KENORA, ONT. - After two years on the sidelines, six-time Canadian Scotties Tournament of Hearts curler Sherry Middaugh is back in the field.
Middaugh skippered at the nationals for Saskatchewan in 1996 and appeared for Ontario four times since but missed out on the last two provincial qualifiers. After assembling a new squad and earning one of the final slots in the 2012 Ontario Scotties championships at the Kenora Curling Club, the four-time Canadian bronze medalist is back on the scene.
"It's a real struggle when you come out of Southern Ontario, it's a lot of good teams to vie down for only six spots," she said. "So the fact that we made it -- and through the challenge round, the last chance -- it's nice to be here and we know what needs to be done, we just have to do it."
On top of leading five teams at the national bonspiel, including Ontario in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2008, Middaugh threw third rocks for Ontario in 1999 and was named first all-star skip in 1996 and second all-star skip in 2008. She has also competed in three Olympic curling trials and won the 2010 DEKLAB Super Spiel in Morris, MB., over the then-world champion China rink.
The Middaugh rink, which includes lead Leigh Armstrong, second Lee Merklinger and third Jo-Anne Rizzo, struggled in its second outing against Thunder Bay's Marlo Dahl in Tuesday's afternoon draw. Middaugh won her first game Monday.
After falling behind 6-3 in the seventh end, Middaugh had a chance to take the match with a three-spot in the final end but the skip's throw came up short and gave Dahl an 8-5 win.
"We had a pretty routine shot for the win and I didn't throw it well and we ended up coming out with a loss," said Middaugh, who admitted the team wasn't on its game the whole match. "That's frustrating because I certainly don't think that we played well enough to win but the fact that we still had a shot to win, those are the ones that we have to make and I didn't, unfortunately."
Things didn’t get any easier for Middaugh in the evening draw, where Sudbury’s Tracy Horgan blasted Middaugh en route to a 7-3 win.
But with lots of curling left to unfold, the veteran skip isn't getting down and said she is counting a busy first year with her new crew, which included a workout in a summer league, to lift the squad to the national meet in Red Deer, Alta., next month.
"We don't want to come in second," she said. "The fact that this is our second year together and we had a great bonspiel season so far this year, our expectations are to win it all."
In other afternoon draw action, defending champion Rachel Homan defeated King Township's Kathy Brown 11-7, while Ottawa's Jenn Hanna took it to North Bay's Laura Pickering 10-2.
Thunder Bay's Krista McCarville, the 2011 runner-up, edged St. Thomas' Allison Nimik 6-5 for her first win and Sudbury's Tracy Horgan got the best of Mississaugua's Cathy Auld 8-3.
In the evening draw, Homan edged Dahl 7-6 to remain the only undefeated skip after McCarville delivered Hanna her first loss.
Auld took a 6-2 win over Nimik and Brown edged Pickering 5-4.