Ticket to big dance

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

The triumphant Brandon crew almost danced off the ice chanting, "We've got the berth! We've got the berth!"

Skip Tina Kozak made a wide-open hit for the winning deuce in the 10th end to score a 7-6 victory over Brandon's young Stacey Fordyce in the competitive berth final of the MCA Women's 85th Annual Bonspiel at the Pembina Curling Club last night.

"We're very excited," said Kozak, 33. "We've been working hard all season and we never gave up. We just kept fighting and we did it ... We just kept focused and just kept going hard at it."

It was Kozak's third straight one-point victory of the championship round. She had apparently lucked out with a 7-6 triumph over Kaileigh Strath of Deer Lodge in the semifinal after eking out an 8-7 win over Assiniboine Memorial's Patti Burtnyk in the quarter-final.

"Yeah, we had a few breaks in our favour and here we are," said Kozak, whose fortunes had turned the other way in previous competitions.

"We lost the semifinal in the floater (floating berth bonspiel) to (Selkirk's Kerri) Flett. Then, we lost the final in our zone to Terry Ursel (of Plumas) so we knew it was our turn."

Supported by third Kortney Robins, 28, second Pam Robins (Kortney's sister), 33 and Krystal Tillie-Stewart, 30, Kozak earned the last available spot in the provincial Scotties Tournament of Hearts, to be held in Neepawa, Feb. 4-8.

Although the rest of her team hails from Brandon, Kozak actually lives in Neepawa.

"To play in Neepawa before a hometown crowd? It can't be any sweeter," said Kozak, a nurse who is on maternity leave after recently giving birth. "I'm excited."

Not only that but the Robins' sister, Tanya, plays for Brandon's Lisa Blixhavn, who will also be competing in Neepawa.

"It's going to be really tough," Kozak predicted. "We'll just keep working away at it and take it one rock at a time. There are a bunch of good women curlers there so, we've got our work cut out for us."

But the loss was tough for Fordyce to take. With her last rock in the 10th, she attempted a raise-bump to kill Kozak's lone counter but failed to knock it completely out of the house.

"It's frustrating," admitted Fordyce, 23. "That was the best game we played all weekend and I felt we were in control. That last shot, we just didn't get right on the sweeping right away and it over-curled.

"It's really tough to take because they're going to the Scott and we're not."

Supported by third Erin Mahoney, second Stacey Irwin and Carla Dudenhoffer, the Fordyce foursome should have a bright future.

"Oh yeah, we're still young yet," said Fordyce, who blanked Fort Rouge's Tracey Lavery 8-0 in the semifinal.

Meanwhile, the U.S.A'.s Amy Wright defeated Fort Rouge's Barb Spencer 7-5 in the non-berth competitive final.

BITER: Adam Norget downed Corey Chambers 4-2 to win the University of Manitoba final. Kaileigh Strath won the women's side last week. It is believed that both will represent Manitoba at the national championship unless there is a challenge from either the University of Winnipeg or Brandon University.


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