Yukon North Of Ordinary

Sports archive for December 13, 2013

Baldwin, Koltun rinks begin Scotties pursuit

It’s been 13 years since the Yukon has had a presence at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, but two teams are aiming to change that this season.

By Marcel Vander Wier on December 13, 2013 at 5:24 pm

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

Sarah Koltun and Nicole Baldwin

It’s been 13 years since the Yukon has had a presence at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, but two teams are aiming to change that this season.

Women’s rinks led by Sarah Koltun and Nicole Baldwin will square off at the Whitehorse Curling Club this weekend in a best-of-three Yukon Women’s Championship series.

The two rinks will be playing to determine their seeding at the Yukon/Northwest Territories Scotties playdowns scheduled to take place at the Yellowknife Curling Club Jan. 3 to 6,  as the Yukon holds two spots in that best-of-four event.

Whichever team wins that tournament will represent the North at the Scotties, scheduled to take place Feb. 1 to 9 in Montreal.

Only one team is sent to the women’s and men’s national championships from the Yukon and N.W.T., while Nunavut does not participate.

But the road to the Scotties begins at home this weekend for the Koltun and Baldwin rinks, with games scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and Sunday at noon, if necessary.

“It’s good practice for us to play against Koltun and then go into N.W.T.’s,” Baldwin told the Star yesterday. “Our whole team is excited about it, getting back into the competitiveness and playing against other female competitive teams.”

For Team Koltun, this weekend will mark the first attempt at earning a berth in the Scotties – a major goal for the long-time junior rink.

“I think it takes a little bit of the pressure off, knowing that we’re going to get to Yellowknife either way,” Koltun admitted today. “But it is definitely an opportunity to get stronger and hopefully win.”

The last Yukon women’s team to participate in the Canadian curling championships was led by Sandra Hatton. Her rink finished 0-11 in Prince George, B.C.

Other members of Hatton’s rink included third Rhonda Horte, second Carrie Stahl, lead Margaret Lea Phillips, and alternate Dawn Moses.

Since then, the N.W.T has been a dominant force in women’s curling circles, with Kerry Galusha’s Yellowknife-based team representing the North at the last nine of 13 Scotties.

Galusha is a member of the Koe curling family dynasty, which includes Brier-level men’s skips, Jamie and Kevin Koe.

In 2007, Baldwin served as an alternate on Galusha’s Scotties team in Lethbridge, Alta.

Now, the 33-year-old Baldwin is aiming to skip a team of her own into the country’s top women’s curling showcase.

She last attempted to lead a team to the Scotties in 2011.

“I think it’s time for the Yukon to shine,” Baldwin said. “I would love to see a Yukon team go represent and show Canada that the Yukon actually exists.”

Baldwin has surrounded herself with some top local talent, including Horte – a member of Hatton’s 2000 rink – at lead.

Other members include second Helen Strong, the mother of standout junior curler Thomas Scoffin, and third Ladene Shaw.

Baldwin’s rink will be coached by Wade Scoffin.

Last month, the foursome became the first Yukon rink to make the playoffs in the young history of the Dominion Club Curling Championships.

“These ladies still wanted to compete,” Baldwin explained of how her team came together. “Seeing that we’ve all curled together, we thought it would be a good fit.”

Koltun’s rink placed fourth at the national junior championships last season. During the summer, the 20-year-old skip and her longtime junior mates Chelsea Duncan and Patty Wallingham added
Ottawa-based curler Andrea Sinclair to their ranks with their eye on both the Scotties and a national junior championship.

While Duncan is no longer junior eligible, her younger sister Jenna is, and the two have been alternating as the rink’s fourth player, depending on junior or women’s play.

On Koltun’s women’s rink, Chelsea plays third, Wallingham is second, and Sinclair is lead. Lindsay Moldowan is the rink’s longtime coach.

“I think it would be huge,” Koltun said of a possible Scotties berth in February.

“Being the first Yukon team in a long time would be really awesome for us, and also for us to reach our dream of getting to the Scotties by the time we’re 20 and 21 – that’s even bigger. We’re just hoping to put our best foot forward and we’ll see what happens. But we definitely won’t stop chasing the dream.”

Koltun spent much of the last two months on the road, playing in World Curling Tour and junior bonspiels.

“I feel like we’re almost there,” Koltun said of her team’s readiness for this moment.

“The roadtrips were definitely good and gave us a lot to work on. We learned a lot of lessons, which will be good in the long run. Hopefully everything will just keep on rolling and we’ll have a good weekend.”

Baldwin said regardless of how the seeding works out this weekend, she is happy that two Yukon teams are heading into battle to attempt to dethrone Team Galusha.

“Of course everyone sees (Galusha) as leading the pack, but I think Sarah’s team and my team are very strong, and when we’re all on, it will be difficult for her to succeed,” she said. “I’m really happy that there’s two teams going (to Yellowknife).”

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