Last piece of puzzle

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

They are hoping this Sister Act will be a winner once again.

Last year, Barb Spencer's Fort Rouge foursome finished No. 2 behind St. Vital's Jennifer Jones at the provincials.

The year before, her older sister, Darcy Robertson, finished No. 2 to Jones with a different team.

This season, the Kirkness sisters have reunited and, without Jones to worry about, are the No. 1 seed heading into the Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts, which start at the Yellowhead Arena in Neepawa today.

"We put pressure on ourselves no matter where we're seeded because we want to do well," Robertson said after practising in Neepawa yesterday.

Yet, the two sisters have felt a lot more comfortable playing together again this season.

"It's almost like the missing piece of the puzzle," Spencer said. "Having her next to me gives me extra comfort because she is my big sister and I leaned on her over the years.

"It was tough playing against her because she is such a great player. I would much rather play with her than against her. We've worked very hard this season and have qualified in just about everything we've entered."

Spencer, 42, added that, together, the two beat Jones in the 2003 final.

Robertson, 43, split with Barb because she wanted to take a breather of sorts.

"I was going to take time off, then I ended up curling all the time anyway," she said. "We started having success, then we lost that final to Jones and decided to keep going at it."

That loss still preys on her mind.

"I think about it a lot," Robertson admitted. "For some reason, it didn't work out. Things happen for a reason and I was wondering, 'Was I ready to take on the Canadians?'

"I don't miss skipping as much as I thought I would. We've had a lot of success this year and the communication is good because we understand each other. Barb's a great curler and we have a great front end (second Brette Richards, 26, and Barb Enright, 43)."

After winning her third Manitoba title in the past four years, Jones went on to win both the Canadian and world crowns.

"Just because she went on to win the worlds, it doesn't mean we would have," said Spencer. "It just wasn't there for us last year. I'm hoping this is the year."

If it is, it would be the third title for this Sister Act.

The Manitoba winner will join Jones, the defending Canadian champ, at the nationals in Victoria, B.C., Feb. 21-March 1.

Spencer is not the only skip heading into the provincials with a relatively new team. Clubmate Kristy Jenion, who lost two provincial finals herself, has hooked up with third Karen Klein. Jenion's former third, Lisa Blixhavn (nee Roy), is now skipping a squad out of Brandon.

Brandon's Maureen Bonar has formed a squad with sisters Nancy Smith (nee Malanchuk) at third and Dana Allerton at lead.

Morden's Chelsea Carey also formed a new squad with former Albertan Kari White at third, and won the Manitoba Curling Tour title.

Draws are today at 8:30 a.m., 12:15, 4 and 8 p.m.

BENDER'S PICKS

1. Barb Spencer, Fort Rouge (3-1) ... reunited and ready

2. Maureen Bonar, Brandon (4-1) ... been there, done that

3. Kristy Jenion, Fort Rouge (7-1) ... rejuvenated

4. Janet Harvey, Assiniboine Memorial (10-1) ... always dangerous

5. Lisa Blixhavn, Brandon (12-1) ... the dark mare

6. Chelsea Carey, Morden (15-1) ... she's hot

7. Terry Ursel, Plumas (20-1) ... don't count out

8. Kim Link, East St. Paul (25-1) ... will be right there

9. Karen Porritt, Fort Rouge (30-1) ... can better this rating

10. Holly Scott, Fort Rouge (40-1) ... don't take lightly


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