It sure seemed like Rachel Homan was on a mission at the Ontario Scotties.
Undefeated from stem to stern, some of the scores Homan's team put up were laughers: 10-1. 8-1. 8-4. 11-6. In the page playoff game against Cathy Auld, Homan's squad emerged with a 9-0 runaway, and followed that up with another win over Auld, 7-3, in the final.
Two years ago, in her first year out of junior, Homan skipped her rink to a 10 and 1 record at provincials and a berth in The Scotties, in Charlottetown. Last year, she came up with the same 10 and 1 record, but that one loss came at the worst possible time, in the final, to Tracy Horgan. Instead of Homan making a second straight appearance at nationals, it was Horgan's crew that made the trip to Red Deer.
"We did well last year at provincials, but kind of didn’t get that result we wanted," said Homan, brushing aside talk that maybe she carried a scorched earth policy into this year's Ontario Championship. "We made some mistakes in the final (in 2012) and learned from that. We learned from our entire season last year and then just tried to improve on everything this year."
They did that, finishing the week with an 11 and oh record and a chance to win a national championship not too far from her hometown of Ottawa, when The Scotties gets underway in Kingston, Ontario, on February 16th.
“I’m excited that it is in Kingston," said Homan. "That means a lot of our friends and family that maybe couldn’t have travelled pretty far are able to come this time. It’s going to be so much fun having them there.”
That's important to Homan, who says her extended family of friends and supporters can really lift her team.
It's a young team. Homan, vice Emma Miskew and second Alison Kreviazuk are all 23 years old. Lead Lisa Weagle is 27. It's just their second Scotties. (Compare that to Nova Scotia's Colleen Jones, who's returning to the tournament after a 6 year absence)
Still, there are keen observers of the game who believe that this could be the Homan rink's year and that they may very well emerge as the best of a deep field in Kingston. While Homan didn't specifically discuss goals going in, it's safe to assume that she has her eye on doing more than equalling the semi-final loss she posted as a 21 year old in Charlottetown.
“It’s a long week and there’s a lot of good teams so it’s tough to kind of sit back and look at the long term goal," she said evenly. Then added: "But, obviously our team would love to represent Canada."
Preparation for this year's run may have taken on a different kind of intensity for Homan, with practice sessions every day ensuring the team was as sharp as possible when it came time to try and wrestle back the Ontario crown.
“I wanted to prepare as much as I could," she explained. "I didn’t want to go to provincials thinking I could have done more."
With a previous Scotties under her belt, Homan realizes there's more to championship curling than execution. "It’s more than just making shots," she noted.
To that end, the team soaked up words of wisdom from seasoned curling vets and, as Homan puts it: "We’ve just kind of taken everyone’s advice and tried to make it our own."
"I think we’ve improved almost all areas," she continued. "We’ve gone to some of the national camps that they’ve held and had a lot of help with coaching. Some of the men’s teams have helped us out a lot as well. John Morris came and met me and just talked about our season and things that could help us out and really make a difference this year."
The Morris connection goes beyond John's helpful hints. His father, Earle, has coached Homan since she was twelve years old. She credits his expertise in being crucial in getting the team to its top level so quickly.
“I’ve known him pretty much my whole life" Homan said. "He’s got so much experience and so much knowledge about the game. He’s really helped kind of fast track us to where we are right now."
Homan's aquad is banking on an improvement over their showing in 2011 when, she admits, "we weren't the best team there at the time. We were pretty young. It was our first year out of juniors." Even at that, the youngsters played their way to an 8 and 3 round robin record, good for third place in the standings. They would fall to eventual champ, Amber Holland of Saskatchewan, in the semi-finals.
"I was pretty proud of how we did that year," said Homan. Then, a glimpse of the higher expectations she must certainly hold this time around. "I think we’ve really grown as a team the last two years."
“It’s definitely a different feeling going into this Scotties since we’ve been there before. This time we know what it’s about. We know what we need to do. We’ve just been building all year and getting as much experience as we can. Every spiel we’ve been in, we’ve made the playoffs. I think the worst we’ve done is semi’s.”
“We’ve played them all and we’re really excited about our chances this year,” she said.