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U of A curling sweeps Westerns, poised to defend CIS titles

Both the Bears and Pandas curling teams will have the chance to defend their CIS titles in March.

The Bears came into the final day of curling at the Saville Centre assured a spot in the CIS championships, while the Pandas faced a must-win game against undefeated Thompson Rivers to book their spot.

With the game tied 2-2 in the fourth end, Kelsey Rocque’s rank took control, scoring three points in the next two ends en route to an 8-3 victory. The Bears finished with a 4-0 record, while the Pandas finished 3-1, winning their pool by virtue of their head-t0-head tiebreaker against Thompson Rivers.

Head coach Rob Krepps said he was very pleased with how both teams performed over the course of the weekend.

“Starting with the Bears, I was just really pleased with their overall level of play,” he said. “They were consistently making the shots they needed to make, so I was very happy with them from a performance standpoint, and their overall approach as well.”

Krepps also highlighted the Pandas’ bouncing back from a tough loss against Winnipeg. “I was super happy to see (them) rebound from a tough loss on (Saturday) night,” he said. “(Sunday) morning they went out and played against probably the best other team in the event, and I was very happy with their performance and that they won handily.”

With Westerns now behind them, both the Bears and Pandas now look towards CIS nationals as their next major university competition in March. With few varsity events on the calendar, Krepps said the key to being fully prepared was for both teams to just focus on their own game.

“The way we do it is to just focus on playing our way, and bringing the performance level to where it needs to be,” he said. “With the exception of giving all of our opponents the necessary respect, we don’t really think about them that much.”

As defending champions, both the Bears and Pandas will have a target on their backs going into nationals. Despite the pressure, Krepps said that the teams have to look at the event in a vacuum, and can’t think about what happened last year.

“One of the things the coaching staff emphasized to them was that (those championships) were a year ago,” he said. “So really, this (year) is a completely new thing, and we’re starting with every team having a 0-0 record.”

Now the build-up for nationals starts in earnest, but Krepps said there wasn’t going to be anything special about the Bears and Pandas preparation heading into the event. Both the teams will continue with their weekly super-league games, which they play when they’re not competing at the university level. Aside from that, he also mentioned the possibility of playing exhibition games against other teams from around the city.

“The preparation for nationals won’t be any different from the preparation for Westerns, and that’s not much different than our normal weekly preparation,” he said.

The excitement is building for both the Bears and Pandas squads, as CIS nationals kick off on March 20 in Kelowna, with not only a CIS title on the line, but also the chance to represent Canada at the 2017 Winter Universiade in Kazakhstan.

“It’s just terrific to be back at nationals, and to put yourself in the equation for the chance to defend your titles,” Krepps said. “From my perspective, all we can do is go in there and treat every game as its own entity, and then go from there.”

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