One game in, and Lisa Penner and her rinkmates were wondering what in the world they had got themselves into.
Then the nerves wore off, the rocks starting curling their way and the Northern Ontario team discovered it did belong under the national spotlight.
In the end, the rink skipped by Kenora’s Peggy Taylor and featuring Fort Frances resident Lisa Penner at third along with Colleen Poschner at second and Tracy Stasiuk at lead finished in fifth place overall and came up one win short of advancing to the semifinals of the 2015 Everest Canadian senior national women’s curling championship in Edmonton last week.
“I’m proud of the girls,” said Penner.
“We did better than we expected, especially considering our lack of experience at that level of curling.”
Northern Ontario came out of Pool ‘A’ tied for third with Quebec’s Elaine Roy at 3-3 to qualify for the championship round.
It was a rocky start for Penner’s pack, as two-time world women’s champion Colleen Jones of Nova Scotia looked every bit the legend she is by cruising to a 13-1, six-end victory.
“We had a good first two ends (trailing only 1-0) and then we missed a shot and she got her five in the third and it went downhill from there,” analyzed Penner.
Saskatchewan’s Cathy Inglis was not much kinder to Northern Ontario, easing to a 7-1, six-end triumph by stealing in each of the last four ends of the game.
Taylor finally got out of the starting blocks with a 13-0, six-end hammering of Nunavut’s Beverly Ford, including a pair of stolen three-enders and another two deuces before Ford cried uncle.
Debbie Moss’ steal of two against Northern Ontario gave the Northwest Territories a 7-5 win in Taylor’s fourth game, shoving them to the edge of elimination.
But victories over Roy (8-3) and New Brunswick’s Shelly Graham (6-5) lifted Northern Ontario into the championship round.
With wins and losses from the pool round against other championship pool teams carrying over to the next round, Taylor needed to keep up the pace with a modified record of 1-2.
A 6-3 win over Manitoba’s Kim Link gave the Taylor team a reason to dream big.
“When we got to the championship pool and then beat Manitoba, we started to really believe we had a chance,” recalled Penner.
That feeling grew exponentially after Northern Ontario fought back from a 4-0 deficit against previously unbeaten and eventual champion Terri Loblaw of Alberta to eventually steal singles in the final three ends to escape with a 6-5 triumph.
Sitting at 3-2 at that point, Northern Ontario was set up to make it into the semifinals with a win against either winless Newfoundland and Labrador skip Laura Phillips or B.C.’s Sandra Jenkins, both who had previous nationals experience as participants in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
That experience sprang to the forefront, with Phillips stealing five points during the game to take an 8-1 decision in six ends, while Jenkins grabbed a 4-0 lead after a steal of three in the third and wound up with a 9-3 victory to eliminate Northern Ontario.
“We all played well at times, we just didn’t all play well at the same time when we needed to,” offered Penner.
“But it was a great experience,” she added.
“Any time you can go and improve yourself by playing top players, that’s only going to help you do better.”
Alberta beat Nova Scotia 7-5 in the final and will advance to the world senior championships which, in a scheduling quirk, isn’t scheduled for until 2016 at an as-of-yet undetermined location in Europe.
Last year senior national champions will descend upon Ottawa for the 2015 worlds later next month.