Okotoks skip a Scotties favourite
Curling: Shannon Kleibrink ranked first at provincials in Lethbridge
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013 06:00 am
An Okotoks skip is optimistic a season of consistent play will translate to a crucial victory on Alberta’s biggest stage.
If Shannon Kleibrink’s string of performances on the World Curling Tour (WCT) is any indication it could be a golden weekend for the Okotokian at the 2013 Alberta Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Jan. 23-27 at the Lethbridge Curling Club.
“We’ve had a good year. We haven’t managed to actually win anything,” Kleibrink said with a laugh on Sunday. “But we have been close in a few events and we are hoping this is the one where we finally breakthrough.”
Team Kleibrink sits fifth on the WCT money list for 2012-13, earning three top-three finishes this season. More importantly they are the fifth best Canadian women’s team on the Canadian Tour Ranking System (CTRS) with 106 points thus far. The metric is used to allocate four of the six spots for the 2013 Canadian Curling Trials.
“It’s important for the Olympic trials process,” Kleibrink said. “That means collectively we’ve had a lot of points this season.”
Such success has given the squad a leg up at the Scotties, where Team Kleibrink is the top ranked team heading into competition after qualifying through the CTRS points system in December.
However, Kleibrink insisted the ranking advantage is nothing to get too fired up over.
“Nothing except for that you get a bye,” she said.
“We do get the advantage that it’s only three games you have to win out of the A-event. Other than that it’s an even playing field after that.”
Kleibrink, a four-time winner of the women’s provincial championship, will be seeking a fifth title with a slightly different group of teammates this go around.
Longtime third Amy Nixon departed in the offseason to form her own rink resulting in Bronwen Webster’s move from second to third. Former Junior curling standout Kalynn Park has joined the team at second, while Chelsea Matson has remained at lead.
Despite the realignment, it’s been business as usual for the Okotoks skip.
“It was pretty seamless because I’ve played with Bronwen for so long and she’s an experienced back-end player, she’s stepped into the third role with no problem,” Kleibrink said. “Kalynn Park is just a great second.”
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“We’ve had success right off the get go.”
Finding that success in Lethbridge against a deep pool of 11 other foursomes should prove the biggest challenge of the season. Seven of the top 13 teams on the CTRS call Alberta home.
“There’s so many good teams now and that’s the adjustment you have to make,” Kleibrink said. “When you look down the lineup at provincial Scotties there’s 11 other teams that are just as good as us. Historically, that’s not always the case, but it certainly is now.”
Notable absentees at the 2013 Scotties are 2010 Olympic silver medalist Cheryl Bernard and defending Alberta Scotties and national champion Heather Nedohin, who defeated Kleibrink twice en route to hoisting the provincial trophy last year.
However, there’s considerable new talent entering the fray in their stead, including two-time university champion and world junior silver medalist Laura Crocker.
Other contenders this week are 2010 provincial champion Valerie Sweeting out of Edmonton, 2001 winner Renee Sonnenberg and last year’s runner up Jessie Kaufman.
“You look at a couple teams that are missing, but the teams that have replaced them are just as good,” Kleibrink said. “Krocker from Edmonton is an up and coming team and we expect them to be tough.”
Kleibrink, an Alberta Scotties champion in 1994, 2004, 2008 and 2011, is preparing for every possibility in Lethbridge having been through the provincial draw on countless occasions.
“You always go in with the hope that you will win, but the reality is I’ve been there I don’t know 20 times and won (four),” she said. “There’s so many other good teams and anything can happen. It’s just whoever gets hot on the weekend.”
She will have the benefit of familiar surroundings this week.
Kleibrink was raised in the Lethbridge area and still considers the provincial venue her home rink.
“I’m from down there so that’s nice it will be a familiar venue and there will be lots of friends and family there watching,” Kleibrink said. “It should be great ice. We’re looking forward to it.”
Kleibrink has a bye through the first draw and begins her Scotties tournament on Jan. 23.
To keep track of live draws and results from Lethbridge go to www.2013albertascotties.com.