With the field set for the provincial Scott Tournament of Hearts, organizers of the national Hearts are looking at a 30 per cent chance of having a name familiar to local fans represent Ontario at the John Labatt Centre.
Leading the list is Jo-Ann Rizzo of Brantford, who has Sara Gatchell and Kim Tuck of Strathroy as her front end. Along with third Cheryl McPherson of Toronto, the rink came through the A side of the Challenge Round at Milton, beating Kathy Brown of Sutton in the final.
Brown then won the B final to join Rizzo and eight others in the Ontario Hearts starting Jan. 30 in Fort Frances.
Advancing through Southern Ontario regionals were Marilyn Bodogh of St. Catharines, Chrissy Cadorin of Guelph, Jenn Hanna of Ottawa and Janet McGhee of Uxbridge.
Rounding out the field are four Northern Ontario rinks -- Krista Scharf and Marlo Dahl of Thunder Bay, Nancy Wickman of Sudbury and Natalie Beauchamp of Coniston.
Hanna, victimized by Jannifer Jones's final-shot miracle in last year's national Hearts final, and two-time world champion Bodogh are also well known to local curling fans and it would please national Hearts organizers to see them in Ontario colours.
Rizzo's rink is coming off a disappointing 2-7 finish at December Olympic trials in Halifax and the after-effects lingered through regional playdowns this month in St. Thomas, when they went out after only three games of the double-knockout event.
"After the regionals, we had a regroup. We put the trials behind us and had a rebirth of sorts," Tuck said. "I mean, every team that didn't win gold at the trials went back over that week to see what they could have done differently.
"But at the end of the day, nine of 10 teams didn't win the gold -- it just wasn't our time."
Being one step closer to playing for a national title at home doesn't faze the rink, Tuck said.
"I don't find it any different than any other year. Everyone in the community has been really good about supporting us.
"All we can do is go out and play. I'm a big believer in fate and if it's our turn, it's our turn."
Lyle in senior hunt
At the Ontario senior championships in Brantford, Jim Lyle and his St. Thomas rink of Larry Smyth, Pete DeKoning and Ted Smith are tied for third on the men's side at 3-2 after winning twice yesterday. Lyle beat Al Hutchinson of Owen Sound Blue Water 11-5 and Brian Suddard of Whitby 8-7. Bruce Delaney of Russell and four-time champ Bob Turcotte of Scarborough are at 4-1.
On the women's side, Jane Galloway and her Ilderton rink of Diane Winser, Susan Davies and Barb Prohaszka are at 1-6 after losing 9-3 to Dale Curtis of Orangeville and 10-2 to defending champion Joyce Potter of Ottawa Rideau yesterday. Potter is tied for the lead at 5-1 with three-time champion Anne Dunn of Galt.
Around the house
Colin Parr and Grant Collison of Sarnia, David Lynn of Stratford, Todd Poetter of Woodstock and Mark Rouble of Listowel lead their rinks into the 32-rink, double-knockout Holiday Inn Challenge provincial final this weekend in Brighton and Trenton. Among those competing in the same event for the women, the Best Western Challenge in Picton and Stirling, are Karen Smith-Bartlett of Sarnia, Brenda Anderson-Armstrong of Forest, Duane Dykstra of Simcoe, Vicki Culbert of Goderich Maitland and Marlene Spong of Walkerton . . . Regional playdowns for bantam boys and girls (16 and under) are today and tomorrow at Paris. Among the boys' entries are Travis Fanset of Chatham Granite, Matt Mapletoft of Wallaceburg Sydenham, Jon McCarthy and Andrew Larsen of Woodstock, Brandon Bennett of Vanastra and Andrew Dickson of Palmerston. On the girls' side, the rinks include Erin Daniel of Highland, Sheryl Davie of Sarnia, Lindsay Chrodash of Woodstock, Emma Mitchell of St. Marys, Megan Droog of Listowel and Kendra Falconer of Vanastra.