The Humber Hawks women’s curling team battled as underdogs to claim the silver medal at the 2014 CCAA Curling Nationals Championship.
The tournament was held March 19 to 22 at the Soo Curlers Club in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
“I was definitely really excited for our team,” said Grace Esquega, the Hawks’ skip. “We worked really hard to try to practice after provincials because we knew we wanted a better result.”
Humber’s silver medal squad consisted of Esquega, Heidi Beck, Gen Bernier, and Sarah Jagger on the ice and Bella Iannetta as a reserve. Kateryna Tepylo sat out the tournament with an injury but helped head coach Cindy Bishop and assistant coach Alex Kidd behind the glass.
The Hawks played 90 ends (or nine games) in four straight days, including a grueling trio of games on Day Three.
“(Going into) Day Three, I knew it was going to a super tough day,” said Esquega, a first-year marketing student. “We were playing two Alberta teams and a team we also lost to at provincials. I knew we had to step our game up and we did.”
Humber won its first two games on Day One and lost another pair on Day Two. The Hawks guaranteed itself at least a bronze medal by winning all three games on Day Three to place second in the standings with a 5-2 record.
On the fourth and final day, the Hawks edged by the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Ooks 6-5 to land a spot in the gold medal game against the Red Deer Queens. NAIT finished the tournament with the bronze medal.
The Hawks lost 9-5 against the Queens in the gold medal match, but held their own for most of the game against the seasoned Red Deer squad.
Prior to Nationals, there was uncertainty looming for the women’s team due to roster adjustments. They knew the team would have a tough challenge ahead of them as underdogs at the big stage in Sault Ste. Marie.
The Hawks grabbed the last spot available at the National tournament despite a disappointing fifth place finish at the OCAA provincials back in February. They were also forced to adjust on the ice without regular second Tepylo, who injured her meniscus at provincials.
“When I found out that I wouldn’t able to play at Nationals, I was pretty upset but I knew the girls could pull together and do well without me,” said Tepylo, in second-year creative advertising.
“After we lost our first three games at provincials, we were able to pull together four wins in a row to secure that (fifth) spot and thankfully get a berth at Nationals.”
The team made late roster adjustments for nationals with Sarah Jagger switching from lead to Tepylo’s position on the ice, while Heidi Beck (from Humber’s mixed team) took over Jagger’s role as the lead.
Both players performed exceptionally with their new roles. Jagger was named a national All-Star for her efforts, while Beck used her own provincial All-Star status and gold medal mixed team experience to fit in seamlessly.
“I felt pretty honoured that they chose me (to fill in for Tepylo),” said Beck, a first-year creative photography student.
Esquega said Jagger deserved to be named an All-Star for her consistency on the ice. The skip also praised Beck’s ability to execute big plays down the stretch at the tournament.
“I’d have to say that most of our wins were from (Beck’s) rocks,” said Esquega. “If her rocks weren’t placed in the right positions, we’d have to be chasing the other team but she put them exactly where we wanted.”
The Hawk’s vice, Gen Bernier, received equal praise from Esquega for being able to get the team out of tough situations.
“I could always count on (Bernier) and her consistent throws to get us out of tricky ends,” said Esquega.
“I’m very proud of my vice because she’s an awesome curler and we’re a great back end together.”