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Pressure on from the first rock

Lakeland College to host ACAC championships, but still need to qualify.

With only three returning curlers from last year, the Lakeland Rustlers head into the fall regional tournament carrying the pressure of trying to crack the top three at the end of the season for a spot in nationals with an inexperienced roster.

Eleven new curlers will join Branden Cookson, Matt Taylor and Kaylee Duncan after a competitive tryout that required two sessions for head coach Dusty Makichuk to narrow down his choices from 23 to 14.

Now with the first of two tournaments before the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) championships, which will be hosted by Lakeland College this year, there isn’t much time to figure out who plays well with who, as only the top four in the standings make the final tournament, and the hosts are guaranteed a spot.

“The challenge is to put them all together with their abilities,” said Makichuk.

“And we have a short time to order them to get all their abilities in place so who fits in where, and then of course their is personalty and everything else. After practices and tryouts I have my teams set to a point, but the biggest thing this weekend is we will figure out where we stand against everybody else.

”Cookson, who skipped the men’s team last year, will move over to skip the mixed team this season and will be joined by Duncan, who was the third on the women’s team last year and will take up the same position with the mixed team in an attempt to make one experienced squad. Taylor will not control the men’s team along with three rookies, while the women’s team is completely brand new, as Makichuk said he hopes that team will stay together for a long run and grow as group if they all remain at Lakeland. It leaves the Rustlers feeling confident heading into the fall regional, even if some of their teams have never experienced a tournament in the ACAC before.

“We are feeling actually confident,” said Makichuk. “We feel confident a lot of times, but we are actually sending three strong teams from what I see so far in the little time I’ve had with them. But we’ll probably be doing some tweaking as the weekend goes.

”Unlike other sports in the ACAC, curling does not grant the host team a spot in the championship tournament, so Lakeland’s three teams will have to earn their way there, leaving a possibility that the Rustlers could play hosts without one of their teams in the mix. Last season, Lakeland’s men’s team finished second in the standings, while the women finished fourth, both qualifying for the ACAC championships. However, both teams failed to make it to nationals after finishing in fourth place. A similar situation happened in 2013-14, when the mixed and women’s team finished fourth, missing out on a top three position needed to qualify for the national tournament.

So Makichuk said the pressure is definitely on Lakeland to figure out their teams quickly, as after the fall regional, which is being hosted in Red Deer, there is only the winter regional tournament at NAIT remaining to qualify for the ACAC championships, which doesn’t give a lot of room to play catchup in a short curling season.

“The pressure is huge right off the bat,” said Makichuk. “It’s a long weekend. We get there and we never leave the rink until late at night, because of all three teams there is always someone playing at least one draw. So you live there. And you evaluate now whose got the stamina and other factors, as those will all come into play. That’s when you really get to see team chemistry.

Andrew Brethauer
The Lloydminster Source
www.lloydminstersource.com

Posted:  November 24, 2016






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