Hawks end successful season with an impressive showing at the Nationals

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Photo by Tanzeel Sayani

The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women’s curling team were looking to add a fifth national title to their collection as they competed at the U-Sports National Curling Championships from March 24 to March 28 in Leduc, Alberta.

The team consisted of Kaitlin Jewer at skip, Riley Sandham at vice, Kelly Middaugh at second, Bridget Ribeau at lead and Susanna Wright as an alternate.

Coming off an OUA championship win, expectations were naturally high for the Hawks to have a successful nationals campaign.

Laurier got off to a good start in the round-robin, beating Regina by a final score of 6-4 over 11 ends in their opening game of the tournament.

The game against Regina was a good representation of the Hawks’ season, as they had to rely on making some clutch shots down the stretch to pull off an impressive victory.

Although the good start gave Laurier some much needed momentum going in to the rest of the tournament, the Hawks were stopped dead in their tracks in their second game on opening day against the Mount Allison Mounties.

The Mounties put up points in every one of the first five ends, keeping the Hawks off the board.

In the end, the Hawks couldn’t find a way to overcome the deficit, losing by a final score of 9-1.

However, Laurier used the tough loss against the Mounties as motivation to begin day two of the championships.

The Hawks took on Memorial in the first game of day two and their superiority was on display throughout the entire game. Laurier jumped out to an early 4-1 through three ends and never stopped scoring, eventually winning game three of the round-robin with a final score of 13-3.

Varsity coach John Gabel mentioned that the Hawks’ struggles against the Mounties were mostly the result of a lack of communication.

“I think it’s just a case of communicating and knowing a little better than we did last night. We got off to not the best start and just lingered there a little bit [last night]. So a good start tonight is key and having played [Brock] a couple times this year is also a big thing for us because we have a little intel on them,” he said, after the game against Mount Allison.

Up next for the Hawks in the round-robin would be their Ontario rivals, the Brock Badgers.

Having lost to the Hawks twice this season already, the Badgers came out strong looking to get some redemption.

But Laurier was up for the challenge, keeping the game close for the most part. Unfortunately for the Hawks, Badgers skip Terri Weeks made a number of tough shots towards the end of the game, making sure that the result between these teams was different this time around.

The Badgers won the game by a final score of 10-5, which dropped the Hawks record to an even 2-2.

Although the Hawks had been inconsistent over the first two days of the Nationals, they had done a good job of dictating the play while hitting some tough shots.

However, things started going downhill on day three.

The Hawks lost both games on the third day of Nationals, losing against the Thompson Rivers WolfPack and the hosting Alberta Pandas, which knocked them out of playoff contention.

Laurier ran into a red hot Thompson Rivers team that had won three straight games after losing their opener, and they carried that momentum into the game against the Hawks while never losing control.

The loss against the WolfPack made the game against Alberta a must-win and the Hawks gave it their best shot.

They were able to climb out of a 7-2 deficit to eventually tie the game at 9 in the tenth end, but the Pandas took advantage of having the hammer in the extra eleventh end, ending the Hawks playoff hopes.

Laurier skip Kaitlin Jewer pointed out the fact that although the Hawks were unable to make the playoffs, they still had a lot to be proud of.

“All these teams just have a lot more experience playing on arena ice than we do. We’ve been very unlucky all week. It seems like we’re on the wrong side of the inches all the time. There were a few shots that just didn’t go our way and that really cost us. We should still be very proud of how we played,” she said.

In their final game of the tournament the Hawks took on the Queen’s Gaels in a rematch of the OUA Championship finals.

With both teams sitting on a 2-4 record and having no shot at winning the Nationals, this game was all about pride.

Queen’s featured World Junior Curling Champion Mary Fay at skip, which made the game that much tougher for the Hawks.

But Laurier showed that their win over Queen’s at the OUA finals was no fluke, winning their final game of the season by a score of 6-4.

Even though the Hawks couldn’t capture their fifth national title as a program, it was a still an extremely successful year for Laurier.

“I think we had a strong showing in a lot of the games, it was just hard to have it throughout the games which is why our record was 3-4,” Gabel said, regarding the Hawks performance at the Nationals.

“Obviously we played a few strong teams for sure and we didn’t have our best performances but it was a good showing from the team this year considering it was the first time at the nationals for a lot of [our players].”

It’s important to realize that this is a very young Hawks team, with only Riley Sandham returning on the team from last year.

When asked to comment on the Hawks’ season as a whole, Gabel described it as a success.

“[Winning the OUA Championship] was a huge achievement. Coming into the year we didn’t have super high expectations with how many people we lost last year [and] only one returning player. So the girls did a great job this year. Just getting [to the Nationals] in itself is a huge accomplishment and it’s something we can move forward with next year,” he said.

This Hawks team is only going to get better with time, and it’s going to be exciting to see how far they can go next year.

Expect bigger and better things from the Hawks in 2019 as they look to build on an extremely successful 2018 campaign.   

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