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Curling Curner: US Women’s Nationals Preview

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Who’s going to be competing in Kalamazoo?

Monica Walker gets ready in the hack while Vicky Persinger looks at the skip.

The US Curling Nationals takes place February 9-16 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It kicks off with a Men’s draw on Saturday night and ends with the Women’s and Men’s finals next Saturday. There are eight Women’s teams and ten Men’s teams competing in this year’s National Championship. Check out the livestream to watch the action all week.

Women’s US Nationals Preview

The format for the Women’s Nationals is a full round robin followed by a Page playoff for the top four teams. In a Page playoff, First and Second place finishers of the round robin play each other; winner gets a spot in the finals. Third and fourth place play each other; winner plays the loser of the First-Second game. Winner of that game plays the winner of the First-Second game in the championship game. This system is essentially a double elimination format for the First and Second place teams and a single elimination for the Third and Fourth place teams.

Anyway, let’s take a look at the teams and my thoughts about their chances to win, from least likely to most likely. Each team has its players listed, their Year to Date rankings on the World Curling Tour from, and the % chance that I think they have to win.

Note that a standard curling team has four members; the fifth player that some teams have here will be the alternate. Some teams will use their alternate for whole games, some only at the end of blowouts, and some alternates are more like coaches that could step in if someone gets hurt or sick. In the event that a four person team has an injury, that team can compete with only three players.

Team Traxler - Rank: 158 - 0.5%

Ariel Traxler (Fairbanks, Alaska)
Emily Quello (Bemidji, Minn.)
Susan Dudt (Malvern, Pa.)
Rebecca Rodgers (Leyden, Mass.)
Sydney Mullaney (Concord, Mass.)

This team competed at the Women’s Challenge Round where they finished with a 2-3 record. The Challenge Round is basically just a Nationals Qualifier that included five teams this year. This team took home the bronze medal at this year’s Junior National Championships. This should be a good experience for this young team playing against solid competition, but I think they would be happy getting a win or two.

Team Rhyme - Rank: 133 - 2%

Kim Rhyme (Minneapolis, Minn.)
Katie Dubberstein (Portage, Wis.)
Katie Rhyme (Brown Deer, Wis.)
Amy Harnden (Blaine, Minn.)

This team also played at the Women’s Challenge Round where they lost to Traxler and Podoll, but beat Dubberstein. They finished with a 3-2 record. As you will notice, there are a lot of family members playing with and against each other. Kim and Katie are sisters (I think) and the other Katie is the sister of Annmarie Dubberstien of Team Dubberstien (at least I’m pretty sure that is the case). At last year’s Nationals, Team Rhyme finished with a solid 4-3 record.

Team Podoll - Rank: 157 - 2%

Ann Podoll (Fargo, N.D.)
Carissa Thomas (Moorhead, Minn.)
Rachel Workin (Fargo, N.D.)
Christina Lammers (Reiles Acres, N.D.)

This team won first place at the Women’s Challenge Round with a 4-1 record. Ann Podoll skipped a team last year at Nationals to a disappointing 1-6 record. While a lot of teams have curlers from all over the country, this team is pretty much all from the greater Fargo metro area (and what a great metro area it is!).

Team Dubberstein - Rank: 98 - 3.25%

Annmarie Dubberstein (Portage, Wis.)
Cora Farrell (Fairbanks, Alaska)
Jenna Burchesky (Walpole, Mass.)
Allison Howell (Chagrin Falls, Ohio)

Team Dubberstein is one of two USA High Performance Junior teams. They finished second at Junior Nationals to the other HP team, and second at the Women’s Challenge Round. Allison Howell is the sister of Tom Howell of Team Fenner. Cora Farrell skipped the Junior HP team that won bronze at last year’s Nationals. Dubberstein won the Junior Nationals in 2017 and 2018.

A about the High Performance Program: Traditionally, curling teams are self-formed, but the HP teams are put together by the US coaching staff after an offseason combine. The HP teams get funding that helps pay for their travel and tournament fees; it also provides extensive coaching and other benefits. There are currently two Junior HP teams and three regular HP teams across both genders.

Team Senneker - Rank: 88 - 9.25%

Stephanie Senneker (Port Huron, Mich.)
Rebecca Andrew (West Henrietta, N.Y.)
Emilia Juocys (Lathrup Village, Mich.)
Maya Willertz (Midland, Mich.)
Elizabeth Demers (Plymouth, Mich.)

This team should be the crowd favorites. Senneker started curling at the Kalamazoo club, and Willertz is currently a student at WMU in Kazoo. This team played several events in Ontario this season and earned enough tour points to automatically qualify for Nationals. If there is a dark horse candidate to win this year, Senneker is it. I believe Senneker is also the only curler in this year’s women’s field that I have curled against (we lost).

Team Christensen - Rank: 56 - 25%

Cory Christensen (Duluth, Minn.)
Vicky Persinger (Fairbanks, Alaska)
Jenna Martin (Wauwatosa, Wis.)
Madison Bear (Pardeeville, Wis.)

Team Christensen is the first of the three favorites of this year’s field. This is one of three non-Junior HP teams in the field. Christensen aged out of Juniors a few years ago after winning four championships and a silver medal at the 2016 Junior Worlds. After last season, Vicky Persinger moved over from Team Sinclair to this team, and Madison Bear was added after she aged out of Juniors.

Persinger is the cousin of Greg Persinger from Team Ruohanen. Jenna Martin has an interesting twitter account (@_jennamartin15), especially compared to most other curlers.

Team Sinclair - Rank: 47 - 27%

Jamie Sinclair (Manotick, Ontario)
Sarah Anderson (Minneapolis, Minn.)
Taylor Anderson (Minneapolis, Minn.)
Monica Walker (St. Paul, Minn.)
Alex Carlson - on maternity leave

Reigning National Champions Team Sinclair had a great season last year. After losing a heartbreaker in the Olympic Trials, they placed fourth at the World Championships and won the Player’s Championship, which was the first time that a US team has won a Grand Slam of Curling event.

At the start of a new Olympic cycle, there are two things that happen. One is that players change teams, and the other is that female curlers start having babies. Both of these things are true with Team Sinclair. Vice Alex Carlson is pregnant and twins Taylor and Sarah Anderson have come over from Cory Christensen’s team.

This season it seems like Sinclair has got off to a slow start, as they try to gel together with the new team members. They have qualified for the playoffs in a couple of events, but have failed to make the playoffs at the Grand Slam events.

Note: The Grand Slam of Curling is a series of events that take place over the course of the curling season and are broadcast on the Canadian sports channel SportsNet. Other than the National Championships, World Championships, and Olympics, they are the premier events on the curling calendar.

Team Roth - Rank: 21 - 31%

Nina Roth (McFarland, Wis.)
Tabitha Peterson (Eagan, Minn.)
Becca Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.)
Tara Peterson (Eagan, Minn.)
Aileen Geving - on maternity leave

Team Roth has been having the most success on tour this season of any US team; they made it to the semi-finals in two Grand Slams. They finished the Olympics with a 4-5 record after beating Sinclair in the Olympic Team Trials. Second Aileen Geving just had a kid, so she has been replaced by Tabitha Peterson’s sister Tara. Tara played with Nina and Becca on the 2014 National Championship winning team. They beat Allison Pottinger’s team in the finals that year; Tabitha Peterson was lead on that team. And Doug Pottinger (Allison’s husband) was the coach of Nina’s team.

So I am putting Team Roth out there as slight favorites based on their results this season. Last year, Sinclair and Roth were pretty much dead even, with Christensen a little behind. If any team other than Roth, Sinclair, or Christensen wins it will be a massive upset.

Games to Watch

As I mentioned above, the games can be streamed at the USA Curling website. There is one feature game per draw that is streamed, but the announcers give updates and scores for the other games. The entire schedule is on a pdf that can be found on this page. Here are some of the more interesting games:

  • Sunday, February 10 at 8 pm: Roth vs Sinclair - streamed game
  • Tuesday, February 12 at 9 am: Senneker vs Christensen
  • Tuesday, February 12 at 7 pm: Senneker vs Dubberstein - streamed game
  • Friday, February 15 at 1 pm: Page playoffs - 1 vs 2 and 3 vs 4
  • Friday, February 15 at 7 pm: Semifinals - Loser (1 vs 2) vs Winner (3 vs 4)
  • Saturday, February 16 at 11 am: Finals

Anybody planning on heading out to Kalamazoo to catch the exciting curling action? Or at least plan on watching it on the stream? Or any other questions or comments?


Who is going to win Women’s Nationals?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    (3 votes)
  • 16%
    (3 votes)
  • 27%
    (5 votes)
  • 11%
    (2 votes)
  • 16%
    (3 votes)
  • 5%
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    (0 votes)
  • 5%
    (1 vote)
18 votes total Vote Now