ESTEVAN — It wasn’t an easy path, but Robyn Silvernagle is once again Saskatchewan’s women’s curling champion.
The Silvernagle rink, competing out of the Twin Rivers Curling Club in North Battleford, doubled up Nancy Martin 8-4 on Sunday at Affinity Place in Estevan to win the Viterra Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
It’s her third title in five years, as she also won in 2019 and 2020, and her first with her current team of third Kelly Schafer, second Sherry Just and lead Kara Thevenot.
“Kara and I have curled together for a really long time, and neither of us were playing on a team this year, so we said, ‘Why don’t we throw a team together for playdowns and see what happens?’ We wanted some good players so that we had a chance and we played well today, so we gave ourselves a chance,” Silvernagle said in a media scrum after the final.
She noted that Schafer, who hails from Scotland, will have now competed at national events in two countries.
Martin, playing out of the Martensville Curling Club, scored once in the first end, but Silvernagle responded with two in the second and a steal of one in the third. Martin scored another in the fourth, but Silvernagle added two in the fifth to lead 5-2.
“We played this morning, so we’ve been on the ice, we got out the jitters. We had control of the ice and we’re playing well, so we said let’s go after it right away and they might still be nervous. We didn’t want them to have time to get their feet under them,” said Silvernagle.
Martin added single points in the sixth and eighth ends, while Silvernagle scored one in the seventh, leaving Silvernagle up 6-4 with two ends remaining. Silvernagle scored two in the ninth to go up by four, and ran Martin out of rocks in the 10th.
It was the third time Silvernagle and Martin had met during the tournament. Martin won the first two, beating Silvernagle 9-2 in seven ends on Thursday and 9-8 in a playoff matchup on Saturday evening.
“They definitely outplayed us yesterday [Saturday] and we got some breaks today,” said Siilvernagle. “We played a lot better today. I’d say that was the best game we’ve ever played together as a team, so we picked a good time to do that.”
Martin was undefeated at the Scotties until Sunday’s final, and had been playing great curling since rallying from a 7-0 deficit through three ends against Lorraine Schneider in her first game.
The opening draw of the Scotties was last Wednesday night. Three draws were played on each of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and two on Sunday.
Martin won the A final on Friday afternoon, defeating Sherry Anderson 7-6 and punching her ticket to Saturday evening’s playoffs.
Silvernagle recovered to defeat Anderson 8-2 in seven ends in the B final on Sunday morning, putting her in the Saturday playoff game against Martin.
The C event spots were taken by Anderson, who defeated 2022 provincial champion Penny Barker 7-5, and Skylar Ackerman, who beat Brooklyn Stevenson 15-8. Anderson then edged Ackerman 8-7 in an extra-end playoff game Saturday night.
Silvernagle defeated Anderson 12-7 in eight ends in a playoff game Sunday morning, giving Silvernagle’s rink a third shot at Martin.
Since Team Silvernagle wasn’t formed until last fall, they didn’t accumulate enough points through tour events this season to advance directly to provincials. They had to go through the Last Chance Qualifier in North Battleford in January, where they won the B event to make it to the Scotties.
Silvernagle said all four team members were in this for the same reasons.
“We weren’t putting too much pressure on ourselves. We just wanted to go out and play and make some shots and have some fun. We’re all experienced curlers and you can put that all together,” Silvernagle said.
Silvernagle praised the organizing committee, the volunteers, the sponsors and everyone else who made the weekend happen.
“Any event you go to, it’s a lot of work to put on,” said Silvernagle. “I’ve never hosted an event or been a part of a committee, but I know it’s a ton of work. So, you appreciate everything you do from the volunteers to the ice makers.
And it was great to play in an arena again.
“Last year was in a curling club, which is still awesome, but the arena just gives you that atmosphere when the fans are right there and you can hear the cheers. We just thrive off the fans, so we just love it,” the Unity resident said.
Unity’s Fitness Lair community, and owner Lindsay Barber, where Silvernagle is a member, said, “Robyn’s first wins were emotional after watching her persevere for years, striving to be better and better, to finally take the Sask. title back to back in 2019 and 2020, but this win was on a whole different emotional level.”
“Seeing her earn her way back to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts after all she has been through since her last competitive year on the ice was truly heartwarming. I don’t think there was a dry eye watching the end of that final game.”
Barber added, “Although the team was thrown together somewhat at the last minute, I’m not surprised they won. They are a team full of talent and experience and Robyn has had more than her share of building mental fortitude, courage, patience, grit and perseverance over the last couple of years. I have no doubt that aided her in clinching this win. She is a true competitor who works hard in and off the ice and we are so proud to have her represent our province!”
It’s been a “roller coaster” of a year and a half, she said. She wasn’t curling at the start of the season, so to win her third provincial title is a great feeling.
This was a special win, she said, after what her family has been through. Her son, Kolt, was born several weeks premature.
“He spent almost an entire year in the hospital from when he was born. He had eight – I think it was eight – surgeries, and he will need more, but hopefully not for a little while. And there was definitely moments where he shouldn’t have made it, so we’re very happy he is here with us.”
She said she was always “jealous” of those who could have their kids with them at the Scotties, so to have him in Estevan was pretty amazing.
He’s doing really well now, Silvernagle said, and he’s a determined young man.
Silvernagle advanced to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Kamloops, B.C., Feb. 17-26. She will try to win Saskatchewan’s first national title since Amber Holland in 2011.
— With files from Sherri Solomko of the Unity-Wilkie Press-Herald