KINGSTON, Ont. - Kaitlyn Lawes was given a tremendous opportunity in 2010 when she joined an experienced and successful Winnipeg rink skipped by Jennifer Jones.
The two-time national junior champion fit in right away and hasn't looked back since.
"Our first couple of events it felt like we had curled together for a couple years," Lawes said. "So it was really easy to just jump right in."
Lawes is back playing third for the Manitoba rink at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. She handled skip duties earlier this season while Jones took time off to have a baby in mid-November.
The team has looked strong so far at the national women's curling championships, picking up a pair of victories Sunday to improve to 3-0. Jones beat two-time champion Kelly Scott of British Columbia 10-4 in the morning and then crushed Stacie Devereaux of Newfoundland and Labrador 9-1 later in the day.
The Manitoba rink was also solid when the 24-year-old Lawes was the skip. She picked up a World Curling Tour win at The Shoot-Out in Edmonton last September.
Lawes also guided the rink to the final of the Capital One Canada Cup last December in Moose Jaw, where she dropped a 6-4 decision to Stephanie Lawton of Saskatoon in the title game. Team Jones is also right behind the first-place Lawton in the Canadian Team Ranking System standings.
Lawes, who won her national junior titles in 2008 and '09, has impressed her teammates since coming on board.
"Kaitlyn has brought a lot of spark and spunk," said veteran Manitoba second Jill Officer. "Great shotmaking and she's a fantastic sweeper. She's so strong ... she's really brought a lot to our team."
Lawes replaced veteran third Cathy Overton-Clapham in 2010.
"It's always hard when you're changing players but we just get along so well," Jones said. "We had instant chemistry."
Jones returned to high-level curling last month at the World Financial Group Continental Cup in Penticton, B.C., helping Team North America to a 37-23 victory over Team Europe. She booked her 10th career Scotties appearance a couple weeks later with a win over Barb Spencer in the provincial final.
Jones, who underwent surgery last spring to repair ligament issues in her right knee, is extra busy this week with daughter Isabella in tow. She's getting help from family members and appears to be in top form as she goes for a fifth career Scotties title.
This was the second season in a row that Jones's team has missed one of its members for the early part of the season. A year earlier, Officer also took part of the season off to have a baby.
"Honestly it didn't feel like Jill had been away and I didn't feel like I had been away when I came back, which I think says a lot about our team," Jones said.
The 38-year-old skip is one of Canada's most successful curlers. In addition to her success at the Scotties, she won a world title in 2008 and added a bronze in 2010.
Officer also has four career Scotties wins. Dawn Askin has three victories and Lawes is looking for her first national title.
"I've learned so much by playing with these girls," Lawes said. "Just the work ethic, the consistency and the shotmaking. Just everything — they go above and beyond to get better, I find it so fascinating.
"That's exactly what I strive to do as well. It has been an amazing three years working with the girls and I feel like we're only getting stronger."
Manitoba finished on top of the round-robin standings at last year's Scotties but lost the one-two playoff to Scott, who ended up losing to Alberta's Heather Nedohin in the final.
After four draws at the K-Rock Centre, Jones is joined by Ontario's Rachel Homan, Nedohin and Saskatchewan's Jill Shumay in first place at 3-0.
Homan's latest win was a 9-2 rout of Kerry Galusha of the Northwest Territories-Yukon. Shumay remained unbeaten with a 10-5 victory over New Brunswick's Andrea Crawford and Nedohin topped Prince Edward Island's Suzanne Birt 6-5 for her third victory.
In the late draw Sunday, Scott kept Nova Scotia's Mary-Anne Arsenault winless with a 9-4 victory; Crawford improved to 2-2 with a 9-5 win over Galusha; Quebec's Allison Ross defeated Alberta's Kristie Moore 9-6; and Birt got by Devereaux 12-7.
Round-robin play continues through Friday with the playoffs set for the weekend.
Notes: Announced attendance was 3,142 for the morning draw and 3,401 in the afternoon. The arena has a capacity of 5,700. ... Montreal has been named host city for the 2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. The tournament will be played Feb. 1-9 at the Maurice Richard Arena. ... Jim Armstrong skipped Canada to an 8-5 win over defending champion Andrey Smirnov of Russia on Sunday at the world wheelchair curling championship in Sochi. Canada will continue round-robin play Monday with games against China and Slovakia.