Kozak enjoys role as fan favourite

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

The Neepawa native may have been looking for her first win on the late draw but Tina Kozak is certainly soaking up the atmosphere of being a crowd favourite at the Yellowhead Arena.

"It's just been wonderful to play in my hometown," Kozak said from Neepawa shortly after dropping a 9-7 decision to Fort Rouge's sixth-seeded Karen Porritt in a Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts contest yesterday.

"It's exciting to play in front of friends and family, and get a lot of support here ... It's quite enjoyable."

Kozak, 33, plays out of Brandon , where the rest of the squad lives, but is the only member of her foursome who hails from the town known for Margaret Laurence and its annual Lily Festival.

Although she fell to 0-3 heading into the late draw, she has been in every match as her foursome has been playing the top seeds in her pool.

"We're giving them game every time, and that's what matters," said Kozak, a nurse who is on maternity leave. "We're going to keep on fighting. We're not going to give up."

Kozak opened with a 5-4 loss to Fort Rouge's second-seeded Kristy Jenion and a 5-2 decision to Assiniboine Memorial's Janet Harvey, No. 3.

Although Kozak has competed in one previous provincials, this is the Hearts debut for third Kortney Teale, 28, second Pam Robins (Kortney's sister), 33 and Krystal Stewart, 30.

"The second game (versus Harvey), the girls got a little nervous but they've been handling it pretty good," said Kozak. "We've been handling it with a lot of humour. We joke a lot on the ice and we're enjoying ourselves."

Kozak will face Terry Ursel, who is from nearby Plumas, in a battle of hometown faves this morning.

Meanwhile, Brandon's Lisa Blixhavn upset Fort Rouge's top-seeded Barb Spencer 10-6 to drop her to 3-1. Both Morden's Chelsea Carey and Fort Rouge's Holly Scott led the pack with 4-0 marks heading into the late draw.

CARD SCAM?: Some have referred to it as a "competitor-card scam" that helped the CCA climb out of the financial hole it had dug for itself. Last weekend, it cost a team old enough to play masters a chance to play in the men's provincials for the first time.

Although Bernie Wenden's squad played well enough to earn one of the five berths into the Safeway Championship in the MCA's annual men's bonspiel, it was disqualified because they only had senior competitive curling cards, not men's.

"It's just a sin," said Louis Wenden, Bernie's brother. "This has been a dream of ours for 25 years and we cleaned everybody's clock. Then they disqualified us. I was so sick, I didn't sleep for two days."

Just three years ago, the CCA introduced a policy where a competitor had to buy a $35 card for each category entered.


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