Lawes ready for close up

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Kaitlyn Lawes is ready for her extreme close up.

As the Scotties Tournament of Hearts gets underway next week in Charlottetown, P.E.I., plenty of eyes will be on Lawes as she makes her debut at the national women's curling championship.

While most of the curling headlines have been focusing on the pending match-up between Jennifer Jones and Team Canada meeting former teammate Cathy Overton-Clapham's Manitoba rink, Lawes figures to be under the microscope.

After all she was the one to join Jones, Dawn Askin and Jill Officer when Overton-Clapham was dismissed last summer.

If Lawes plays as well as she answered questions the other day, there's a better-than-average chance Jones and company could be in the mix for a fourth consecutive national title.

"I don't feel like I've replaced Cathy," said Lawes. "That's one thing I can't do. I can't fill her shoes. She's a great curler, so I really obviously haven't felt that pressure on myself because it's a brand new team this year.

"Their team in the past was very successful and now we've moved on and looking forward to the next couple of years. Everyone has been really supportive and we can't thank everyone enough for their support."

Lawes, a former junior women's champion and world championship finalist, didn't take long to feel comfortable with her new teammates and she's eager to appear in her first national women's championship.

"It's been an amazing year and honestly, I've had so much fun," said Lawes. "We've done some amazing things and played in a lot of events I've dreamed of playing as a kid."

The biggest one is yet to come.

"I'm so excited and so excited to experience it with them because they are so experienced. It's going to be great, they can guide me along and show me the ropes," said Lawes. "I can't believe it's coming up so soon. I love that feeling. I know there are going to be nerves, but that's what I play for. We're all competitors and I like the butterfly feeling in my stomach. Being in the arena, smelling the ice and just the whole environment."

Lawes has made a seamless transition as she replaced a women with hall of fame credentials.

"Kaitlyn has dealt with everything really well and obviously, she had nothing to do with our tough decision," said Officer. "She's a very mature 22-year-old and I sometimes forget she's that young. She's been great, has transitioned really well to our team and we're really happy with her. She's brought some youthful energy, great shot-making and she's a fantastic sweeper. She's a really positive person, very supportive and she's been great all around."

"Kaitlyn is great," added Askin. "She's really easy-going and we have a ton of fun with her. She brings confidence to us and it's been really great."

Jones and company are also hoping to make Lawes' first Scotties experience a memorable one.

"It's Kaitlyn's first time and she's just got this energy about her," said Jones. "She's so laid back, but not afraid to speak up when she has something to say. She's really brought a new energy to our team and reminded us why we love curling.

"It reminds me of my first (Scotties) in Brandon and it's amazing to go back in time like that."

Canada opens the round robin on Friday against Quebec on Feb. 19 at 5:30 p.m. CT.

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