankings. Each team played six round robin games in their pool, then they were ranked for the championship or seeding rounds.

Simoneau’s team made it to the championship round following a 4-2 record in round robin play. Then the team played four games in the championship round and won three of them.

Simoneau has coached Kayla and Ashton for seven years, Megan joined the team in 2016 and Hope joined this year. Simoneau has witnessed their progress with the game, which also reflects in the tournaments they’ve participated in.

In 2014, they achieved a 6-0 record and brought home the gold medal from the Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaska.

In 2016, they just missed out on winning the gold medal at the U-21 event in Wainwright, but they still brought home the silver medal. Also, in 2016, they won the U-18 provincial title and represented Alberta at the Optimus International in Edmonton.

In 2017, at the U-21 event in Edmonton, they lost in the semi-final to the world champion, Kristen Striefel.

“So, it’s been a progression for our team,” adds Simoneau. “We’ve been in a building process. For us to compete at nationals was the next step.”

The road to the 2018 New Holland Canadian Juniors Championship began in May 2017, and the time commitment required would prove intensive but rewarding.

“We added one new player this year and the team started dry land training in May. We hit the ice in August and started by throwing rocks,” says Simoneau.

Their first competition was the first weekend in September and they competed in the Alberta Junior Curling Tour, as well as several women’s World Curling Tour events.

Their training time is considerable, including on-ice practice three days per week and tour events on weekends.

They travelled to Lethbridge at the end of 2017 to earn the right to go to the Quebec.

“This helped us become familiar with the venue and our settings,” says Simoneau.

“We also held a couple of special sports psych sessions and held some special off-ice team meetings to help us prepare. The team was well prepared, but our focus for the week was to stay relaxed, focused, and to enjoy the moment. Our on-ice communication was also very good, which helped us make a lot of ‘team shots.’”

As per an article by Dale Woodard of the Lethbridge Herald on Jan. 2:

“Skrlik and her Falher Curling Club of third Ashton Skrlik, second Hope Sunley and lead Megan Johnson defeated Abby Marks of the Saville Community Sports Centre from Edmonton 10-5 during the provincial gold medal game Sunday afternoon at the Lethbridge Curling Club.

“With the win, Skrlik and her rink are off to in Shawinigan, Que for nationals Jan. 13-21 as the Alberta representative.

“And the Peace Curling Association earned their trip to the nationals without a blip on the radar at the provincial stage, going a perfect 7-0 in the round-robin that earned Skrlik a bye to Sunday’s gold medal game where she completed the 8-0 weekend.

For Kayla Skrlik, the disappointment of coming up just short in the playoffs was offset by the knowledge that they made it to the national competition.

“There was a lot of tough competition at nationals,” says Skrlik. “We looked to each other for strength. We bounced back and won seven out of 10 games. We wanted to make it to the playoffs, but it was a great run.”

The team received a lot of support from friends and family, as well as the communities, she adds.

Skrlik’s involvement with curling extends to coaching children in the sport, and she encourages everyone to get out and try it.

Kayla Skrlik in action at the 2018 New Holland Canadian Juniors Championship in Shawinigan, Quebec. Contributed photo.


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