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Steady Sturmay and hometown Alberta rink stealing the show at the Scotties

Selena Sturmay Selena Sturmay - The Canadian Press

CALGARY – There were plenty of captivating storylines entering this year’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary. 

Jennifer Jones’ Scotties swan song, Kerri Einarson’s drive for five and Rachel Homan’s historically dominant season were the leading headlines coming into the annual bonspiel. 

But with the round-robin drawing to a close, the hometown Alberta rink has slowly stolen the show. 

Edmonton’s Team Selena Sturmay improved to a perfect 6-0 Wednesday morning following an improbable 10-9 comeback win over Northern Ontario’s Team Krista McCarville at Winsport Arena.

The foursome would later drop their first game of the tournament in upset fashion, falling 8-7 to Newfoundland and Labrador's Team Stacie Curtis in the evening.

“I wouldn’t say we were expecting it,” said the skip after the morning draw. “We didn’t think it was impossible, but we just wanted to come here and grind out every win, have good games and learn something from every game.”

Sturmay, who is making her Scotties debut this week, trailed the veteran McCarville 6-1 after four ends, but stormed back, highlighted by a steal of three in the ninth end. Sturmay drew to the eight-foot to clinch the win in the extra end and send Alberta to the Scotties playoffs for the first time since 2021.

“I think that says a lot about our team,” said second Dezaray Hawes, the only member of Team Sturmay with prior Scotties experience. “The game’s not over until we shake hands.” 

Typically, morning draws at the Scotties are on the quiet side in terms of crowd engagement. It wasn't the case on this Wednesday morning as groups of school children supported the hometown team with constant foot-stomping and “Al-Ber-Ta!” chants throughout the three-hour game. 

“It was tough this game,” Sturmay said describing the energy in the building. “It’s always great to have the crowd behind you, but it definitely does add a bit of pressure and especially when it gets loud. It’s tough to communicate out there.”

Some young teams are prone to succumbing to those pressure-heavy moments, but not Team Sturmay. 

Composure. That has been the theme this week for the foursome that plays out of the Saville Community Sports Centre, specifically from their 25-year-old skipper. The 2019 Canadian Junior champion and world silver medalist has not looked like a curler competing in her first Scotties. 

Sturmay’s been cool, calm and collected from their opening win over Manitoba’s Team Kaitlyn Lawes on Friday night and that has translated throughout Alberta’s lineup. 

“She’s got nerves of steel,” third Danielle Schmiemann said earlier this week.

Coach Ted Appelman, who has competed at three Montana’s Briers as an alternate, says that type of personality can’t be taught. 

“I’ve curled myself a bit over the year and as a skip you just have to have it,” explained Appelman. “There’s a lot of people who can just do it and there’s a lot who try and they can’t. It’s just part of your DNA, I think. Being a skip out there is a very lonely position in front of all those people and it just takes a certain kind of person to do it.”

“She’s such a great leader,” Hawes added. “I’ve told her all year long she’s just a terrific leader and just never gives up. I can’t say enough positive things about Selena.”

Overall, Sturmay and company are not a group that wear their emotions on their sleeves. 

“They’re all very mature and very level-headed. You see it on the ice. Very calm and cool and very relaxed,” explained Appelman. “Inside, there might be some nerves, but what you see is what you get.” 

Sturmay is joined by Schmiemann, 27, Hawes, 27, and lead Paige Papley, 24. 

During Alberta playdowns, Appelman said he attempted to get Team Sturmay to be more intense, but soon found out that just isn’t their identity. 

“This team plays better when they’re just chilled, relaxed and having fun,” he said. “It’s weird, I haven’t really experienced that with many other curlers, but they know exactly what their team identity is and that’s how they play good.”

Sturmay already has plenty of experience of handling pressure with her job as a registered nurse for Alberta Health Services.

“Being a nurse and dealing with some high-pressure situations, that takes a certain kind of person too,” remarked Appelman. “You have to be calm and steady. You have to keep your head about you and think clearly. That all correlates to skipping. It really does, especially when the pressure is on.”  

A rookie hasn’t won the Tournament of Hearts since Ontario’s Alison Goring accomplished the feat in 1990 in Ottawa. The last time Alberta won the Canadian women’s curling championship was in 2019 when Chelsea Carey defeated Rachel Homan in an extra end final in Sydney, N.S. 

Sturmay said her group bought nearly 300 round-robin tickets for family and friends.

“It’s great to be here,” she said. “It’s great to be Team Alberta in Alberta.”

Alberta wraps up round-robin play with a clash against British Columbia’s Team Corryn Brown on Thursday afternoon.