Keffer ecstatic after nabbing provincial title
In the few days since the Tirzah Keffer rink captured the 2013 Northern Ontario women’s junior curling provincial title in Sault Ste. Marie, it’s been nearly impossible to wipe the grin off her face.
“It’s still a bit of shock and excitement for me,” said Keffer, who is from Fort Frances but now is studying English concurrent education at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.
The 21-year-old Keffer, who celebrated her birthday Friday, captured the provincial crown Sunday morning, along with third Sheree Hinz, second Megan Westlund, and lead Rachel Camlin, by beating Sudbury’s Krysta Burns 7-4 in the final.
“We went into the weekend knowing that we had a really good chance of doing [it] and we felt fairly confident going in,” Keffer recalled.
“We knew that any team that was going to be there was going to give us a run,” she added. “But we practised and trained, and did so much work this year to try and get to the finals, which was our goal.”
After finishing third at last year’s junior provincial playdowns in Sioux Lookout, Keffer’s Port Arthur Curling Club rink remained nearly intact for the 2012-13 season.
The only change was the addition of Westlund at second, who replaced the departing Paige Rubenick.
Once their lineup was set, the rink went about a busy schedule leading up to the provincial playdowns, competing in bonspiels in Brandon, Man. and Duluth, Mn. while also playing league games on a regular basis at both the Port Arthur and Fort William curling clubs.
“It’s actually been very hectic,” Keffer noted. “We actually started our work in the off-season with our training as we felt that was something we could do to get better at after last year’s provincials.
“We wanted to go in as many bonspiels in as many different cities and rinks that we could to get used to playing on different ice conditions, which is also why we have one game a week at both clubs in Thunder Bay,” she explained.
“We also had an early-morning practice every Thursday and I think that is something that we had an upper hand on compared to some of the other teams.
“It felt like we ready to go for those early games at the provincials and that we were more ready to play compared to the other teams,” Keffer reasoned.
The Keffer foursome quickly proved to be the team to beat, finishing round-robin play in first place with a 7-0 mark, with their two closest games being one-point triumphs over Burns and Sarah-Anne Guay (Kapuskasing).
“We performed well throughout the weekend and we were able to get a pretty early jump on our opponents,” Keffer noted.
“I know that in our game against [Megan] St. Amand, we curled at 87 percent as a team and we didn’t feel a lot of
pressure on us, which was something that happened in many of our wins.
“In the games against Guay and Burns, we did feel a bit of the pressure and they gave us a run for our money,” she added.
“But we had a couple of key ends to put the game in our favour.”
After Burns clinched a berth to the final with a 8-7 triumph over St. Amand in the final round-robin game Saturday afternoon, Keffer and her rink knew what lay ahead of them as they headed into Sunday morning’s showdown for all the marbles.
“We knew that they could give us a good game, and we were expecting that going into it,” Keffer said.
“But we just made sure that we approached it like it was just another game and that we continued to do what we had been doing up to that point,” she stressed.
“We went over some things that we might have missed in our last game with them that made it close, but we just remained focused and determined to make our shots when we needed them to.”
After jumping out to a 3-0 lead after three ends, the Keffer rink looked to have things in control. But the Burns foursome clawed their way back in the second half and trailed by just a point heading into the ninth end.
Keffer made sure her lead would stay intact, however, scoring a critical deuce to give her rink a 7-4 lead going to the 10th.
“That ninth end was probably the turning point for us,” she remarked.
“We were up by four points in the fifth end and we had a good lead, but we missed a couple of shots in a couple of ends and allowed them to steal a couple of points.
“We really needed those two points in the ninth end, and we were able to make a hit that allowed us to have that three-point lead heading into the tenth,” Keffer added.
With a comfortable cushion in their back pocket, all the Keffer rink had to do in the final end was run Burns out of stones in order to win the provincial crown, which they did on Keffer’s first shot.
“It was funny leading into that because my lead [Camlin] noticed the number of rocks that we had left, then she looked down the rink to see that we just had to peel their guard away, and she looked at my rock and did a fist pump,” Keffer joked.
“As I threw my rock, I knew that it was going to take the guard out, so were all just screaming to make sure that it didn’t overcurl on the way down the ice.
“Then when we realized that we had won, it was just pure jubilation,” she enthused.
While her own win Sunday obviously was exciting for Keffer, she also was pleased by the showing by her younger brother, Isaac, at the men’s junior playdowns in Kapuskasing, where he finished in second place as the third on Kurtis Byrd’s Thunder Bay rink.
“Isaac and I have always had a friendly competition between one another and I am extremely proud of him,” she noted.
“I wish that we could both be going to the nationals this year, but he has one more year in juniors and hopefully he’ll have a chance to go their next year,” she added.
While the draw has yet to be set, Keffer and the rest of her team will be flying to Fort McMurray, Alta. on Jan. 31 for the Canadian juniors, which will run until Feb. 10.
“Right now, we’re just working ahead on our school work to get everything done that we have to get done before we leave,” Keffer quipped.
“Along with that, we will also be having our league games and a couple of individual practices.
“But we will mainly been working on the same things that we have done to get us this far,” she noted.