Saskatchewan skip soldiering on

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

REGINA -- Not a soul would have blamed Michelle Englot if she would have passed on playing in this year's Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Or even the first day or two.

After all, the Saskatchewan skip learned her father, Joe, had died mere hours before she was slated to practise at the Brandt Centre on Friday. But she still made it to practice and she still played because, as she said, her dad would have wanted it that way.

After losing her first two games here, Englot won four straight before Nova Scotia's Mary-Anne Arsenault dropped her foursome 8-4 yesterday afternoon.

After the loss, Englot high-tailed it to Montmartre, which is within an hour's drive of Regina, because the funeral was scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. Saskatchewan had a bye on the Hearts draw last night when the rest of the curlers were wearing green ribbons in tribute to Joe Englot.

"We've constantly looked at re-grouping," Englot, 44, said before the loss to Nova Scotia (she was unavailable afterward). "I didn't think that we were far off the first couple of games so, it wasn't a big stretch. We just had to deal with a lot of emotions and I think we've gotten through that and we're finally playing better."

But it hasn't been easy.

"I've been taking every opportunity to rest," said Englot, tears welled in her eyes. "I've been going on a little bit of adrenaline because I haven't been sleeping that great. But I have been napping when possible and doing what I can to stay emotionally strong."

Despite the loss to Nova Scotia, Englot is still in the thick of things at 4-3.

"It's like you pull together as a family and we just know how to bring out the best in each other," said Saskatchewan lead Cindy Simmons. "We support each other. Michelle has been incredible. To be able to deal with what she has to do, she has been fantastic. The support of the crowd has been enormous to our team and her family as well.

"(Today's) game (against Newfoundland) is going to be tough but we have a strategy worked out to deal with it."

Englot was reduced to tears when the crowd gave her a standing ovation after the loss to Nova Scotia and she crumpled into the arms of Simmons, who was also crying uncontrollably.

"I don't know if I could do what she's doing," sympathized Arsenault. "I don't think I'd have the guts and courage to do it."

Meanwhile, Ontario's Sherry Middaugh pasted P.E.I.'s Suzanne Gaudet 10-2 to move into a first-place tie with Alberta's Shannon Kleibrink at 6-1. Kleibrink clobbered Manitoba's Jennifer Jones 10-3, then shocked reporters by saying she would prefer to play in the Page playoff 3-4 game over the 1-2 match because she doesn't like to sit.

"I think we sent a statement to ourselves because (third) Kirsten (Wall) and I haven't been here for four years," said Middaugh, who plays Alberta this afternoon. "And (second) Kim (Moore) hasn't been here since 1997. And it's the first time for (lead) Andra (Harmark). We're curling really well."

Quebec's Marie-France Larouche won both her games to move into a tie for third with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland at 5-2. Team Canada's Kelly Scott won both games yesterday to improve to 3-4 and a seventh-place tie with Manitoba and B.C.


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