Curlers win third title in four years

Laurier’s most successful team of the past 10 years just added another national title to its collection.

The Golden Hawks women’s curling team won their third Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championship in the past four years last weekend, beating the Brock Badgers 7-4 in the gold medal game in St. John’s, Nfld.

We always had confidence in this team,” said Laurier curling head coach Gary Crossley. “We knew we had the talent, we knew we had the support and we never doubted them for a second.”

What made this year’s title even more impressive is the degree of roster turnover that the Hawks experienced this year. After last year’s CIS silver medal finish, the team lost skip Danielle Inglis as well as fourth-years Laura Hickey and Hilary McDermott.

However, thanks to third-year Laura Crocker stepping up in the skip’s role and outstanding performances from fellow third-years Jenny Gates and Sarah Wilkes, the Hawks were able to re-claim CIS gold after winning it back-to-back in 2008 and 2009.

“Not only is it another championship, but it’s with a completely new team,” said Crossley, who oversees the entire program, but takes charge of the men’s team at tournaments while assistant Maurice Wilson is in charge of the women.

“There was a lot of turnover of players and we were still able to perform at the highest level and I think that really speaks volumes about the program and how we’re able to attract the top players from the province.”

Crocker, Gates and Wilkes all earned CIS first-team all-star honours while Wilson was named top coach on the women’s side.

Along with continued success for Laurier at the national championship, Crossley notes how far the tournament has come in recent years, thanks to a partnership between the CIS and the Canadian Curling Association (CCA).

“The CIS curling championship is evolving rapidly; it has become a significant event in the curling arena,” he said. “All the assets of the CCA are able to come to the CIS and it’s made for an outstanding championship. I’ve seen it evolve tremendously over the past few years and we know it’s only going to get better.”

The win qualifies Laurier to represent Canada at next year’s Karuizawa International Curling Championship. In years in which there is no Winter Universiade, such as 2012, the CIS champion is Team Canada’s entry at another major international tournament.

The Karuizawa Championship is supposed to take place in Karuizawa, Japan, next January, but with last week’s earthquake and tsunami devastating the country preliminary re-location discussions have taken place. However, according to Crossley, it’s too early to tell whether or not that will actually transpire.

“[Re-locating the tournament] has been discussed briefly, but at this point it’s far too premature,” he said. “Obviously we hope it’s going to stay in Karuizawa because that will mean things have gotten better in Japan.”

Laurier’s men’s curling team also took part in nationals over the weekend.

However, they didn’t fare as well as their female counterparts. In what was one the tightest competitions Crossley had ever seen, the Hawks finished 3-4, placing fifth in the nation.

Fourth-year Matt Mapletoft was named a second-team CIS all-star after tying Guelph’s Craig Van Ymeren for the highest shooting percentage among skips at the tournament.

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