Heading back to nationals

James McCarthy/NNSL photo Katherine Lenoir, left, and Nicole Griffiths – members of the Zoey Walsh curling team from Hay River – sweep a rock during the NWT junior championships earlier this month in Yellowknife.

James McCarthy/NNSL photo
Katherine Lenoir, left, and Nicole Griffiths – members of the Zoey Walsh curling team from Hay River – sweep a rock during the NWT junior championships earlier this month in Yellowknife.

The Zoey Walsh junior women’s curling team from Hay River will once again represent the NWT at the national championships.

And that is despite not having anywhere to practise or play in Hay River because of the ongoing reconstruction of the Don Stewart Recreation Centre.

“It was kind of challenging as we didn’t really have anywhere to practise,” said Walsh. “We had to go to Fort Smith. I feel like we did pretty good and we’re definitely improving.”

She said it’s been a difficult situation since the team has to travel two and a half hours to Fort Smith and two and a half hours back for maybe three hours of practice.

So far this winter, all the members of the team have travelled together to Fort Smith about four times.

“We definitely can’t play as well as we could be since we don’t have all the practice we could get,” said Walsh.

The team is planning to drive to Fort Smith a couple of more times before heading to the national competitions, set from Jan. 20 to 29 in Victoria, B.C.

The team is coached by Trudie Walsh, who is Zoey’s mother.

“They did really well, especially considering they haven’t had a lot of ice time this year,” she said of the territorial tournament. “So that was definitely a challenge.”

Trudie Walsh said, to prepare for the nationals or even the territorials, a team should be on the ice a minimum of two or three times a week.

“And we only get once a week, if that,” she said.

The coach expressed thanks to the Fort Smith Curling Club for helping out the team.

“They’ve made any Saturday we want to go over there available to us,” she said.

When not on the ice, the team can prepare for competition in other ways – visualization, planning strategy and working out.

At the junior territorials in Yellowknife, the team went a perfect 6-0 to win the right to play at the nationals.

“It feels pretty good,” Zoey Walsh said of that performance.

“There were a lot of really close games, though.” “A couple of them were really close. We definitely had to work for it.”

Now, she is looking forward to the Canadian championships

“We’re definitely more experienced now that we’ve been to nationals once already,” she said. “It definitely helps.”

The team has undergone some changes since it played in the 2016 Canadian Junior Curling Championships, held in January in Stratford, Ont.

Along with Walsh, the team still features third Julie Squires-Rowe and lead Katherine Lenoir of Enterprise. New to the squad is second Nicole Griffiths and coach Trudie Walsh.

Zoey Walsh said the team had a lot of fun at the 2016 nationals, and is looking forward to gaining more experience against national competition.

“And maybe to win a game,” she said with a laugh, adding she believes the team has improved enough to possibly do that.

At the 2016 championships, the team lost all of its nine games.

The Zoey Walsh team was very young for the 2016 championships and will be again for next month’s competitions. Three of the members are 14 and Lenoir is 16.

The junior championships are for curlers 21 years of age and under, and most teams are made up of players aged 18-21.

“We’re just going to get some experience and meet some new people and have some fun, and we’re going to possibly try to improve our record from last year,” said coach Trudie Walsh. “They didn’t have any wins last year. If we could get one, that would be good and maybe just keep the scores a little closer this year.”

The coach said the team members know what they’re going into when heading to the national championships.

“The teams that we compete against, they have to win a lot more games to get to where they’re going,” she said. “We don’t have as much competition in the Northwest Territories. So in that respect it’s easier to get there. So the teams that we’re up against, they’re older, they’re more experienced.”

Still, the Hay River team is pretty resilient, Trudie Walsh added. “They know they’re not going to win a lot of games. They’re going just for the experience and they try and learn something from every game. Usually, they say you learn more from the losses than you do from the wins.”