The Scotties Provincial Championship was recently held in Tisdale, where Saskatchewan teams competed for their coveted green jackets and the opportunity to represent their province at the 2024 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary. It turned out that 22-year-old Skip Taylor Ackerman and her team would make the final cut, winning over Team Martin with a precise hit and roll using the very last rock of the event. While it may have only been Ackerman's second appearance at this tournament, many veterans of the sport were there to provide strong contest for the title. Among them was one curler with close ties to the Weyburn area.
Making her return to the Provincials as Third for Team Tisdale, local competitor Jade Bloor found herself in familiar territory and with high spirits entering the tournament. Bloor had previously advanced to the Provincial round in 2016 and remained a constant presence in the following years' qualifiers. Then, amidst starting a family and the dampers that came along with the pandemic, Jade found that playing at the club level was more suitable for her- At least until last year. She said that after just missing the cut for last year's Provincials with Tisdale at the helm, she and her teammates were fired up and committed to making a strong run for 2024.
"We finally got back at her last year, and we were so close. We narrowly missed our chance to play at the Scotties," she recounted. "So, this year we were pretty revved up. We wanted to be there and we were really excited to qualify."
Preparations for Team Tisdale involved consistent trials, playing weekly together in a highly competitive league with the Highland Curling Club in Regina. Additionally, they entered 5 separate events throughout the last year which would benchmark their growth and success. The one trip that stuck out most in Bloor's memory was their trip to Swift Current for the S3 Group Curling Stadium Series.
"We actually won that event, and it kind of set the tone for the rest of the season," she remarked. "We knew we had what it takes to beat the best teams, as long as we're doing everything right, and that inspired us to keep our heads high and try really hard."
It was a milestone accomplishment for Team Tisdale, and one that confirmed the chemistry they had formed on the ice. Although Chantel Martin was new for the season and assuming the role of Second in place of Renee Michaud, Bloor and Martin had previously curled on the same university team and already shared some rapport. All the same, the year spent learning each other's nuances was well worth it in Bloor's mind. She greatly credited the team's ability to trust each other for their success.
"We all got along really well, and it didn't take too long for us to start clicking and doing what we needed to do," she said. "Kudos to Jana, though. She is a really strong Skip. She's great at figuring out people's tendencies and getting the broom in the right spot. We make a lot of shots with her as our skip."
Once finally stepping on to the ice at the Provincial event, Jade had noted that many of the competitors were quite familiar. She described women's curling as a tightly knit group, with many in the province having experience playing with or against each other throughout their careers. That familiarity brought a friendly excitement to the rink and added another level of enjoyment to the experience for Bloor.
"It's always fun to be in the same rink as Sherry Anderson. She's a hoot, so I was excited to have her with us there. Chelsey Emberley, who's just recently moved to Weyburn, she and I played league together in Weyburn so it was really fun to have her there in the Brooklyn Stevenson Rink," she reminisced. "But you know it's going to be a good game when you come up against Michelle Englot. They have a good lineup, they have everybody playing the right positions. It's always fun to play against them. Actually, our game was so close, it was a nail biter. Everyone was playing well and it was really anybody's game, but they were able to pull it off with the last rock and take that one home. It was exciting. We shook hands after, being the losers of the game, and I actually turned to Jana and said 'Wow, that was fun!' "
Although Team Tisdale didn't find as many wins at Provincials as they had hoped for, the experience was certainly remarkable. Jade could only rave about her teammates and coach, saying that the confidence she had in them was absolutely crucial for every step of the journey. What comes next still remains to be seen. With the season mostly concluding for Team Tisdale, Jade expects to enjoy some club matches as everyone recoups and decides on their next directions. She did share some closing tips for anyone seeking to make their run for the Scotties next year, though.
"Be prepared to lose a lot of games, and look for the small victories all the time," she advised. "Look for the shots you could be making and develop those skills, it'll take some time to start getting the W's. Also, find some teammates that make you feel good, that you're proud to play for, and that you believe in. Personally, I have unquestioned faith in Jana as a Skip and it's made me a much stronger player. And if you're trying to be a competitor, look for a really good coach."
Jade also gave mention to the invaluable support that saw her through this journey.
"I want to say thanks to everybody who supported me along the way. This isn't the end. I'm grateful for all the rinks that I'm associated with. Highland Curling Club is our rink of choice, but at the Weyburn Curling Club and Midale Curling Club, ice is always available for me there and people are always cheering and supporting and it's really awesome to know that those communities have your back. Along the years, they've also had some special coaches and curling influences that I really value, and I appreciate the efforts they put into me for this season."