(KELOWNA, BC) Samantha Crook and her UNB Varsity Reds curling teammates may not be on campus right now, but that doesn't mean they aren't learning.
"It's a chance for us to see some skilled players and learn what we have to do to compete and win on a national level."
Crook, Third Shelby Wilson, Second Jillian Crandall and Lead Natalie Hearn are in Kelowna, British Columbia, for the CIS Curling Championships.
The Varsity Reds are one of two AUS teams in the eight team women's bonspiel.
AUS finalists, Crook feels UNB can have some success in Kelowna. "We'll have to focus and just play our game the best we can. Simple, clean… and communicate."
"The girls have been playing in different leagues so they've been working on their skill games," says coach John Corbin. "They've been honing certain skills to improve team outcomes. We're as ready as we can be."
The Varsity Reds are joined in Kelowna by AUS champions Dalhousie, as well as teams from Brock, Guelph, Wilfrid Laurier, Brandon, Thompson Rivers and the University of Alberta.
The Pandas are the defending CIS champs, skipped by two-time Canadian and world junior champion Kelsey Rocque.
"The competition is tough," says Corbin. "We need a good start and to play well consistently. We won't change anything, keep our feet on the ground and execute the same game plan."
Erin Bethune serves as the team's alternate.
This is the first trip to the CIS championship for Crook's team. Coach Corbin says they've set realistic expectations. "If they play well and give themselves a chance in every game they should be satisfied."
In their first game, on Sunday afternoon, Crook's squad dropped a 6-3 decision to the Thompson Rivers Wolf Pack. Sunday evening, they lost 11-6 to the rink from Laurier.
The winning men's and women's teams at the CIS championships will represent Canada at the 2017 Winter Universiade, in Almaty, Kazakhstan.