02/14/2015 11:36 EST | Updated 04/16/2015 05:59 EDT

Skip Julie Hastings and Ontario team finally reach Scotties after 20-year run

MOOSE JAW, Sask. - Julie Hastings and her Ontario teammates felt an immediate connection when they first teamed up together way back in 1994.

They were victorious at their first bonspiel appearance in Barrie that season. More importantly, they thoroughly enjoyed playing as a foursome and felt an instant chemistry on the ice.

Hastings, her twin sister Christy Trombley, second Stacey Smith and lead Katrina Collins have taken the odd break from time to time but the team has essentially remained intact for over two decades.

They reached their first provincial final in 2009 and broke through in their fifth appearance at the event with a 9-5 win over Sherry Middaugh. That victory finally got them over that last hurdle and into their first Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

"I think when we got together in '94, we had a dream and we believed that dream was alive for 20 years," Hastings said. "That's why we kept doing it, because we knew we could do it one day."

Based out of the Bayview Golf & Country Club in Thornhill, Ont., the Hastings team has played in some Grand Slam events over the last few seasons but usually play on club ice.

At the national championship, they'll have to adjust to playing on arena ice at a 5,000-seat venue while under a brighter spotlight.

"This is totally different," Trombley said. "It's a much longer round robin, a much longer week. And it's who picks up on the ice quicker. It's just adapting to the ice conditions, learning the break points, the speeds, the draw weight.

"It's not so much about preparing to play certain teams out there, certainly there (are) really great teams here, but it's just about going out there and figuring out the ice."

Hastings was thrown right into the deep end for her opener Saturday night with a matchup against reigning Olympic champion Jennifer Jones. The veteran Manitoba skip jumped out to an early five-point lead before holding on for a 7-5 victory at Mosaic Place.

The Ontario side has yet to really celebrate their provincial title, aside from a sendoff function at their home club. As difficult as the losses were over the years, they always believed they could one day get to this point.

"We stuck with each other because we believed in ourselves and in each other," Hastings said.

They also shifted their mental approach this season and it has paid off with results. They're no longer focusing on the playoffs and are instead just taking each draw as it comes.

Their camaraderie is also evident. They finish each other sentences, are quick with a laugh and appear to be having a great time.

"I think it just comes down to that one word — chemistry," Trombley said. "Sometimes it's undefinable and indescribable.

"But it's there and it works for us."


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