West Niagara rules SOSSA girls curling
West Niagara skip Amanda Smith and vice Riley Puhl came into Thursday’s Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association curling championships at the St. Catharines Golf and Country Club on a major roll.
Two weeks earlier, the pair were on a rink that won a silver medal at the Ontario Winter Games in Pembroke. Unlike their last-rock loss in Pembroke, Smith and Puhl came up on the winning side of the ledger Thursday.
West Niagara defeated Saint Francis 12-2 in the SOSSA semifinals and then recorded an 11-1 victory over A.N. Myer in the championship game to advance to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships March 22-25 in North Bay.
Smith’s play in the final impressed the heck out of A.N. Myer skip Katie-Ann Wolfenberg.
“She was on fire. Omigosh, she made hits that I didn’t think were even possible to make,” said Wolfenberg, who works at the Niagara Falls Curling Club and started curling with her dad when she was young. “We played a good game but they just played a better one. I’m not too mad.”
About the only thing the Grade 12 student was mad about was missing the previous two years of high school curling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My friends helped get me through it and I was looking forward knowing it was going to end soon. I didn’t let it get me down much.”
The 18-year-old Smith enjoys curling for her high school.
“A lot of it is for fun, for practise and getting more ice time but also it is about making friends around the school.”
She is thrilled about getting a chance to curl at OFSAA with her teammates, including Puhl, second Kira Moor, and lead/spares Kiran and Aislinn Mierau.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the talent and going against teams that we have never played before. In competitive curling, it’s always the same teams that you are up against.”
She is also excited for her teammates.
“It is getting Kira, Kiran and Aislinn the experience to be out on the ice and competing against a bunch of teams and see what it is like against more difficult competition.”
Smith feels the West Niagara rink has been successful because of its attitude.
“Everyone wants to come out and learn. If we ask them to try and change something, they will do their best. They don’t go ‘No, I want to do it my way.’ They try their hardest to become better players.”
Smith has already had success at the provincial high school level, capturing a Gore title in her Grade 9 year.
She has had some major highlights in her curling career, including playing against Jennifer Jones, Kerry Galusha and Danielle Inglis. She lost a game 7-4 to Jones’ rink.
“I really like having that challenge of being able to go up against opponents that make shots and make you make shots,” she said. “I get to see where hopefully I will be in the future.
She is hoping to curl at the post secondary level and has her sights on the University of Toronto.
“I know where I want to go and I have been accepted into my top school and now I just have to get my dad to be OK with it.”
Other members of the Myer team, which defeated Saint Paul 13-5 in the SOSSA semifinals, were vice Avery Smith, second Madeline Berardi and lead Avalon Smith.
The Saint Paul Niagara Catholic Athletic Association championship team was made up of Alannah Burke, Charlotte Clark, Sydney Cripps, Julia De Prophetis and Lily Harold.
The team from Saint Francis included skip Anika Smith, vice Alison Kim, second Emma Bridges and leads Kiley McCaffery and Illyria Patterson.