SPORTS

Defending champ Homan and Olympic gold medallist Jones headline Scotties field

02/12/2015 02:46 EST | Updated 04/14/2015 05:59 EDT
Rachel Homan is looking to join a select list of women's curlers who have skipped their teams to three straight national titles.

Standing in her way is a strong field at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, which includes the last woman to accomplish the rare three-peat — reigning Olympic champion Jennifer Jones of Manitoba.

Val Sweeting, who lost to Homan in last year's final at Montreal, will represent Alberta, three-time Canada Cup champion Stefanie Lawton of Saskatchewan will skip the host province entry and five-time Scotties champion Mary-Anne Arsenault will represent Nova Scotia.

"Nothing is guaranteed," Homan said. "There are so many good teams at the Scotties and so much talent, it's definitely going to be a fight in every game for us to win."

Main draw competition begins Saturday at Mosaic Place. Other confirmed entries include Patti Knezevic of B.C., Julie Hastings of Ontario, Quebec's Lauren Mann, Prince Edward Island's Suzanne Birt, Heather Strong of Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick's Sylvie Robichaud.

Homan is aiming to join Jones (2008-'10), Colleen Jones ('01-'04) and Vera Pezer (1971-'73) as the only curlers who have skipped their rinks to three straight national women's titles.

The Team Canada entry has a different look this season.

Homan, third Emma Miskew and lead Lisa Weagle added second Joanne Courtney from Sweeting's team as a replacement for Alison Kreviazuk, who left the rink to be with her boyfriend in Sweden.

"It feels like she's been on the team for longer than a year now, it's been really good," Homan said of her new teammate.

In addition, coach Earle Morris ended his long run with Homan's side to coach his son's team this season. Richard Hart, who plays for Team Glenn Howard, will handle coaching duties for the defending champions at the Scotties.

Homan's team went undefeated at last year's tournament while Jones represented Canada at the Sochi Olympics. Homan beat Jones in the 2013 Scotties final in Kingston, Ont.

The Ottawa skip currently sits third behind Jones and Sweeting on the Canadian Team Ranking List and is coming off a Skins Game victory last month in Banff, Alta.

"We have four people on our team that all have the same goal and the same work ethic and dedication to the game," Homan said in a recent interview. "I love playing with them. They're three great girls and when you get to have fun with who you're playing with along with playing the game you love, it makes it a lot easier."

For the first time in the history of the Scotties, there will be a qualification round to determine the final entry in the 12-team main draw.

Kerry Galusha of the Northwest Territories, Sarah Koltun of the Yukon and Northern Ontario's Tracy Horgan will play a round-robin for the remaining berth. The qualifier final is set for Saturday afternoon.

This is the first year that Northern Ontario is entered in the women's national championship. In addition, the three Canadian territories will no longer be represented by a single entry.

Nunavut could have entered the qualification round but declined to participate this year.

The changes are part of an effort by the Canadian Curling Association to make the Scotties and the men's competition — the Tim Hortons Brier — true national championships by including all 14 member associations. The Brier will mirror the Scotties starting this year by using a Team Canada entry for the defending champion.

The medal games are scheduled for Feb. 22. The Scotties winner will represent Canada at the March 14-22 world women's curling championship in Sapporo, Japan.

Notes: The team that finishes last in the overall standings at this year's event will be joined in the 2016 qualification round by the two losing teams from this year's qualifier. Nunavut will also be able to enter a qualifier team in 2016. ... The Scotties winner also qualifies for the 2015 Canada Cup in Grande Prairie, Alta., along with next year's Continental Cup in Las Vegas and the 2016 Scotties in Grande Prairie. ... The 2015 Brier will be held Feb. 28-March 8 in Calgary. The winner will advance to the March 28-April 5 Ford world men's curling championship in Halifax.

———

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

MORE:cpSports