Casey Scheidegger entered her first Grand Slam curling event as a skip with plenty of potential. She showed the stacked field at the Canadian Open that she belongs at the top level.
Scheidegger beat top names like Jennifer Jones, Rachel Homan, Val Sweeting and others this past week before topping Swiss skip Silvana Tirinzoni in the final. Not bad for a foursome that has never made it out of provincial playdowns before.
“We just wanted to play well and make lots of shots,” a modest Scheidegger said Monday from Lethbridge, Alta.
Scheidegger and her team of third Cary-Anne McTaggart, second Jessie Scheidegger and lead Stephanie Enright edged Tirinzoni 5-4 to win $30,000. They are also brimming with confidence as they prepare for the Alberta playdowns later this month.
“To play against some of the world’s best and to beat them is obviously really exciting and gives us a huge confidence boost,” Scheidegger said.
The 28-year-old skip qualified for the 16-team women’s field in North Battleford, Sask., after posting three victories on the World Curling Tour this season. They had played some of the top teams in the past, but never at a Tier One event.
Scheidegger opened the triple-knockout competition by dropping a close decision to Kelsey Rocque before bouncing back with a rout of Homan. A one-point loss to Anna Hasselborg knocked Scheidegger down to the C bracket and she didn’t lose after that.
Wins over Kerri Einarson and Rocque sent Scheidegger to the playoff round. Once there, she dispatched Jones, Sweeting and finally Tirinzoni, stealing a point in the final end when the veteran skip was light on a draw to the four-foot.
The victory also gave the team a berth in the Champions Cup this April.
“They’ve embraced a whole bunch of stuff that we’ve been trying to integrate with that team this year,” said Alberta high-performance coach Paul Webster. “Both from a technical standpoint in terms of how they’re throwing the rock but also how they’re calling the game and how they’re managing the scoreboard. They truly are a coach’s dream.
“They’ve opened their minds. You almost have to be careful what you say to them because they’re going to embrace it and do it. They’re just a really cool team to work with in that respect.”
Scheidegger said her team â€” in its second season with the current lineup â€” has improved its focus and attention to detail while refining some strategic parts of the game. They recently started working with Webster as well as Carolyn McRorie, who won Olympic silver with Cheryl Bernard at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
In addition to the pressure of performing in a packed arena on national television, Scheidegger also had to make the adjustment to high-level arena ice from regular curling club facilities.
“They looked after their part of the equation,” Webster said. “They came in extremely well practised and well trained and had some very defined things they wanted to do in terms of a gameplan and achieved those.
“The nice thing is the breaks came their way and they got some big wins.”
The Alberta playdowns are set for Jan. 25-29 at the St. Albert Curling Club. Sweeting and Scheidegger are two of the big names in a field that also includes veteran skip Shannon Kleibrink, who won bronze at the 2006 Turin Olympics.
The teams will catch a break though as Chelsea Carey is not in the field since she has a direct entry into the national championship as defending champion. And Rocque will not be playing due to a timing conflict with the Winter Universiade event in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Scheidegger, meanwhile, has jumped to fifth on the Canadian Team Ranking System list and rose to 15th on the WCT’s Order of Merit by winning the third major of the Slam season. The Olympic pre-trials were initially on her radar but if she keeps up her strong play, she may get a direct entry into the main Trials this December in Ottawa.
“What they’ve done is open up everyone’s eyes to what this team can do,” Webster said.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press