It’s not fair to call it beginner’s luck – Tracy Strecker and her curling teammates are not exactly newcomers to the sport, with decades on experience between them – but as a team, they were relatively green when they first stepped onto the ice at senior women’s provincial championships last month in Chilliwack.
While many teams stick together for years, Team Andrews – which includes skip Leanne Andrews; third Jenn Routliffe, Strecker, who plays second; and lead Cathy Chapman – only came together in December, Strecker explained.
But a lack of experience together didn’t hurt them at the provincial showdown, as the team won seven straight games to end the five-day, 10-team tournament, culminating in a 9-7 win over a top-seeded team skipped by veteran curler Mary-Anne Arsenault.
“Personality-wise, we all just hit it off right away, and we gelled almost immediately,” said Strecker, who curls out of both Peace Arch Curling Club in White Rock, as well as Langley.
“The (other) three have played in league-play together, and Jenn and Leanne have played together for over 20 years, but (December) was the first time I’d met them. But we just really get along, and that makes a huge difference, I think.
“We’d see other teams getting frustrated, or getting down on each other, but we don’t do that. We try to pick each other up, and I think that’s really helped us. It was all very positive (at provincials), and it only made us curl better. You aren’t going to curl better when someone’s upset with you.”
Strecker also credited Andrews – who curls out of Langley – for helping her improve her own game.
“Leanne is really fantastic, and she gave me some tips on things I could improve… she’s been wonderful in helping me improve my game, for sure.”
With the win, the team qualified for Canadian Senior Women’s Curling Championships, which are scheduled for December at a yet-to-be-determined location.
For Strecker, who curled as a teenager and then took up the sport again about 10 years ago, the Chilliwack tournament was her first-ever crack at a provincial title, and she admits there were some nerves at the start.
“It was stressful – I had never been in a competition of that calibre before – but it was great, it was very enjoyable,” she said.
After losing their first game – “quite badly,” Strecker said – they gathered together, chalked up the loss to nervousness, and refocused for the remaining round-robin games.
As a low seed in Group B, there were few expectations for the team, she added, which took the pressure off and perhaps helped them catch a few opponents by surprise; the team won its next seven straight.
“We weren’t even expected to even make the playoffs, truthfully, let alone win it,” she said.
“Not only did we surprise ourselves, but we certainly surprised other people, too. We definitely had some nerves, but being the underdog, the pressure is off a little bit because there are no expectations, but once you start winning, it becomes really fun.”
With the B.C. title under their brooms, the team will now break for the spring and summer, though Strecker noted that three of the four will compete at the upcoming BC 55+ Games (formerly the BC Seniors Games); Chapman is not eligible to compete, as she is only 54 years old.
When the new curling season begins, the group will find itself scattered across different home leagues in the Lower Mainland, while Andrews, Strecker said, is moving to the Okanagan.
While that could hamper some teams, the Andrews-skipped group has already shown it doesn’t require much time together in order to succeed.
“We’ll travel up there a few times to practice together, and she’ll come down a few times. We’ll try to get into some bonspiels and we’ll keep up with our league play and just go from there,” Strecker said.
“It’s all fairly new, and I don’t know that we really anticipated making it this far, so we don’t really have a game plan yet. But we’ll just go hard (in the fall) and keep our fingers crossed.”