Yukon’s 13-year absence from the Scotties Tournament of Hearts will come to an end next month.
Whitehorse’s Team Koltun punched their ticket for the Scotties with an upset over Yellowknife’s Team Galusha at the 2014 N.W.T./Yukon Ladies Championships on Monday in Yellowknife.
Having won the Yukon Junior Women Curling Championships last month, Sarah Koltun will be the first skip to compete in the junior nationals and women’s nationals in the same season, as far as the Canadian Curling Association can tell.
“It’s very exciting,” said Koltun, 20. “We’re all so excited. It’s a dream come true for all of us. For it to happen when we’re all so young, it’s amazing.”
“I don’t even know what to say, I’m still in shock,” said Koltun third Chelsea Duncan. “Sarah and I have been curling together for nine years and it’s amazing how far we’ve come and now we’re getting the chance to go to the Scotties.”
Following round-robin play between Yukon’s two teams and N.W.T.‘s two teams over the weekend in Yellowknife, Team Koltun and Team Galusha were tied with 5-1 records, each taking a win over the other.
Team Koltun won the decisive tiebreaker 6-4 Monday morning, scoring two in the ninth end and running Galusha out of rocks in the 10th to claim the two territories’ one spot at the Canadian women’s championship.
“The game could have gone either way, but Sarah made a couple nice shots in the last end of the game and won her team the game,” said skip Kerry Galusha. “I wish those girls all the best.”
Galusha has had a stranglehold on N.W.T./Yukon berth at the nationals for most of the last decade. She has made 11 appearances at the Scotties (once as an alternate) going back to 1998, including five out of the last six years. She has twice finished with a 4-7 record to place in the middle of the pack.
Team Koltun, which includes second Patty Wallingham and lead Andrea Sinclair, will be the first Yukon rink to play at the Scotties since Whitehorse’s Team Hatton in 2000.
The Koltun rink actually went to the Yellowknife playdowns as Yukon’s No. 2 ranked team after placing second behind Whitehorse’s Team Baldwin at the Yukon Women’s Curling Championship last month.
Team Baldwin – Nicole Baldwin, third Ladene Shaw, second Helen Strong and lead Rhonda Horte – finished in Yellowknife with a 2-4 record with a pair of wins over N.W.T. 2, Team Mitchell of Inuvik.
Both games between the Yukon teams in Yellowknife ended in one-point scores – 7-6 and 6-5 – in favour of Koltun.
“We had a pretty good weekend,” said Koltun. “We had a few struggles here and there, but at the end of the day we were pretty proud of how we performed.”
“It was a hard-fought battle for everyone,” said Galusha. “The two Yukon teams were very strong this year and we were happy to see the competition because the last two years we haven’t seen anyone from the Yukon.”
“Last year we were supposed to go to Whitehorse to compete and there were no teams,” she added. “We bought our tickets and everything to compete and the Yukon couldn’t get a team together to compete.”
With their successes, Koltun, Wallingham and Sinclair have a couple busy weeks coming up.
Koltun won her eighth consecutive title at the Yukon Junior Curling Championships with her junior team on Dec. 21.
The win will send the skip to her eighth Canadian Junior Curling Championships at the end of the month, which is a record for the national event. It will be the final appearance at the junior nationals for Koltun, who will age-out after this season.
Her team placed fourth at last year’s junior nationals.
Duncan, who aged-out at the end of last season, and Koltun set the current record of seven appearances at the junior nationals last year.
Koltun’s junior rink is Wallingham as third, second Jenna Duncan – Chelsea’s little sister – and Sinclair as lead.
“The other girls have juniors, for me, this is my one thing,” said Chelsea of the Scotties. “It’s been my goal for a while, but mainly for this season and we accomplished it, so it’s an awesome feeling.
“It’s a pretty good accomplishment for our first year as a women’s team.”
“I’m just really proud of my team, how we came out and performed,” said Kotlun. “When it came down to it, the girls were making their shots and making it easier for me. We just had a good weekend and we’re very proud of what we’ve done and how we represented the Yukon. We’re hoping we can carry this momentum into the juniors and the Scotties as well.”
The junior nationals will take place in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, Jan. 18-26, followed by the Scotties in Montreal, Que., Feb. 1-9.
“They’re young, they’re energetic, they’re ambitious,” said Galusha. “I’m sure they will become the sweethearts of the Scotties this year because everyone loves an underdog and a young team.”
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