By Darren Lum
Published Feb. 28 2017
Even without the happy ending like in a Disney movie where everyone does the slow clap the Red Hawks girls’ curling team is deserving of applause for not only earning a berth to the GORE School Curling Provincial Championship finals in Perth but also competing.
Coach Hugh Nichol was happy about how his team of skip Jessica Byers vice Mackenzie Tidey second Destiny Wilson-Wells and lead Lena Haase executed and performed in a strong field of eight school teams at the event.
They were just one win away from the final four of school girls teams at that prestigious competition that includes the best high school teams from the province.
HHSS played Vankleek Hill Collegiate in a tie-breaker after pool play losing 10-4 on Friday evening Feb. 17.
Nichol said in that game the opponents outplayed his team.
“On any given day any team can beat anybody else but that’s why have to play the game. It’s not that anything bad happened it’s just they happened to be the better team in that particular game” he said.
Fatigue was a factor as the tie-breaking game was 12 hours after their 8-6 win over St. Theresa High School of Midland held at 9 a.m earlier in the day. Byers Haase and Tidey agreed but acknowledged their opponents rose to the occasion agreeing with their coach.
“The difference in my opinion was that Vankleek Hill stepped up their game after playing us [a few days earlier] and therefore outplayed us in the last ends. We were all getting tired by then” Byers said.
The Hawks beat Vankleek 9-5 to start the competition on Wednesday Feb. 15.
Nichol also pointed out Vankleek had momentum on their side winning an emotional game earlier in the afternoon to earn the chance to play the tie-breaker. Vankleek went on to win the consolation final to finish third. A.N. Myers Secondary School won the GORE title.
Byers said the team was proud of their accomplishment in making the final eight particularly since they were all in Grade 9.
“To me this feels exhilarating! Considering we were the only all Grade 9 team there we were all just proud to be there. So finishing fifth certainly exceeded our goals” she wrote in an email.
Despite their lack of experience compared to the other teams who were in Grade 11 or 12 the team never felt out of place. They believed they belonged at the competition held from Wednesday Feb. 15 to Feb. 18.
Tidey said it was a testament to their hard work this season. Haase thought their familiarity with each other helped having known each other since kindergarten. They all curl out of the Haliburton Curling Club having started with its youth program and also curl in the club’s leagues.
After opening the four-day competition with a win the team lost 10-4 to A.N. Myers Secondary School of Niagara Falls on the Thursday Feb. 16. They started their last day of competition on Friday with an 8-6 win against St. Theresa High School.
Byers earned individual distinction when she was named as a first team all-star. She said the criteria for being named an all-star was based on how she made more shots of high difficulty compared to all of the other skips. The Grade 9 skip earned the highest marks among them all when it came to the point scoring for each shot. Every shot made is scored out of four based on level of difficulty and a player is eligible to double their point total if the team wins.
Nichol points out the team’s front end of Haase and Wilson-Wells deserve some credit in the all-star recognition because of how their sweeping can help with shot execution.
This team will compete again when it competes from March 3 to 5 in Whitby at the under-18 OCA Bonspiel (formerly known as the bantam zones and regions).
The team was appreciative to the tournament organizers the volunteers the town of Perth and their billet hosts Merv and Josie Roberts. Haase appreciated the encouragement she received from the opposing players and coaches who made her feel welcome and “proud to be part of the curling family.”
They will never forget the hospitality of their billet hosts who drove them back and forth from the home to the curling club.
“We were so lucky to wake up to warm hugs a hot breakfast and beautiful surroundings. Oh and an alarm at 6 a.m. Other than our amazing hosts I will always remember our good coach Hugh Nichol and my fabulous friends that I am honoured to curl with” Tidey wrote in an email.