One of the top female curling teams in the province is hoping it pays to be a member.
The Okotoks Curling Club’s own Team Bakker will have home ice advantage and hometown support as it shoots for gold at the Alberta U18 Championships, March 1-4.
“We’ve all really been looking forward to having it so close, especially me,” said Okotokian Rhiley Quinn, Team Bakker’s second. “The rink has been somewhere where I’ve played for my whole curling career, it’s really close to home.
“It’s really awesome to compete for something so high up, such great competition right at home.”
Team Bakker – featuring skip Ryleigh Bakker, third Hannah Phillips, Quinn, lead Hannah Airey and coach Allison Earl — is a member of the Okotoks Curling Club and play in the Wednesday Evening Ladies League alongside Olympic bronze medallist Shannon Kleibrink.
“It’s always great to be supported by the home club,” Earl said. “Okotoks is a tremendous community and a tremendous curling community and we’re very lucky to be able to play at home.
“It’s a great team. I love working with the girls, they’re committed, they work hard, they’re incredibly coachable and we have a strong parent group.”
The squad made it through the backdoor to provincials at a stacked southern playdowns, overcoming several hurdles to qualify through the C-event.
“Southerns was a battle,” said Quinn, a 2017 graduate of Holy Trinity Academy. “I had an injury during southerns and my team played with three for a couple of games.
“It was a great experience for them and for me to get to watch and see how we can improve, what we can do better for provincials.”
Team Bakker, one of the top point getters on the Alberta Junior Curling Tour, has provincial experience on its side having played in both the U18 and U21 championships last season. They finished as silver medallists at the U18 level.
“It’s definitely been a goal of ours to get back to where we were last year,” Quinn said. “There is such great competition, it’s such a great event to play in and to be a part of.
“It has definitely been in the back of our minds to get back there and finish what we started.”
The foursome has been intact for two seasons now and has seen the chemistry and team dynamic steadily increase over time.
“The beginning of teams, you’re finding each other out, learning how to work with each other,” Quinn added. “For the past two years we’ve gotten really close, we’re all good friends and it’s a really great time on the ice.”
They won’t be the only ones comfortable on Okotoks ice.
Turner Valley’s Sydney Libbus, the daughter of Okotoks Curling Club ice manager Mike Libbus, has joined forces with the Fairview based Team Whitney for the championships.
The Saville Centre’s Abby Marks comes into the competition as strong contenders and defending provincial champions while Airdrie’s Jessica Whytrychowski brings the top team on the Alberta Junior Curling Tour into the event.
The opening draw on March 1 sees Team Whitney lock horns with Whytrychowski while Team Bakker squares off with the Julia Bakos rink out of Edmonton.
On the men’s side there will be a new champion crowned.
Defending provincial winner Jacob Libbus’ Oilfields Curling Club rink did not qualify for the event. Strong contenders in Okotoks include the 2016 provincial gold medalist Ryan Jacques out of Edmonton as well as top qualifier out of southerns Cole Ector and the top team on tour skipped by St. Albert’s Nathan Molberg.
For more information on the event go to albertacurling.ab.ca