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The Ryerson Rams’ women’s curling team already had enough of an argument to be deemed a “Cinderella story”. After falling to 1-3 to start the round robin at the 2017 OUA Curling Championship, the Rams won their final three games and managed to sneak into the fourth and final playoff spot in their pool.
But if there were any remaining doubts about this team’s Cinderella potential entering the playoffs, they were silenced on Sunday night.
In their arguably their best-played game of the tournament, the Rams defeated the Brock Badgers 6-5 in the quarterfinals of the OUA playoffs. The Badgers, who were runners up at last season’s OUAs and who swept their pool to go 7-0 in this year’s round robin, were outplayed in every position and were sent packing in stunning fashion.
The Rams were without hammer in the first end, but good takeouts from second Audrey Wallbank and vice Nicole Titkai put the Rams in great position as they ultimately limited the Badgers to just a single point. In the second, two good draws behind cover, one each from Titkai and skip Maggie Macintosh, allowed the Rams to sit two. Badgers skip Terri Weeks was able to limit the Rams to one, but another quality draw from Macintosh landed right on top of Weeks’ rock to give the Rams their two.
An early turning point came in the third end, when Titkai nailed two more draws to the four foot circle in behind cover. After attempting to draw in from the left side, Weeks was forced to draw in from the right with her final stone, but finished short of the house to give the Rams a critical steal of two and a 4-1 lead.
Still without hammer in the fourth end, Wallbank, along with lead Teagan Walton, set the Rams up nicely to sit shot stone. Badgers vice Jessica Humphries made two stellar shot of her own though to bring the Badgers back into the end and force Macintosh to reapply the pressure. Macintosh was up to the challenge once again though, making a solid hit-and-stick takeout with her second to sit shot stone once again. Weeks needed to follow suit, but her final shot of the end hit and rolled just inches too far away to give the Rams a steal of one.
In the sixth end, both Wallbank and Titkai continued firing on all cylinders, each making asuperb hit-and-roll takeout to once again put the Rams in control. Macintosh was unable to take advantage of her team’s quality setup though, overcurling on a draw with her final stone to allow Weeks to draw in for one.
Leading 5-2 and with hammer in the sixth end, the Rams looked well on their way to a blank with more great hitting from Walton, Wallbank, and Titkai. After a Weeks draw to sit two, Macintosh needed a double takeout with her first to preserve the blank. She got the runback but not the angle, leaving one Badgers stone in the house and being forced to draw for a single with her last shot to lead 6-2.
Titkai continued her spectacular performance in the seventh end with a brilliant runback double peel, followed by a single peel with her second. Another missed double from Macintosh allowed Weeks to draw to the four foot to score two points in the seventh end.
With a 6-4 lead and hammer in the eighth end, the Rams just needed to hit the Badgers out of rocks and did so with ease. With the last shot of the game, Macintosh hit one of the two Badgers stones in the house and rolled out, giving the Badgers a steal of one but giving her Rams a 6-5 victory.
The energy and joy from the team was evident after the game.
“THAT was an exciting game,” Titkai said smiling ear-to-ear.
Before the start of the playoffs, Titkai was named the second-team All-Star vice by the players. She lived up to her award in the quarterfinal and said she was a force for the Rams throughout the tournament.
“Among the vices and the teams that we played, I did my job,” Titkai said. “I think that I deserve (the All-Star award),” she said.
Titkai said that the Rams’ confidence as a team went up significantly after stealing two points in the third end. She said she was pleased with how the Rams kept applying pressure on the Badgers and forcing them to make their shots even when as their lead grew in the middle of the game.
The Rams will take on the Carleton Ravens in the semifinals on Monday. The Rams lost 9-3 to the Ravens in the round robin, but Titkai said that that result isn’t phasing her or her teammates.
“You can’t think about what happened before,” Titkai said. “If we play like we did today we’re going to have a really solid game against them… we’re going to have a pretty good shot.”
The winners of the semifinals go on to represent the OUA at the U Sports national championship in Thunder Bay in March. But even if the Rams playoff run ends before then, Titkai said she expects the school’s athletics department to be very happy with the team’s play.
“We’re a young team, we’re new here, but we can still play and we can still bring it and compete with the best in our province,” Titkai said.
“By making the semifinals I hope the school is recognizing that we’re serious and… that this is what we’re trying to continue for the years ahead,” she said.
The OUA semifinals take place Monday at 1 p.m. If the Rams win, they will play the winner between U of T and Laurentian in the final at 5 p.m. A loss puts them in the bronze medal match at the same time.
All semifinals and finals will be live streamed on the UOIT Ridgebacks website.
*LSFE= Last Stone First End*