Taylor McDonald ready to represent Canada at Universiade

Taylor McDonald shoots a stone during the Meridian Canadian Open in North Battleford, Sask. (Anil Mungal)

If you’re scanning the list of teams competing this week at the Jiffy Lube Alberta Scotties Tournament of Hearts and wondering why Kelsey Rocque’s squad isn’t among the mix, the Edmonton skip and second Taylor McDonald are kind of busy overseas.

The University of Alberta students successfully defended their U Sports national championship last year earning the right to represent Canada at the 2017 Winter Universiade in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Rocque and McDonald didn’t know at the time the event conflicted with provincial playdowns and had to make a difficult choice of one over the other.

McDonald admitted it was a tough decision, but they were able to sort it out with third Laura Crocker and lead Jen Gates during a team meeting.

“I think at first we didn’t fully realize that we couldn’t do both, so we were a little bit in shock,” McDonald said, adding with a laugh, “but that was our bad planning.”

It helped Crocker and Gates had been down this road before as they were both on Canada’s team at the 2013 Winter Universiade and understood why it’s a can’t-miss opportunity.

“After a while, the girls were OK with it,” McDonald said. “They were really supportive, Jen and Laura, they’re happy to let us go chase the Maple Leaf and try to bring home a gold for Canada. We came to it there and figured we’d have a lot more years to try and fight for the Scotties.”

Third Danielle Schmiemann and lead Taylore Theroux round out the collegiate crew from the U of A joining Rocque and McDonald in Kazakhstan with round-robin action beginning Monday.

It’s not the first time McDonald and Rocque have played together for Canada on the international stage either as they also donned the red and white at the 2014 world junior curling championships capturing the gold medal in Flims, Switzerland. Rocque also claimed a second gold the following year with a completely different lineup in Tallinn, Estonia, to become the first Canadian women’s skip to win back-to-back world junior titles.

McDonald is ecstatic to get the chance to play for Canada once more.

“It’s kind of an unreal feeling so it’s hard to even think of the possibility of giving it back, like giving it up,” she said. “I’m very excited to play for Canada again and can’t wait to get our hands on the Canada stuff.”

This is McDonald’s third season balancing the books between the pro tour and university life. While she has worked out a proper schedule, it’s getting a lot busier as Team Rocque continues its pursuit of a berth to the Olympic Trials taking place at the end of the year.

“It takes a lot of time management and lots studying on the road,” she said. “We manage it well. The rest of the girls on the team have their own school work and other work to do so it’s nice we have some time set aside.”

Of course it’s not all business on the road as there’s also the occasional battle through the zombie apocalypse in Call of Duty to unwind.

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