The bragging rights are fun, the modest spending money and prizes are a nice perk, but when it comes down to it, the 83rd annual Manitoba Curling Association Women's Bonspiel is all about the final berth.
As in, the absolute last chance to qualify for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts provincial championship, Jan. 24-28, in Morris.
Darcy Robertson's Fort Rouge squad made their victory at Granite Curling Club count last night. Not only did they take home the bonspiel trophy, but they also secured the final provincial berth after a 10-5 win in nine ends over Stonewall's Angela Wickman.
"It means a lot because it's disappointing when you don't (qualify) through your zone," said Robertson after the win. "We're just thrilled that we can play and have a chance in the provincials."
With the score tied at three after six ends, Robertson blew it wide open in the seventh, cracking a four.
"The seventh end was great," said Robertson. "We ended up having a few rocks around the four-foot and we put a guard up so (Vanessa Foster, throwing skip stones) had to play a raise to the four-foot for one and she ended up just curling a bit too much. We had an open draw for four which was nice to break the game open."
Robertson, supported by third Julie Bueckert, second Carlene Strand and lead Lindsay Titheridge, said the weekend was a nerve-wracking experience.
"Yes it is because there's only one spot and there's so many good teams when we looked at the draw we couldn't believe all the good teams we had to face to get this spot," said Robertson.
Although it took them longer than they would have liked to nail down a berth, Robertson feels MCA bonspiel has given her team some momentum heading into Morris.
"Yes, we played really well this weekend," she said. "We hope that carries over to the Scott but there's so many great teams that you gotta play well. It just feels nice to be in there and have a chance to go at those teams again."
It wasn't an easy road for Robertson. Valour Road's Karen Porritt defeated her 8-3 on Friday, relegating Robertson to the bonspiel's 'B' side. The team clawed its way back and became one of two to qualify from the 'B' side with Friday wins over Kristy Jenion and Debbie McCormick of Madison, Wis. Robertson then knocked off Lois Fowler 8-4 yesterday morning to make it to the semifinals and a rematch against Porritt. This time it was Robertson's turn to shine as she won 8-5 to advance to the finals, knocking out Porritt and her Scotties hopes.
"We just didn't execute enough the first game and (yesterday) we did," said Robertson. "We put a little more pressure on them."
Wickman was doing her best Cinderella impression yesterday using extra ends to knock off Fort Rouge's Barb Spencer (8-7) and Souris' Kaleigh Strath (6-5) to make the final. But there would be no extra end against Robertson.
"It's a little disappointing but in all honesty, the better team won here," said Wickman. "They curled very well. They out-curled us and they deserve to be going."
PEBBLES: It was the first time since 2004, according to tournament official Sharon Thiessen-Woods, that the bonspiel's final also had the Scotties berth on the line. Back then, Cathy Overton-Clapham won the spot after defeating Karen Young ... All four teams in the semifinals -- Wickman, Strath, Porritt and Robertson -- were eligible to win the final provincial spot.
DIFFERENT PATH: Brandon's Lois Fowler was going to get there one way or another.
After failing to secure the last Scotties Tournament of Hearts berth through the women's bonspiel over the weekend, Fowler has reunited with Maureen Bonar, who had already earned a Hearts spot.
Fowler will replace Tanya Craig, who can no longer play this season due to illness, at third, Bonar confirmed yesterday.
"We are going back to the provincials together," said Bonar, who has gone to three nationals with Fowler. "It will be like old times -- Fun at Ridgmont High."
That means all four Fowlers will be competing at provincials this year.