By Martin Cleary
Four years ago, Katrina Frlan, Erika Wainwright, Isabella McLean and Lauren Norman were curlers without a team.
But thanks to a friend of a friend, the 12-year-olds were slowly drawn together and a curling rink was formed for the 2019-20 season.
One of the first items of business for the team was to start to build its identity. The young girls created a Twitter account to give them a social media presence. As a way of including everyone in its team Twitter address, the first initial of their first names (K, E, I and L) were used to create @TeamLIKECurls.
But when it came to competitions, the rink was required to be identified as Team Frlan. Whether it’s Team Frlan or @TeamLIKECurls, every rink on the Ontario women’s U18 curling circuit knows this group of four girls from the Huntley Curling Club in Carp is writing an impressive resume.
The next stop for Team Frlan will be its first participation in the Canadian women’s U18 curling championship Feb. 5-11 in Timmins, ON.
Team Frlan qualified to be the No. 1 Ontario representative last weekend at the provincial U18 championships in Oshawa by posting an undefeated 6-0 record to win the main championship.
Emilie Padbury of the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club will skip the second Ontario entry at nationals, after winning the second final. In both finals, Ava Acres of the Ottawa RCMP Curling Club finished as the finalist, losing to Team Frlan 9-8 in the first final for the provincial title and to Team Padbury 8-6 in the second final.
But Acres will be heading to at least one national competition this year as her rink defeated Team Frlan 6-4 last month in Guelph in the Ontario trials final for the Canada Winter Games Feb. 18 to March 5 in Prince Edward Island.
“I’ve never been to nationals,” said Frlan, a Grade 10 student at All Saints Catholic High School and one of the youngest curlers at the Ontario championship at 15. “I’m definitely excited to go.
“It will be fun. We can do well. We won Ontarios. If we keep doing well, we have a chance.”
At the Ontario championships, Team Frlan won its preliminary pool with a 4-0 record to advance automatically to the playoffs, where the west-Ottawa squad posted a pair of one-point victories. At the 2022 provincials, Team Frlan was third.
Team Frlan shaded Team Padbury 4-3 in the semifinals and held on to defeat Team Acres 9-8 in the championship game. After five ends of the scheduled eight-end final, Team Frlan led 8-3 and seemed to be comfortably in the driver’s seat.
But Team Acres rebounded with three points in the sixth end and two in the seventh to bring the title match to the final end at 8-8. Frlan held the hammer and made her final stone count for one and the provincial victory.
“Honestly, it felt surreal. I couldn’t believe it at first. I wasn’t sure we had made the shot. It was crazy. I was proud how we battled,” Frlan explained in a phone interview this week.
Frlan and her teammates did get somewhat concerned when Team Acres mounted a comeback, but they tried to remain calm, huddled with coach Andy Broder and pulled together.
“I said to try to focus on one shot at a time and don’t think about the championship,” Frlan said about her message to her teammates. “We focused, didn’t get ahead of ourselves and kept it simple.
“We had our coach on the ice to help us. He said ‘you can do it.’ He kept it all positive.”
Team Frlan was familiar with most of the rinks at the provincial championship as it competed against them in the first three of four tournaments in the Trillium Tour series.
The Trillium Tour started in Ottawa and Team Frlan won that event before tying for fifth place during the Stu Sells competition and placing third in Kingston. Team Frlan entered the provincial championship in third place in the overall standings, while Acres was three points better in second spot.
“We’ve been together for so long. We’re one of the few junior teams that has been together for a long time,” Frlan said. “I talk to them (her teammates) every day. We’re motivated. Our coach has really helped us improve.”
When Frlan speaks about her curling experiences, she does so with plenty of enthusiasm. That’s quite a different attitude from when she was introduced to the sport nine years ago.
“My dad curled and he wanted me to try the sport,” she added. “I didn’t like it. I didn’t like what I saw on TV. I thought it was boring to watch and it didn’t interest me.”
But once she invested some time into curling, she loved the strategy aspect and her enthusiasm for the game started growing.
That love of the game continues to develop and it has taken her to her first Canadian championship.
CANADA’S WOMEN’S HOCKEY TEAM PLAYING FOR FISU GOLD
The University of Calgary’s Robin Mason of Ottawa and the University of Ottawa’s Aidan Kirkham of Kanata skied the opening and anchor legs of the men’s cross-country skiing 4×7.5-kilometre relay as Canada placed ninth at the FISU World Winter University Games in Lake Placid, New York.
The Canadian team finished in one hour, 22 minutes and 23.9 seconds in the 13-country relay on Friday and was 5:22.4 behind gold-medalist France.
In the women’s 3×5-kilometre relay, Carleton University’s Bronwyn Williams of Chelsea, PQ., started and finished her anchor leg in 12th place. The Canadian team stopped the clock in 49:48.4 and was 5:58.8 behind the top team from Finland.
Canada advanced to Saturday’s women’s hockey gold-medal game on Saturday with a 6-1 semi-final victory today over Slovakia. Goalkeeper Aurélie Dubuc of the University of Ottawa and Trois-Rivières, PQ., didn’t dress for the game.
On Wednesday, Dubuc turned aside 33 of 34 shots to propel Canada to a 2-1 victory over USA to close the preliminary round with a perfect 5-0 record and keep the host Americans out of the medal round.
Greg Bowles, the University of Ottawa women’s assistant hockey coach and head scout, is the head coach for the Canadian women’s team.
The FISU World Winter University Games continue Saturday with medal events in alpine skiing, biathlon, curling, hockey, short-track speed skating and snowboard.
On Sunday, the world’s largest university sports festival ends with the men’s hockey medal matches, the cross-country skiing distance races, snowboarding’s parallel slalom races and the closing ceremony in the evening.
HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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