Koe rink aims to get it together

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

Nova Scotia's Colleen Jones had just stolen another two, this time in the eighth end, to lead 8-3.

Her opponent, Kerry Koe of Northwest Territories/Yukon, turned to her coach and father, Fred Koe, and asked if they should shake hands and end it.

He shook his head and her teammates told her they wanted to play one more end.

When you travel as far and sacrifice as much as this team has, you may as well play as much as you can. They could use the practice considering as a team, they get so little of it.

It was over an end later when Monique Gagnier, the NWT third who throws last stones, missed a hit and stick for two. Jones and Koe shook hands with Jones walking away with an 8-4 win yesterday at the Scott Tournament of Hearts.

"We've been so inconsistent," Koe said. "One end we make every shot and the next end we don't make any."

When the rink arrived in London on Wednesday, it was the first time they'd been together and thrown rocks together in three weeks. Koe plays on a rink in Yellowknife with lead Heather McCagg-Nystrom, the team's fifth player, Lisa Freeman, and father Fred.

Second Kelli Turpin plays in a men's league in Inuvit and Gagnier is from Hay River.

You can have great curling talent but it's difficult to get a team kind of feeling when you don't play together very much.

"We talk every Sunday on MSN to keep up on what we've been doing during the week," Koe said. "But it's difficult. We gotten to play a lot more than last year and we've played well, but it's the inconsistency that's hurting us."

And the draw masters weren't particularly kind to Koe either. Koe opened with host province Ontario, losing 13-9 in an extra despite being up by two in the ninth with last rock. Yesterday, they drew six-time national champion Jones and Alberta, one of the favourites. Today, it's Prince Edward Island, which has had a great start to the tournament and defending national champion Jennifer Jones.

Koe wasn't making any excuses though. They may lack practice time together and the opportunity to play every weekend at a top bonspiel but they don't lack for confidence. Koe finished the Scott last year with a 4-7 record. She expects to compete for a playoff spot.

"We thought we'd be 6-5, 7-4. We've all been here before and we're the best curlers in the north," she said. "We were 4-7 last year and felt we could have won a couple of more and we felt we were a better team this year."

One of the biggest decisions that needed to be made for this team was who was going to skip, Koe or Gagnier. Koe would skip and Gagnier would throw last rocks.

"We both wanted to skip," Gagnier said. "But Kerry calls a good game."

"I like to be in charge. I like calling the game and I think I call a good game," Koe said. "And Monique is a better sweeper."

Koe is a player who symbolizes the aggressive style of women's curling. She likes to play with plenty of rocks in play. That style of play brings with it a lot of surprises.

The early draws send the message that nothing is going to be easy for anyone. There are enough talented shooters in this tournament to make life interesting for any rink, regardless of experience and reputation.

"We've had more barriers and we've had to work really hard to make it work," Koe said. "It's been an uphill battle but we are fighters."

Right to the last rock.


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