Team Homan earn their way back to Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Rachel Homan shoots a stone during the 2019 Ontario provincial curling championships women's Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Elmira, Ont. (Anil Mungal)

ELMIRA, Ont. — Rachel Homan and her Ottawa-based club are heading back to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and they’ll be wearing Ontario colours.

The 2017 Canadian and world champions were unable to use their auto-berth to return to nationals last season as they were just a little tied up due to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Some felt their guaranteed spot should have carried over to this year, however, Curling Canada reserved them a place in the wildcard game.

You can cancel those plans as Homan is all clear to the main event while Team Casey Scheidegger, who should probably send Homan a thank you note, now qualifies for the wildcard game against Team Kerri Einarson.

Team Homan punched their ticket to the 2019 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, taking place later this month in Sydney, N.S., after bouncing Team Julie Tippin of Woodstock 6-4 in the women’s final of the Ontario provincial curling championships Saturday at Woolwich Memorial Centre.

“It’s amazing,” said Homan, who has now won four Ontario titles to go along with three Canadian championships. “We’re so excited to be able to play in this provincial and be able to represent Ontario. It feels so great to earn your way there. I mean, the wildcard spot was there but we really wanted to win it for our province.”

Homan lives for big games such as these in front of a home-province crowd with tons of fans and family on hand similar to the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in St. Catharines and the Roar of the Rings in her hometown of Ottawa.

Although Woodstock is closer and Tippin had her fair share of supporters, the chants of “Let’s go, Homan” rang throughout the venue and enabled Team Homan to feed off of the frenzy.

“We love a big crowd and lots of energy,” Homan said. “They were cheering for both teams, both ways and it was a great atmosphere in here. Thanks to Elmira for coming out and supporting the curling.”

The Ontario championship is just another trophy to the remarkable haul this season that has also seen Homan collect the inaugural Curling World Cup plus three consecutive Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling championships including her record 10th women’s title in the series earlier this month.

Team Homan maintained that momentum through this week as they were practically perfect finishing with an overall 7-1 record. Team Tippin was on a roll, too, flipping the script from winning two games in four days to winning four elimination games in two days in order to reach the championship final and proved to be a formidable opponent holding Homan to just a single to start.

A good defence proved to also be a good offence as Homan was able to generate a second point in the third end off of a steal. The teams alternated solo points in four and five and Tippin took two in the sixth to tie it up 3-3.

“Their team played really well,” Homan said. “I’m so proud of my team for sticking with our process, playing so well and really giving it our best game today and controlling it.”

That’s when Homan turned on the jets scoring a deuce right back in seven to retake a two-point lead and forced Tippin to a lone point in nine in order to wrestle control of the all-important hammer coming home for the final frame while already up by one.

“We were able to go for two when we could,” Homan said. “That steal was big and mostly just try to control it from there on in.”

Team Homan lead Lisa Weagle set the table for a perfect 10th end by executing a pair of excellent tick shots that drove both of Team Tippin lead Tess Bobbie’s guards off to as close to the sideboards as you could possibly get while staying in play in order to not violate the five-rock rule.

“The first one was a little scary and the second one I maybe went a little too aggressive on the sweep,” Homan said with a laugh. “But it worked out. Those rocks weren’t even in play and it was great. Two big shots for sure.”

Second Joanne Courtney and third Emma Miskew continued to keep the paths clear and provided Homan an open draw practically anywhere in the house on her last with only one counter just barely hanging on at the side. The slow-claps among the crowd started to gain speed and the rock finished at the back of the eight-foot circle.

It had only been 15 or so minutes since Homan received her Ontario crest yet the wheels were already in motion for the team to prepare for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. It’s like they’ve been there before or something.

“We already have a plan lined up and put in place,” Homan said. “We decided to train together and get ready for Sydney.”

Same colours, different logos: Team Homan will now swap their red, white and black tour jackets for red, white and black Ontario ones.

“We’re really excited,” Homan said. “We can’t wait to put on Ontario colours and try and represent our province as best as we can.”

Team Tippin punted Team Jestyn Murphy of Mississauga 11-4 in the morning semifinal.

Meanwhile, Team Scott McDonald of Kingston has been on a roll all week and extended their winning streak to 10-0 with a 7-4 victory over Toronto’s Team John Epping in the men’s Tankard Page 1-2 game. McDonald is now just one more win away from heading to the Tim Hortons Brier taking place in March in Brandon, Man.

Epping has another shot to reach Sunday’s championship game with a date against Team Glenn Howard of Penetanguishene in the morning semifinal. Howard made in the draw in an extra end for the 7-6 decision to eliminate Team Charley Thomas of Kitchener-Waterloo 7-6 during the Page 3-4 playoff.

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