Lee rink unable to make second-straight provincial appearance

“Hunger to make it to the Scott.”
That’s how lead Andrea Lee, formerly of Stratton and now living in Thunder Bay, responded when asked what her rink’s goal was.
“That’s always our goal,” she added.
That also is the goal of her younger sister, Angela, who is the skip, along with second Shana Ketonen and third Julie Risi.
The Lee rink that finished 3-3 at the Northwestern Ontario ladies’ playdowns here last week was not the same as the one that went to the Ontario Scott Tournament of Hearts last year, with only the Lee sisters being back.
“We only have half the team we had last year, so we know we have to work harder if we want to do it [get to provincials] again,” said Angela Lee, 23, who won an all-Ontario curling title for Rainy River High School back in 1999.
“But once you’re there, you get a taste of it and you want to go back, so there is added pressure,” she added.
But it’s not like they were the only rink with new members. Each one at the eight-team playdowns here was unlike past versions.
“It’s very helpful to have the same team year to year, but like this year, all the teams that came from Thunder Bay are all totally difference from last year,” noted Andrea Lee, 25.
Lee, representing the Fort William Curling Club, opened play at the Northwesterns last Thursday afternoon with a narrow 6-5 loss to Christine Eby (also from the FWCC).
Lee had four hours to think about the loss and what mistakes she had made, then put that information to good use to bounce back with a 7-1 win over Amy Stachiw (Port Arthur Curling Club) that night.
Then facing undefeated Krista Scharf (Fort William Curling Club) in Friday morning’s draw, Lee did well in giving one of the favoured teams a run for their money before falling 6-5 in extra ends.
“At any given time, you can beat the other team, but it’s just the luck and how you’re playing that weekend,” noted Andrea.
“You have to bring you’re ‘A’ game to every game. There’s no weak teams here and there are no easy games,” added Angela.
The fourth draw Friday afternoon was an 11-7 win over Michelle Boland (Fort William Curling Club) to leave the Lee rink at 2-2 heading into Saturday’s final three draws of the round-robin.
Kathie Jackson was up next and though Lee jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, the Fort Frances rink was able to eke out a 10-8 win.
Lee later would make short work of Dawn Sauve (Dryden), winning 9-1 in only four ends on Friday afternoon. She then climbed the two flights of stairs to the curling club’s lounge area to get a bird’s-eye view of the other ongoing games.
This is what Lee now needed to have a chance at advancing to the provincials (Scharf already had secured one of the two berths):
They needed Jackson to falter against Boland and would need Tara George (4-1) to stumble versus Stachiw just to set up the final draw of the round-robin Saturday night—complete with a host of possible scenarios that not even Albert Einstein could have figured out.
As it turned out, Jackson lost to Boland 11-4, so now all eyes in the lounge were on the George-Stachiw match, which was a see-saw affair until George sealed the 7-6 win—and a trip to the provincials—that came right down to the final rock.
“It was very exciting because it was a very close game,” said Andrea Lee. “It was back and forth and it could’ve went either way, and there was a lot riding on it.
“It was still a long shot for us, but we still could’ve had a chance,” she added. “But we played the best we could and it just wasn’t in the card this year.”
“A shot here or there could’ve made the difference,” echoed Angela Lee. “It’s just the way it works out. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Even in defeat, however, the Lee rink was able to enjoy almost a homecoming of sorts here. Being from Stratton, the sisters spent much time in Fort Frances participating in high school and junior competitions.
As such, they had a strong showing of support by the local fans.
“It’s awesome to come back. We had a lot of success as juniors coming out of Fort Frances and Stratton,” said Angela. “I’ve been curling out of Thunder Bay for a few years, but I always consider myself from Stratton and from this Rainy River District.
“Whenever we go anywhere, people ask me where are you from and I say, ‘We’re curling out of Thunder Bay but we’re from Stratton,’ and that’s a huge deal to me.
“We’re curling out of Thunder Bay, but we’re curling for this district because this is where we got started,” she stressed.
And there’s still plenty of curling left in the young blood of the Lee rink. The key now is to try to maintain the team they have.
“We definitely have good team chemistry. We have fun together, and hopefully we can all stay together,” said Andrea Lee.
“That’s one thing we don’t know because people are graduating [from university] and they might be moving away, but hopefully everyone stays in Thunder Bay to build on what we learned this year together.”
And given the Ontario Scotts will be held in Fort Frances next year, you can bet the Lee rink will be gunning to keep building on its “Hunger to make it the Scott.”