After the first regional tournament for the 2017-2018 season, the NAIT Ooks’ curling teams have high hopes to return to the nationals. The men’s team is the only team with a losing record so far. Jules Owchar is an Olympic experienced coach as well as the NAIT Ooks head coach.
After winning a silver medal in the ACAC championship last season, the men are not where they wanted to be after the 2017 fall regional. They finished 2-3, in a three-way tie for third place. The team gained insight from this experience and they now know what they have to do to make it back to nationals.
The winter regionals are slated for Jan. 26-28.
Jonah Tobinski is in his third year as the skip for the team.
“We have to play our strategy and play to our strengths,” said Tobinski. “We are a draw heavy team. If we can put a lot of guards in play, a lot of rocks in play and then draw around them, we definitely have the edge”.
Tobinski said the team will need to focus on avoiding slow starts. “Starting the ends off right and having a good set up early,” are essential, he said.
The Ooks will be sharing a practice facility with the Concordia University men’s team, which has already beat the Ooks so far this season in a 6-3 game.
The Concordia Thunder is currently second in the standings with a 3-2 record and the matchup is highly anticipated for the Ooks.
Tobinski and the men’s team have a friendly rivalry with Concordia.
“They’re the biggest competition or like the game we want to win the most,” he said. NAIT’s women’s team finished 4-2 and is tied for second place after the fall regional. They started off the regionals slow but ended strong, winning their final two games by a combined score of 18-0.
This year’s team feels like they are more of family than last years and they hope they’ve come together in time to make a run at another medal.
“Last year’s team didn’t really gel, this year’s team with Rachel [Clark] is a lot better,” said Mackenzie Bertschi, the lead and a third-year member.
Clark is in her first year with the Ooks and is the older sister of the skip, Emily Clark.
“We also have a lot of experience on this team. Every year I’ve been here, we have gone to Nationals,” continued Bertschi. The camaraderie within the team, along with the experience they have, increases their chances of returning to the medal rounds.
“There is just better communication,” said Carina Sartor-Pielak, a second-year player on the team.
The mixed team is a whole new group, except for the team’s third, Jordana Nott. After going 3-2 and finishing third in the standings, the mixed team is off to a better start than they hoped.
J.J. Crowder was a last-minute replacement for the team when someone went down with an injury. He is a first-year player and the team’s second.
“We made a lot of shots and did what we had to do,” said Crowder. “We also learned from our mistakes.”
“There is a little less experience because our skip from last year is gone,” responded Nott, regarding this year’s team.
“We are playing a different game than last year, but we definitely can make nationals.”
– Peter Go