Curling teams slide into U Sports Championships

U of R curling snags a couple of medals. Courtesy of Sarah Hoag

“You really don’t have to look much further than Saskatchewan to see the rich history of women’s curling and I really strive to represent that history”

While most of the high-draw sports on campus have faced playoff elimination, the University of Regina’s men’s and women’s curling teams have been quietly dominant. While they never garner the hoopla of some of the other teams, dominance has become a norm for the group who came home with silver (women) and bronze (men) medals at the Canada West championships. Sarah Hoag, who plays second on the women’s team talked about their early season success.

“We were happy with the way our weekend went. We’ve got two rookies on our team who are doing phenomenal, our lead and our third, and they are both learning as they go but they brought a unique perspective to Canada West. Although they are rookies for the university team, they have a lot of experience in juniors and in women’s.”

Hoag also has a lot of experience. She has represented Saskatchewan on numerous occasions, including at the under 18 International competition in 2016, the Curling Canada Nationals in 2017, and the under 21 competition in 2019. However, Hoag now has her sights set on senior competition.

“The Scotties has always been my goal; I’m working towards that and, past that, the Olympics. You really don’t have to look much further than Saskatchewan to see the rich history of women’s curling and I really strive to represent that history.”

In preparation for that goal, Hoag trains five to six days a week. This training incorporates practice games, throwing rocks, technical work, as well as cross-training in the gym.

“Cross-training is definitely involved; we have to hit the gym. You want to put as much weight as possible on the broom and good sweeping is essentially planking on the broom, so that’s part of it.”

Hoag began curling at a young age, as she has come from a long line of curlers, going back three generations. Over the years she has curled out of Gravelbourg, Maryfield, Bengough and Saskatoon, but the Callie Curling Club in Regina is now her home. I asked Hoag what parts of curling she loves the most.

“The comradery that comes with the game. Curling is one of those sports where you even get together with the opposition after the game. I love that about curling. Another thing about curling is that it incorporates strategy and athleticism.”

“Even if you are the better team technique wise or athletically, you can still lose games based on strategy – you have to be both brains and brawn. You can play it at any age, and I think that there is a really nice community built by that.”

Although senior women’s curling is the ultimate goal for Hoag, right now she is focused on preparing for U Sports Championships with the varsity team.

“I absolutely love the varsity aspect of the sport.”

The U of R curling club has a long history of success. They won the women’s U Sports championship in 2010 and team Saskatchewan for this year’s Brier features three former Cougar athletes. Hoag attributes this to the U of R’s great developmental system.

“We’ve got a new program set up at the U of R where we have a development team that’s going with our varsity team and we’ve actually brought them along with us to various bonspiels to expose them. Most of them are first-years, but they will be taking positions of athletes aging out at some point.”

Hoag was one of these athletes.

“In my first year I didn’t make the varsity team, but I was still involved and engaged in the varsity program.”

That early struggle is in the rear-view for Hoag now, and as a third year, she is now one of the leaders heading into U Sports. This experience and poise are evident in her process-oriented outlook.

“We are really just looking to put our best foot forward at Nationals. I think we are just going to try and represent the University of Regina the best we can and the Callie Curling club the best we can. We will go out and play to our fullest potential.”

While Hoag has a leadership role off the ice, on the ice she plays a different position.

“On the university team I play second and that’s my new favorite. You are a front-end player, so you are not involved in strategy, but you are involved in every other aspect of the game. You have to sweep every rock other than the ones that you throw, and you are engaged in calling.”

For those unfamiliar with curling, there are four positions: skip, third, second and lead. They are named in order of when they throw the rocks, with the lead throwing first and the skip last. The skip is responsible for “calling” the game; they lead the strategy. The third then supports the skip, while the second and lead are more responsible for the sweeping. Teamwork is crucial for success, and Hoag credits her strong teammates for her ability to succeed in the sport.

“I have been very fortunate that the teams I have played on have had four extremely good and committed curlers.”

Curling is an integral part of Saskatchewan’s sporting history, and it really exemplifies the community-mindedness of the province. It is a sport that you can compete in for your entire life, and it is a sport where you can curl at weekend rec leagues or compete for your Olympic dreams. Hoag gives the sport a final endorsement that can’t be beat.

“I love curling. Curling is my life.”

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