The third time was the charm for the women's curling rink of Cochrane resident Morgan Muise at the national Travelers Curling Club Championship.
Muise and her Calgary Curling Club teammates returned home from Miramichi, NB last Saturday with the coveted national championship they have dreamed of winning for some time.
Spending years upon years of perfecting their game, the team was determined to win the national title. They made the final in Kelowna in 2016 and also represented Alberta in the 2014 championship hosted in Halifax by the Mayflower Curling Club, where Muise grew up curling.
“Our goal the whole time was to get back and win the event,” says Muise, 33, who has been curling for 26 years.
The trophy stays at Curling Canada headquarters in Ottawa and the banner will hang at the Calgary Curling Club next to the likes of those won by Cheryl Bernard. But there’s still something special the teammates get to cherish.
“The coolest part, honestly, is there's this little crest that you get that says "Canadian Champions" on it. See that and knowing that we get to take that home was pretty surreal.”
In six round-robin games, they lost one to the Northwest Territories and they met them again in the semifinals.
“We knew we were going to have to pick it up a notch if we were playing against them again and we did,” says Muise. “We put a little more pressure on them in a few different scenarios. It was a calculated risk, but it paid off for us.”
That set the stage for a final against the Michelle Williams rink of Nova Scotia, which was an added twist for Muise. Williams was Muise’s third for five years in junior curling.
Her team stole in the second end to take a four-point lead and never looked back the rest of the game en route to a 7-3 win.
Muise says these were the best games they’ve curled since forming seven years ago.
“I by no means had any really difficult shots that were game savers or anything like that and that's just indicative of our teammates making everything and making everything easy for me. As a skip, all you can hope for is to have easy shots in an event that's pretty high pressure.”
Muise, along with third Lyndsay Allen, second Sarah Evans and lead Sara Gartner, has been curling out of the Calgary Curling Club for seven years and were originally formed to enter the competitive circuit. The time commitment, though, proved too daunting.
“It's quite a time commitment to be on the road with the teams that are competing at the Grand Slam and the Olympic level, so this event has given us something that we can still compete at quite a high level without having to be travelling every weekend in the winter and fall.”
“This is the top of what we'll ever be competing for. It's pretty cool to put in all this hard work and then get to the event that is the goal and execute and play really well. It's awesome.”
The Travelers only allows a team to advance every other year so to the Muise rink it’s the equivalent of wearing the Alberta emblem in three back-to-back nationals by appearing in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
“The cool thing about Travelers is your not allowed to repeat and it gives more teams the opportunity to enjoy the experience.”
It’s a long, challenging road to make the Alberta final, let alone win the national. You have to win at the club level, then regional level to make the provincials. In that, the Muise Rink had to curl six games in 48 hours to earn the right to represent Alberta.
“There's so much depth to curling in Canada and to be given an opportunity to play for a province and wear the provincial colours and represent your club is really special. We definitely appreciate the opportunity to wear the Alberta crest. It's quite an honour.”
While the team hasn’t debriefed from this year’s Travelers, Muise is pretty sure they will attempt to qualify for the 2020 championship.
“We have a dress that goes around and we have one player left that has to wear the dress at the opening reception. We've been teasing her that she'll have to wear it the next time we go, so it's in the plans.”
For now, though, the pressure eases a bit and it won’t be until around Christmas 2019 that they’ll start to gear up for 2020 playdowns.
Still, the team continues to curl regularly in their Tuesday night league at the Calgary Curling Club. The championship requires teams to play regularly in a league to be eligible.
“This is almost like the end of our season for the year. It’s kind of weird because while everyone else is gearing up to get going we'll be winding it down a little bit.”
Muise is the curling coordinator at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre and resides here.