Team Koltun entered their first Women’s World Curling Tour event for the experience. They ended up getting so much more.
The Whitehorse rink went 5-2 for third place and pocketed a cheque for $4,500 at the Valley First Crown of Curling in Kamloops, B.C., over the weekend.
“We went into the competition mostly wanting the experience of it and to get a chance to play women, rather than juniors,” said skip Sarah Koltun, 19. “I don’t want to say we had low expectations, we wanted to qualify (for the playoffs) – that was our primary goal.”
Team Koltun, which includes Chelsea Duncan, Patty Wallingham and Jenna Duncan, lost their opening match 7-2 to Russia’s Victorya Moiseeva. The Koltun team then found its groove with five straight wins. They went 6-4 over B.C.‘s Jen Rusnell, 8-1 over B.C.‘s Lori Olsen, 4-2 over Alberta’s Lisa Eyamie and 7-4 over B.C.‘s Marilou Richter to reach the quarterfinal.
Koltun then downed Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson 8-5 to access the semis.
“We lost our first one and then we got on a roll and started winning all the rest of our games,” said Koltun. “We were really excited to get into the quarterfinals and when we won that we were like, ‘Wow, we can actually compete with these people.’
“It was pretty exciting.”
Team Koltun’s opponent in the semifinal added to the excitement. In the semi, Koltun lost 8-2 to China’s Wang Bingyu, who went on the win the bonspiel.
Bingyu won gold, silver and bronze at the world championships between 2008 and 2011, and captured bronze at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Bingyu is also a four-time gold medal winner at the Pacific Championships.
“We were all super excited to play the team from China because we knew what kind of team they were and their past successes,” said Koltun. “We knew it was going to be a tough game and we couldn’t pull it off.”
Team Koltun coach Lindsay Moldowan was unable to attend the bonspiel, but did her coaching “over the phone,” she said.
“They just played really well,” said Moldowan. “It was the first ladies World Curling Tour event they’ve ever done – they wanted to step it up this year and get the experience of curling at that level. The girls have a lot of experience, but it’s at the junior level.
“Being that it was their first Women’s World Curling Tour spiel, it was a pretty big accomplishment that they went there and played as well as they did and beat the teams that they did. I think that they showed people that, even though they are young, they can curl at that level.”
Making their success all the more special is that, unlike most of the rinks they went against, Team Koltun is rather spread out geographically. While Wallingham and Jenna are in Whitehorse, Koltun is studying at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C. and Chelsea is at University of Alberta in Edmonton.
“It can be challenging at times,” said Koltun. “I got back from this spiel on Monday and I had two midterms yesterday (Tuesday) that I hadn’t studied for because I had no time – because we were curling the whole time. But I make it work and I know Chelsea does too.”
Team Koltun was one of three Yukon rinks competing down south over the weekend.
Whitehorse’s Team Young also won bronze and faced some big names while competing at the Men’s World Curling Tour Flatiron Challenge in Lacombe, Alberta.
“I think we performed fairly well as a Yukon team,” said lead Mitchell Young. “The manager of the club that put on the spiel, Colin Hodgson, did a great job. He said he was glad to have the token Yukon team down to play in his bonspiel and perform really well.
“It was nice to represent the Yukon and show them we can curl.”
The rink, which includes Will Mahoney, Joe Wallingham and Wade Scoffin, went 2-2 in their pool. To advance into the playoffs the Yukoners had to play a latenight tiebreaker against Edmonton’s Justin Sluchinski, winning 4-3.
In the quarterfinal Young went over former Brier champ Kevin Park 7-3.
“It was kind of an upset beating the top-seed team,” said Young.
Team Young then lost in the semifinal 6-2 to the current junior world champion, Parker Konschuh.
The other Yukon rink competing over the weekend was Team Horte at the Michael Izsak Memorial Junior Cash Spiel in Lethbridge, Alberta.
The junior rink of Bailey Horte, Kelly Mahoney, Sian Malloy, and Kelsey Meger went 1-4 at the bonspiel.
Koltun has competed as a skip a record six times at the Canadian Junior Curling Championships and has represented the Yukon at two Canada Winter Games. She has also curled at three Arctic Winter Games, accumulating two silver and a gold.
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