Chelsea Carey and her Calgary-based team had several hurdles to clear last season en route to a national curling title.
It took some time for Carey and her new teammates to adjust to the lineup change after previous skip Heather Nedohin stepped away. Funding and support was lost, a rankings drop followed, and the team was forced to post key victories in order to qualify for top events.
"I think we overcame a lot of things last year to get to where we got to," Carey said. "That's an empowering feeling and certainly brings you together as a team."
Carey skipped Alberta to a 7-6 win over Northern Ontario's Krista McCarville in the final at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Grande Prairie, Alta. Now Team Carey is hoping to build on that solid season with an eye on next year's Olympic Trials.
Carey and teammates Amy Nixon, Jocelyn Peterman and Laine Peters can lock up a berth at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings with a victory at this week's Canada Cup in Brandon, Man.
The seven-team women's field also includes Olympic champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg, Ottawa's Rachel Homan, Winnipeg's Kerri Einarson, Edmonton's Val Sweeting, Tracy Fleury of Sudbury, Ont., and Edmonton's Kelsey Rocque.
"It is a stacked field," Carey said Tuesday from Brandon. "So lots of teams are going to lose some games. You've just got to try to hang around and be there at the end of the week in the playoff picture and go from there."
The opening draw is scheduled for Wednesday morning at the Keystone Centre. Round-robin play continues through Friday and the finals are set for Sunday.
The seven-team men's field includes Olympic champion Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Toronto's John Epping, reigning national men's champion Kevin Koe of Calgary, Saskatoon's Steve Laycock, Brad Gushue of St. John's, N.L., and Winnipeg rinks Mike McEwen and Reid Carruthers.
Gushue won't be skipping due to injury. Mark Nichols will move from third to skip and substitute Charley Thomas will serve as vice-skip.
Homan, Jones and Koe have already locked up berths at the Trials. The Canada Cup boasts a $140,000 purse.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press