Province's best at Scotties B.C. Tournament of Hearts

Starting with former world champion and defending B.C. champ Kelly Scott of Kelowna, this year’s Scotties B.C. Tournament of Hearts is a who’s who of women’s curling. From the veterans, such as Scott, Marla Mallett of Cloverdale, and Abbotsford’s Allison MacInnes, to the Victoria Curling Centre-based Sarah Wark, Kesa Van Osch, and Shawna Jensen, the 10 teams beginning competition in Prince George on Monday include at least six former provincial champions.

“It’s a very high level,” said Van Osch, a B.C. junior winner two years ago. “Having Kelly Scott up there is going to keep everyone playing their best.”

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Scott has been the top team in B.C. for four straight years, and earned an automatic berth into provincials as defending champion. Her team has won B.C. six times, took Canadian crowns in 2006 and ’07, and also won the world title in ’07.

MacInnes and Patti Knezevic of Prince George earned their spots through their Canadian Team Ranking System points standings, while the other teams, which include Tracey Jones, of Prince George, Amy Gibson of Vancouver, and Karla Thompson, of Kamloops, qualified at one of three open playdowns.

The teams will play a full round-robin format, leading up to four teams qualifying for Page playoffs, which start on Friday.

“There are nine games guaranteed, so there are lots of chances to do well,” said Van Osch, whose team, new this year, includes third Stephanie Baier, second Jessie Sanderson, and lead Carley Sandwith. “We’re all young, we’re all fun and we’re all committed to getting there together.”

Sarah Wark’s squad is also a relatively new mix, as Wark, 27, has already appeared in five provincial playdowns, but it has been several years since she both skipped and threw last rocks.

She has the familiarity of Michelle Allen at third, and Simone Brosseau at second — although Allen took last year off and Brosseau hardly played — but new lead Rachelle Kallechy was a bit of an unknown at the beginning of the season.

“It’s hard when you know three people work well together, it’s hard to find that missing piece,” Wark said. “Rachelle fits in perfectly.”

Rather than spend their time travelling to cashspiels, the Wark team has been mainly training, and not just throwing rocks at the broom. Changing up their strategy, the women have used practices to concentrate on simulated situations they might find in games.

“We’ve been working very hard these past few months to just get good at what we do,” Wark said.

For a super young team like Jensen’s foursome, Wark said the experience will be incredible.

“The experience she’ll get from this is going to put her in a good place for 10 years.”

Jensen, third Merit Thorson, and Tatianna Simicic, who has moved from second to lead, finished third at the recent B.C. Junior playdowns in Chilliwack. For the women’s provincials, Jade Shultis has joined the team as second.

“I never expected to qualify,” said Jensen, who still has a year level of junior eligibility remaining. “I just want to focus on the shots, and enjoy the experience.”

In the first draw, at 11 a.m. on Monday, Wark opens against MacInnes, Jensen plays Knezevic, and Van Osch goes against Gibson.

sepp@timescolonist.com

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