Living the Dream: Kentville-area curlers with Team Mattatall compete at two national championships

Published on June 11, 2017

Two members of the Glooscap Curling Club in Kentville, Jill Alcoe-Holland, left, and Andrea Saulnier had a very exciting winter.

©Wendy Elliott

KENTVILLE, NS - Jill Alcoe-Holland and Andrea Saulnier are pretty relaxed these days after a winter of playing high-level curling.

In late March, the two Kentville-area competitors took part with Team Mattatall in the Everest Canadian Senior Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships in Fredericton. Earlier in the season, they curled at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts at St. Catharines, Ont.

The duo were representing Kentville’s Glooscap Curling Club, but are also members of the Windsor Curling Club, where they also got a lot of support. Alcoe-Holland and Saulnier were part of the undefeated team winning the provincial seniors’ championship back in February.

A different kind of competition

They had a great week at the Scotties, but felt disappointed in their results with just two wins. 

“We certainly had games that we could have won with a shot here and there. We lost one game by four inches in the last shot, but that is how the game is played,” Saulnier said. 

They certainly weren’t used to playing on arena ice and it took a while to get used to throwing the rocks longer for the results they were looking for, she added.

Spending at least eight hours a day in the curling venue, they had really only time to eat, curl and rest, then eat and curl again. 

There is a two-and-a-half minute break between each end, Alcoe-Holland said, because players had to wait for TV commercials. That means waiting to be told when play can resume.  

Certainly different than regular tournaments, she explained, the fifth team members become critical at fetching food and supplies.

Saulnier chuckles, recalling the fear the curlers had of getting ill.

“You can’t get sick. You don’t shake hands and you sanitize all the time,” she said.

Being in top form allows teams to adapt to ice conditions that change every day. Coach Bruce Lohnes provided valuable new perspectives, said Alcoe-Holland.

“A highlight for us when we finished competing was that we had a tour of the TSN trucks and saw how the operation worked behind the scenes,” she said. 

It was mind-boggling to see each operator working sound, cameras, voice and editing, she noted. 

“They work extremely fast because there is just a four-and-a-half second delay from the action in the curling rink until it gets to your home. TV coverage has improved a lot,” she said.

“It was also very hot to curl in the arena with television cameras on. The people were wonderful and we had many cheering fans from other areas and many people who stopped us after games to say that they were thrilled that we were still playing at this age level.”

A highlight for her was the ceremony at the beginning of the week to receive the very recognizable Scotties necklace given to all first-year Scottie players. It was Saulnier’s second time at the tournament. Players who have been there previously get diamonds added to their necklaces.

Starting at different ages

Alcoe-Holland started curling at the age of 13 under her dad’s tutelage, while Saulnier recalls being a ‘girly-girl’ in high school who didn’t start curling until she was 34.

She had been keen on barbershop singing, but gave it up to try something different. Curling offered both improved fitness and a social aspect.

The Coldbrook resident found herself taken under the wing of curler Jocelyn Nix and other senior women, while Alcoe-Holland found curlers like Yvonne Martin “spur you on and get you hooked.”

At the senior level (50+) in Nova Scotia, she adds, there “is a lot of competition, from Jill Brothers, to Marianne Arsenault and, of course, this year’s world champion skip Coleen Jones.”

Both retired now, Alcoe-Holland and Saulnier are keen to practice their curling skills each winter. They speak about the importance of a dependable icemaker, good playing conditions and the need to rotate rocks.

Rocks that “do what we want them to do” are critical, added Alcoe-Holland. While getting ready for a big bonspiel, they both want to throw rocks daily.

“We plan to practice alone and as a team to hone our skills,” added Saulnier. “We help each other.”

After the senior women’s championships, both women admit to feeling exhausted, so they rested.

According to Alcoe-Holland, it is rare for a team to go to two national championships – especially one after another.

“We were the only team of women in Canada to do that this year,” she said.

During the off-season, Alcoe-Holland runs to stay in shape and Saulnier enjoys playing golf.