There was only one team that stood in the way of Team Bakos from winning gold at the U18 Optimist Provincial Championship and they may well meet them again at the nationals.
With Sherwood Park hosting the nationals, Apr. 1-7, both the gold and silver Alberta medallists from last weekend in Medicine Hat. Cochrane's Julianna MacKenzie is lead for Team Bakos and it will be her second time on the national curling stage this season following an appearance at the Canada Winter Games.
After beating the Jessica Wytrychowski rink early in the draw, Team Bakos faced them twice more and lost. All three were close matchups and the gold medal game came down to the very last rock.
"They were definitely tough competition and we had some good hard fought battles but it came down to the last rock," says MacKenzie. "We knew we were both going, so it wasn't so heartbreaking but we did our best."
The Bakos rink, which also includes skip Julia Bakos, third Quinn Prodaniuk and second Kim Bonneau, won their first three games, including a 7-6 win over the Wytrychowski rink. Wytrychowski won their next game which set the stage for a rematch of the two teams, which Wytrychowski won 4-2. Bakos won their next game against Cochrane's Cinnamon rink and that lead to the final gold medal matchup.
"We weren't sure what to expect going into the event but once we got closer we got really excited when we realized we could go to nationals. It was unreal."
This will be the second time MacKenzie has been on the national U18 curling stage this season with the Bakos team. They represented Alberta in the Canada Winter Games.
"I have some experience now coming into this and I know what to expect a little more and I'm a little more confident going into it. It will be a really great experience."
Beyond the competition, it will be a chance to catch up with friends. The Bakos team met three of the teams competing in Sherwood Park at the winter games.
"They're all really good teams and they're nice to play against and it will be fun to see them again. Friendships are made and it will be a good time."
Now there's only a two-week window to prepare for the nationals. Those preparations don't exclusively include training; it's also a time to rest and recover from the provincials.
"We're a little crunched for time but we'll get ready. Rest and recovery are really important. You have to be mentally and physically prepared."
Cochrane's Cinnamon Rink also competed in the U18 provincials. They had a respectable 3-3 record and were knocked out of the competition by the Bakos rink.