An Airdrie-based curling team is heading to Timmins, Ont. in a few weeks to defend their national crown.
Team Plett, comprised of skip Myla Plett, lead Allie Iskiw, second Chloe Fediuk, and third Alyssa Nedohin, recently captured the women's U18 Optimist International Alberta Provincial Championship in Cochrane on Jan. 8, and are now heading to Ontario to vie for Canadian gold from Feb. 3 to 12.
Having won the U18 women's Canadian title last year, Team Plett will be looking to claim their second consecutive national gold medal, with an admittedly bigger target on their backs this time around.
Though none of the rink's players live in Airdrie, (Plett lives in Carstairs while the other three live in Sherwood Park or the Edmonton area) their head coach Blair Lenton is a resident of the city. He acknowledged many teams will be out to beat Team Plett next month, given their successful run in 2022.
As well, there will be more teams than previously, as the field for the national tournament has been increased to 21 teams.
“Going to nationals, we sort of already do [have a target on our backs] because we won it last year,” Lenton said. “A lot of teams know us. We know, just in our pool alone, there are three teams who were there last year.”
According to Lenton, the Airdrie-based team's recent provincial title was just the latest in a string of successive victories this season. Remarkably, he claimed Team Plett has won every bonspiel they've entered this season except one.
And at the only bonspiel the rink didn't claim gold in – the U20 Excel Cup – they finished with the silver.
In fact, Team Plett had actually secured their spot at the national championships as one of Alberta's two representatives back in November, though Lenton said the win at provincials solidified their status as the province's top-seeded team, rather than the second-seeded team.
“It’s sort of been a pretty incredible year, actually,” the coach said. “Every event we’ve entered, we’ve made the final, and we’ve only lost one final. It’s unheard of, really. Everyone is just playing so well and we’re growing so much as a team, and developing. We just have to keep riding the wave.”
Plett, who travels from Carstairs to Airdrie weekly to work on her shots with Lenton at the Airdrie Curling Club, believes the reason for the team's success is the strong sense of camaraderie and respect the four members all have for each other. Despite living in separate communities, she said they manage to play or train together most weeks, whether at practices or bonspiels.
After the team lost two members from 2022, (Airdronian Lauren Miller, the team's former alternate, aged out of U18 last year, while another member is now curling for the University of Alberta), Team Plett reinforced the roster with the addition of Iskiw this season.
“We’re all great friends on and off the ice, so there are no issues, back talk, or stuff like that,” Plett said. “Everyone respects each other and everyone is friends. It just makes for a well-bonded team that can focus on the game instead of things going on in the background.”
In addition to the upcoming U18 nationals, Plett said the team is also going to represent Alberta at the upcoming 2023 Canada Winter Games in February, which will take place in Prince Edward Island. The Grade 12 student-athlete said she's eager to experience the multi-sport extravaganza next month, having watched some of the curling at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in nearby Red Deer.
“It’s been a goal of mine personally for four years,” she said, mentioning that her teammate, Nedohin, competed for Alberta at the 2019 Games and still talks about the experience.
“[Nedohin] talked about it when she joined the team, as it was her goal to go again. Just watching her have that experience, I wanted to experience it for myself too. Especially with this team, because it’s a fun group to be with.”
Lenton said it's a testament to the girls' dedication to curling that they've managed to qualify for two national events in the same season.
“We set some really good goals for this year – some big ones,” he said. “The first goal we wanted to reach was being Team Alberta for the Canada Winter Games. Now, it’s just continuing to hit target two, which is being Team Alberta for [nationals].”
Before heading to Timmins, Lenton said the squad still has one more provincial bonspiel on their schedule to qualify for – the U20 provincial championships, which take place Jan. 24 to 29 in Edmonton. He said if they win that competition, Team Plett would also earn the right to represent Alberta at the U20 national championships later this season.