Northern skip ready for Hearts

STEVE GREEN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 1:58 PM ET

Krista who? That was a question asked by many local curling fans after Krista Scharf won the Ontario women's title last weekend in Fort Frances.

By the end of the Scott Tournament of Hearts, which starts in two weeks at the John Labatt Centre, the Thunder Bay skip aims to answer them.

The Lakehead University grad is one of three Hearts rookie skips -- with Tracey Streifel of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick's Andrea Kelly -- and isn't daunted.

"I don't mind being the underdog," she said. "People don't really know you, so they don't really know how you play. Everyone's going to be going after the top teams like Jennifer Jones and Colleen Jones, so now having to worry about that is hopefully a good thing for us.

"Our goal at the provincials was just to make it to any tiebreakers and that has to be our goal at the Hearts. You really can't think too far into the future."

She and her rink of Tara George, Tiffany Stubbings and Lorraine Lang -- a national champion in 1988 and '89 and a world champ in '89 as third for Heather Houston of Thunder Bay -- are in their first season together. Scharf and George both skipped rinks at last year's Ontario championship.

"My team just needed some time off and Tara needed a third, so she asked me to join them. We just decided I'd skip," said Scharf, at 23 the youngest on the team by eight years. "I've learned so much from them. Honestly, this is the year I've learned the most. It's incredible what they've brought to the team."

The reason for the rink's relative anonymity is a simple one -- money.

"The past few years I didn't have a sponsor to travel to the big bonspiels. We played in Winnipeg and Duluth and a couple around here this year, but we just don't have the money to travel a lot of the Southern Ontario teams do.

"We try to play a lot of men's bonspiels in the Thunder Bay area, which helps because the men can play the high, hard ones and they're a little different in the placement of the rocks, so we learn a lot from them."

Scharf won her first provincial title in her third attempt. She had to beat Janet McGhee of Uxbridge three straight times -- in the round-robin finale, in the Page 1-2 playoff game and in the final -- to do it. In fact, she won her final seven games after being 2-2 at one point in the 10-team round-robin.

"It was a little tense going into that all-or-nothing game," Scharf admitted.

But she's no stranger to championship curling, representing Northern Ontario in four Canadian juniors between '98 and 2002. She also played for Canada at the 2003 world university games and represented Northern Ontario at the 2004 Canadian mixed along with her brother Joe.

"So I've played in an arena setting before, just not in front of that many people," she said of crowds expected at the JLC.

But she hopes many of them will be in her corner before the championship is out.

Around the house

Fresh from an appearance in the Ontario senior final, Jim Lyle of St. Thomas has started his run for a fifth intermediate men's (40-and-over) title in seven seasons by making it to regional playdowns March 4-5 at Petrolia Heritage Heights. Among the others advancing to this regional are Peter Van Ymeren of St. Thomas, Randy Holder of Ilderton and 1999 champ Bob Ingram of Ridgetown. Among the intermediate women's entries at Heritage Heights are Brenda Jarret of Vanastra, Megan Jentz of Stratford, Janice Carter of Woodstock, Joan Pickering of Blenheim and Deb Richardson of Wallaceburg . . . Regional Colts playdowns are next weekend at Listowel. Among the entries are Kevin Matheson and George White of the host club, Dave Vandenbroek of St. Thomas and the Kingsville rinks of Jerry Ferster and Bob Stafford.


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