SYLVAN LAKE — This time around, Val Sweeting didn’t take anyone by surprise.
Sweeting captured the 2010 Alberta women’s curling championship as a virtual unknown, and prevailed in the most unlikeliest of fashions after being on the verge of elimination with two losses.
On Sunday, before a few hundred fans at the Multiplex, Sweeting and her supporting cast of third Dana Ferguson, second Joanne Courtney and lead Rachelle Pidherny were favoured to down 2010 Olympic silver medalist Cheryl Bernard of Calgary, and they came through in spades with an 8-4 victory.
The provincial championship win capped a perfect week for the Edmonton foursome, which didn’t suffer a single loss.
“Any way you get to the final is good, but the fact that we stayed strong and stayed with it every game . . . it’s a great feeling going into the Scotties for sure,” said Sweeting, whose Edmonton team will represent Alberta in the 2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts Feb. 1-9 at Montreal.
“It’s a totally different mindset for me from 2010 because at that time nobody knew who was and the pressure was kind of off. The target wasn’t on our back and we qualified through the C event in the NACA playdowns.
“It’s totally different this year. We were seeded second coming into the provincials and we’ve had a good season so far. We just played really well all week and I’m proud of the girls.”
Sweeting finished first in round-robin play, then downed Heather Nedohin 6-5 in Saturday’s 1-2 Page playoff game.
Bernard, meanwhile, edged Crystal Webster of Calgary 10-9 in the 3-4 contest, setting up a Sunday morning semifinal in which Bernard topped Nedohin 7-5.
The final took on a feeling of doubt when Sweeting snapped a scoreless tie with three in the second end. Bernard battled back with singles in each of the third and fourth frames, and Sweeting took one in the fifth and gave one back in the sixth when Bernard executed a gentle tap-back with her final stone while facing five opposition stones.
From there, Sweeting counted two in the seventh, gave up one in the eighth and struck for a deuce in the ninth, at which time the teams shook hands.
“They played great all week and were deserving of this,” said Bernard of the Sweeting foursome. “They deserve to go to the Scotties and they’ll represent Alberta well. They’re an awesome young team and they will be kind of the future of Alberta.”
Bernard, who praised the ice conditions at the Multiplex, hinted earlier in the week that this might be her last season of competitive curling. She wasn’t willing to take on that subject Sunday while surrounded by rinkmates Susan O’Connor, Lori Olson-Johns and Shannon Aleksic.
“This is their day, so that’s for another day to talk about,” said the veteran skip, nodding in the direction of the Sweeting foursome.
“They played great all week and I’m so happy for them. At the same time, it was a great week for our team. I’m so proud of the girls and I’ve had a great time playing with them.”
The Sweeting quartet applied pressure throughout the provincial final and only Bernard’s precision shot-making abilities kept the outcome in doubt.
“We definitely stqyed strong to the very end. We knew the Bernard team was good and that they would play well. We expected to be a close game,” said Sweeting. “Cheryl was making such good draws to almost take things away from us. But we stayed strong and I’m just really proud of the girls and how well they played this week and how we stuck together all week.”