New team, new start

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:19 AM ET

Last year was a memorable one for Winnipeg curler Kaitlyn Lawes.

She won not only the Manitoba junior women's title, but the Canadian crown as well. She then finished third at the world championship in Sweden.

Now that a new calendar has been put on the wall, however, Lawes figures it's the perfect time to forget about 2008 and concentrate on 2009. Everyone else has done it, according to Lawes, so she should as well.

As a result, the 20-year-old believes there won't be a target on her back today when the provincial junior women's and junior men's championships kick off at the Granite in downtown Winnipeg.

"I don't feel there is, just because it's a new team and it's a new start for us," Lawes said yesterday after a practice session at the Granite. "We can't really focus on what happened in the past.

"We'll always have that in our back pocket, but this is a new year, new teams are all playing against us, everyone has a new lineup pretty much, and everyone wants the same thing.

"So I don't really feel as though there's a target on our back, unless someone else puts it there for us, but we don't feel that way."

Lawes and third Jenna Loder had to rebuild the squad this season after the graduation of Liz Peters and Sarah Wazney. They asked Laryssa Grenkow and Breanne Meakin to join the squad, and the duo accepted.

Finding its stride

Grenkow said the newly formed team is finding its stride.

"We all want it pretty bad, so our goals are all the same," she said. "It's easy to work together when you've all got the common goal."

Lawes, who curls out of the Pembina club, is the No. 1 seed, followed by West St. Paul's Kelsey Boettcher and Ste. Anne's Alyssa Vandepoele.

Sabrina Neufeld played with Grenkow and Meakin on Kaileigh Strath's team last year (they lost the final to Lawes), but she was forced to find a new squad after Strath graduated from the junior ranks, and Grenkow and Meakin split.

Neufeld, who is the No. 5 seed, harbours no ill will towards her former teammates.

"It was a bit of a shocker, but I guess that kind of thing happens," Neufeld said. "But I'm happy with who I'm with this year and can't let it bother me.

"... I'm not out for revenge, no. I'm just here to play well."

Coincidentally, Grenkow and Neufeld are both trying to become just the second player to win four provincial titles after Patti Wuthrich (nee Vande) did it between 1974 and 1977. Grenkow and Neufeld won three in a row with Calleen Neufeld between 2005 and 2007.

The junior men's field, meanwhile, appears to be wide open. Petersfield's Steen Sigurdson is the No. 1 seed, 2006 provincial champ Travis Bale of Springfield is No. 2, and Deer Lodge's Alex Forrest is No. 3.

"There are probably six or seven that have got a really good chance, so we'll have to be playing well," said Bale, who is the only remaining member of his championship squad.

Bale isn't putting too much stock in the seedings, either.

"Not at all," he said. "When I won it the first time we were the 10th seed. The two teams in the final were nine and 10. They don't really mean anything."

There are 16 teams in both the junior men's and junior women's fields. Round-robin play begins today at 8:30 a.m., and the action continues all day every day until Tuesday afternoon's finals.


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