Alberta and Waterloo to face off for top seed at FISU Qualifier

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Curling
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Curling is often a tumultuous game full of twists and turns.

And to the thrill of fan-packed bleachers at the RA Centre of Curling Excellence in Ottawa, Ont.,  during Draw 4 of women’s play from the 2022 FISU Qualifiers quite literally had it all on Friday.

There were momentum swings, comebacks, unparalleled shot-making, tense nerves, clenched teeth and even a fan with a big drum.

Stealing the show in an already wild afternoon of curling were the Waterloo Warriors (4-0; Katie Ford), who managed to remain perfect after defeating the New Brunswick Reds (0-4; Jenna Campbell) by a 10-7 score. Though it’s a comfortable-looking win merely by a glance, the Warriors trailed 7-3 at the fifth end break.

“Tricky, resilient and tough,” described Ford after the match that now locks the Warriors in a tie for first place atop the women’s standings. “When we hit the fifth end and it was 7-3, it was kind of just like ‘You know what, it’s a fresh five ends. Regroup, ditch some rocks and we pulled together and figured it out.’”

Despite locking up a semifinal berth at a minimum, Ford is keeping her expectations grounded.

“I’m not even thinking about a final right now,” said Ford. “We still have Alberta next and they’re an amazing team.”

The Alberta Pandas (4-0; Abby Marks) are the other squad with an unblemished record to this point who share the interim top spot in women’s play. Coincidentally, they’ll face the Waterloo Warriors at 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning (all times Eastern)  to decide who clinches first place in round-robin play and earns a bye to the final.

The Panda’s path to perfection was nearly uprooted by the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (1-3; Isabelle Ladouceur) in Draw 4, but the Pandas managed to close out a 6-5 victory when the Golden Hawks’ 10th end draw for the win slipped deep, giving the Pandas a steal of one and the victory.

Marks and her Panda foursome know they could have just as easily been on the losing side of the affair, but recognized that a strong team effort can often win the day.

“It was a tight one,” remarked Marks. “Really nerve-wracking. I’m just thankful for my team, especially Catherine (Clifford). She played lights out this game.”

With a big game looming Saturday morning and the spoils of a first-place berth on the line for the victor, Marks remains cool as a cucumber.

“We’ll keep playing the same way,” said Marks when asked about how they’ll approach tomorrow morning’s game. “We’re going to keep it consistent, and hopefully it goes our way.”

With Waterloo and U of A both locking up at least semifinal berths, there remains only one more playoff spot to contend for, and the Regina Cougars (2-2; Krystal Englot) made big headway in chasing that spot with a commanding 10-2 victory over the Dalhousie Tigers (1-3; Lyndsey Burgess).

The Cougars’ pressure was relentless, with nine of their total points coming via steals.

“We knew we’d have to play hard out there,” said Englot, who recognises that every game is a must-win at this point. “We had two losses yesterday and regrouped this morning. We got together, decided what we needed to fix and it’s been working out for us.”

A Draw 5 win Saturday morning for the Cougars would secure the final semifinal berth where they’ll take on the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks. A loss could bring tie-breakers into the mix or even outright elimination.

In Friday afternoon men’s action, the Dalhousie Tigers (3-0; Owen Purcell) stayed perfect and rose to the interim top of the standings with a 10-3 win over the Alberta Golden Bears (2-1; Ryan Jacques) while the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (Sam Mooibroek; 1-2) cruised to a 12-3 victory over the Toronto Metropolitan Bold (1-2; Weston Oryniak) and the Regina Cougars (1-2; Rylan Kleiter) downed the Queen’s Golden Gaels (1-2; Owen Purdy) by a 10-3 score.

The 2022 FISU Qualifier will continue on Saturday with draws at 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. with the men’s and women’s semifinal following at 7:30 p.m.

Both men’s and women’s finals are set for Sunday at 11 a.m.

Linescores, team rosters, draw schedules and more information are available at curling.ca/2022fisuqualifier/