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Skip Jill Brothers returns to hometown for Olympic curling trials qualifier

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One of the formative victories of Jill Brothers' curling career came at the Liverpool Curling Club almost 15 years ago.

She's hoping a return to hometown ice at the upcoming qualifier for the Olympic trials yields a similar result.

Brothers has fond memories of her curling accomplishments in the Nova Scotia town, including a win over the legendary Colleen Jones for her first provincial women's title back in 2007.

"Every person in my giant, extended family was there," Brothers recalled. "It was very exciting. That's a little piece that I might hold on to, going back home to play again. That was a long time ago now but I still remember it very clearly."

The stakes will be different this time around and the venue will be an arena instead of a club.

Brothers will skip one of 14 women's teams in the Home Hardware Curling Pre-Trials starting Monday at the 1,050-seat Queens Place Emera Centre.

A 14-team men's draw is also on the schedule. Two teams from each draw advance to next month's Tim Hortons Curling Trials in Saskatoon.

Brothers and Kerry Galusha earned pre-trials berths at a qualification event last month in Ottawa. This will be the pre-trials debut for both skips.

"Curling is a game where you never know what can happen," Galusha said in a recent interview. "If you curl well at the pre-trials, you could come out and it's a possibility for us. But it's still a little bit unbelievable to me, if I'm going to be honest.

"Obviously it's going to be tough to make (the Olympic trials). It's a long trek but even us having a little chance, it's very exciting."

Other notable entries include teams skipped by Sherry Anderson (Saskatoon), Corryn Brown (Kamloops, B.C.), Krista McCarville (Thunder Bay, Ont.), Beth Peterson (Winnipeg) and Mackenzie Zacharias (Altona, Man.).

Headlining the men's draw are teams skipped by Glenn Howard (Penetanguishene, Ont.), Colton Flasch (Saskatoon), Jason Gunnlaugson (Morris, Man.), Pat Simmons (Winnipeg Beach, Man.) and Tyler Tardi (Langley, B.C.).

Brothers, a resident of Bedford, N.S., picked up the sport in Liverpool as a youngster.

Her mother still lives in the town about a 90-minute drive from Halifax, and will host Brothers and some of her teammates during pre-trials.

Each draw features two seven-team pools. After the round-robin, the top three teams in each group will advance to the playoffs.

"We don't have anything to lose in this," Brothers said in a recent interview. "We just pulled out those wins (in Ottawa) and we got into this huge event that we're so excited about."

Kevin Koe and Rachel Homan skipped Canadian teams at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Both missed the podium.

Canada delivered a golden sweep at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia. Jennifer Jones won women's gold and Brad Jacobs — who earned his 2013 trials berth via the pre-trials — took the men's title.

The winners of the trials Nov. 20-28 will represent Canada in four-player team curling Feb. 4-20 in Beijing.

Yellowknife's Galusha has been throwing first stones for her team of late, but still calls the game. Jo-Ann Rizzo, who reached the 2013 trials final with Sherry Middaugh, has been throwing last rocks.

"I really think we're capable of qualifying and then we'll take it from there," Rizzo said. "It's a step up and if we're doing all the little things, we should be able to go beyond that. But you always want to think your team can do the best that it can.

"I'd really like to see us qualify."

Competition continues through Oct. 31.

"It's early-season curling and there's so much pressure on certain teams," Galusha said. "You get a team that doesn't have a lot of pressure and if they play well, you just never know what can happen."

Curling Canada is planning for the Olympic trials to be a full-capacity event in Saskatoon's 14,000-seat SaskTel Centre.

Nine men’s teams and nine women’s teams will be in the field.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2021.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press