Jr. women’s rink finishes out of running

Dan Falloon

Tirzah Keffer’s rink had a good start to the weekend, and a good ending to it, but what was in between wasn’t so kind.
Keffer and her rink of third Samantha Mueller, second Taylor Hartlin, and lead Carley Busch ended up with a 2-3 record at the junior women’s regional playdowns at the Fort William Curling Club in Thunder Bay, falling short of clinching a berth at the NOCA provincial showdown.
That competition is slated for January at the Granite Curling Club in North Bay.
“Things could have gone better,” acknowledged Keffer. “We didn’t play our best like we have before.
“Our best game wasn’t there this weekend,” she added. “We did win two games, which was good, but in the other three games, I thought we could have played better and we could have made more shots.”
The skip admitted it was difficult to align their game to the ice, noting she and her team didn’t figure it out quite quickly enough.
“[We missed] some crucial shots,” she remarked.
“You’re not supposed to blame it on the ice but the ice was a lot keener than in Fort, and we had to adjust to it,” Keffer added, noting teams must make adjustments in every rink.
“We didn’t do that quick enough.”
Another difficulty was that the team had to play a pair of games scheduled for 9:30 p.m., although one started more than 90 minutes late.
Couple that with a morning draw and younger players who haven’t necessarily played a full 10-end game, and the team eventually began to wear down.
“All of us just felt it, and once one of us gets tired, it just affects the whole team,” noted Keffer.
“We tried to stay energized as much as possible.”
Keffer opened with a 7-2 victory over Megan Westlund (Port Arthur). The team’s traded singles for the first four ends before Keffer got going later in the game.
She picked up one in the fifth before stealing a pair in the sixth and then one each in the seventh and eighth to end it.
But things didn’t go as well against Karlee Jones (Port Arthur), who went undefeated to earn the first of two berths at the provincials, as she prevailed 9-4.
Jones started quickly, putting up four in the second end after blanking the first.
Keffer got on the board with one in the third, only to have Jones extend her lead to 6-1 with a deuce in the fourth.
Keffer closed the gap with two of her own in the fifth and a steal of one in the sixth, but Jones shut the door with two in the seventh and one more in the eighth.
The locals also dug a hole in their next game against Kaitlyn Poirier (Sioux Lookout), which Poirier ended up winning 9-6.
Poirier began the game with one in the first and second ends, then notched a steal of two more in the third.
Keffer notched singles in the fourth and fifth, but Poirier regained the momentum—and a 7-2 lead—with two in the sixth and one in the seventh.
Keffer made things interesting by putting up a four-spot in the eighth, but a deuce for Poirier in the ninth negated the comeback attempt.
A couple of big ends sunk the locals in their next game with Kim Zsakai (Port Arthur), who won the showdown 11-3 and earned the second berth to North Bay.
After the first two ends were blanked, Zsakai got on the board with a deuce in the third.
Keffer knotted the game the very next end but then Zsakai exploded for five in the fifth.
Keffer got one of those back in the sixth but then shook hands after Zsakai rang up four more in the seventh.
The losses didn’t get the Keffer rink down, however, as they fought back for an 8-7 victory over Rhanda Miller (Port Arthur) to wrap up play.
After the locals got up with one in the first, Miller posted singles of her own in the second and third.
Keffer drew even in the fourth, then took a 4-2 lead in the fifth, to which Miller responded with a pair of her own in the sixth.
The teams traded singles in the seventh and eighth ends before Miller jumped out to steal two in the ninth.
But with the game on the line, Keffer’s rink rallied for three in the 10th to pull out the win.
“Our last game, we wanted to go out with our heads held high,” she reasoned.
“We just got a burst of energy and were like, ‘We have to win this game, we can’t lose another one.’”
Keffer wrapped up by thanking Busch’s for paying the entry fee, coach Dave Bondett and his family, as well as her parents for their support.