Bring on the world

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

The Kaitlyn Lawes foursome was that close to falling over the edge of the proverbial cliff midway through last week.

The team had a record of 5-4 at the Canadian junior women's curling championship. Another loss or two would have ruined the team's chance of repeating as the nation's best.

So they simply didn't lose another game.

Lawes became just the third skip to win back-to-back titles in the event's 39-year history, downing Ontario's Rachel Homan 7-4 in yesterday afternoon's final in Salmon Arm, B.C.

It was the team's fifth straight win including three round-robin victories and a 7-6 triumph over Alberta's Casey Scheidegger in Saturday's semifinal.

Lawes, a 20-year-old University of Manitoba student, said she will never tire of being called a Canadian champ.

"Never," she said. "And I hope it's not the last."

But first things first. Before she moves on to what promises to be a successful women's career, Lawes and her Pembina squad of Jenna Loder, Laryssa Grenkow and Breanne Meakin will represent Canada at the world junior championships in Vancouver March 5-15. The event will be played in the 2010 Olympic curling venue.

Lawes and Loder captured bronze at last year's worlds in Sweden, and the mission next month will be gold or bust.

"Obviously you want to bring it home in Canada," Lawes said.

The victory was extra special for Grenkow and Meakin, who hooked up with Lawes last fall after Liz Peters and Sarah Wazney graduated from the junior ranks. Grenkow lost two Canadian finals, and Meakin one, as members of Calleen Neufeld's squad.

'ABSOLUTELY UNREAL'

"It's absolutely unreal. I'm stoked right now," Grenkow said. "I guess the third time's the charm? It's finally paid off. ... I was tired of losing."

Grenkow admitted the team went through a significant rough patch in the middle of last week, so the curlers and their coach, Breanne's father Rob Meakin, sat down and figured out how to fix it.

"We just talked to each other and kept each other positive, because up until then we were getting kind of frustrated with each other and the ice," Grenkow said. "We just worked a few things out, like how to communicate better and more effectively, and it worked out really well."

The final was a defensive battle at the start, as it was 1-1 through five ends. Lawes notched the first deuce in the seventh to take a 3-2 lead, and the turning point came in the eighth when Team 'Toba stole one to grab a 4-2 advantage.

Homan, who finished first in the round robin with a 10-2 mark, scored a pair in the ninth, but Lawes controlled the 10th from the get-go and didn't have to throw her final stone.

Meakin had a game-high 91% shot percentage, while Loder turned in an 85% performance. Lawes out-curled Homan 72% to 63%.

"We definitely went a different way than we did last year," Lawes said. "We had four losses in the round robin, but we still kept our goals intact.

"We won the ones that we had to. We knew that the losses would come. We had a couple more than we had hoped, but we hung in there and it made us stronger as a team. We were able to rally right back."

Lawes joins Alberta's Cathy King (1977 and '78) and P.E.I.'s Suzanne Gaudet (2001 and '02) as the only back-to-back winning skips.

"That's very cool," Lawes said.

Lawes and Sam Good's Manitoba junior men's team are scheduled to land in Winnipeg today at 5:23 p.m., on WestJet.

P.E.I.'s Brent Gallant won the junior men's title, scoring two in the 10th end to beat Northern Ontario's Dylan Johnston 7-6.


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