Tracy Fleury is brimming with confidence heading into next week’s Boost National and for good reason.
Fleury’s team enters the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling event ranked No. 1 on the world women’s year-to-date standings. Not only has the skip and her East St. Paul, Man., club qualified for the playoffs in all nine tournaments they’ve played in but they’re going deep into the playoffs with five appearances in finals including a GSOC title victory at the Masters in October and a runner-up result just this past weekend at the Canada Cup.
It’s that week-in, week-out consistency Fleury is hoping to maintain at the Boost National, Dec. 10-15 at CBS Arena in Conception Bay South, N.L.
“I think we’re just getting more comfortable as a team,” Fleury said. “All of this playoff experience is great for getting a lot of exposure to high-pressure games, which is really important for our development.”
That was something lacking last year during Fleury’s first season with third Selena Njegovan, second Liz Fyfe and lead Kristin MacCuish. Fleury described their initial campaign together as a bit of a “roller-coaster” of highs and lows having reached the final of a GSOC event and then missed the playoffs at the next two or winning the Manitoba provincial curling championship but then falling in the round-robin stage of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
“I think just last year it was our first year together and there was a learning curve, a lot of developing and learning about each other and how to perform at our best,” Fleury said. “We’re just playing a lot more consistently this year.”
It was also an adjustment with Fleury living out of province in Sudbury, Ont., but they’ve found ways to make it work.
“We do a good job of keeping in touch, practising on our own and letting each other know what we’re working on,” Fleury said. “It feels natural now.”
Team Fleury’s soaring season has also seen them win the Cargill Curling Training Centre Icebreaker tournament and finish runner-up at the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic and Colonial Square Ladies Classic. Their success isn’t going unnoticed and has impressed Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling MC and analyst Pete Steski.
“I didn’t think this team would be nearly as strong as what they were last year,” Steski said. “Last year they were a little more under the radar and somehow they continue to be under the radar. You look at their results, they can’t be ignored.”
The highlight of Fleury’s season (so far) has been capturing the Masters with a 7-5 victory over Japan’s Sayaka Yoshimura in the final and in front of her Northern Ontario fans, friends and family at the soldout Memorial Gardens in North Bay. It was huge for Fleury as not only was it her first major championship with the Njegovan, Fyfe and MacCuish but also her first GSOC title ever.
“That was a big win for us and it meant a lot, especially because last season we lost a Slam final so it was nice to show ourselves that we can win one of those big games,” Fleury said. “It was a big confidence booster for us.”
Team Fleury was able to follow that emotional high and not rest on the laurels with a quarterfinal finish just over a week later at the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge Tier I in Pictou County, N.S. While Fleury may have been known more for her Scotties Tournament of Hearts appearances in the past, Steski said she’s now a “bonafide threat on the tour basically every week.”
“I think they’re the most consistent team on tour and their ceiling just continues to get higher and higher,” Steski said. “The fact that they’ve won a Slam now and are making the finals of these other spiels against the best teams in the world shows that they’re as good as they seem now. Before they were probably happy if they qualified in one of every two Slams. Now they’ve shown up and 9-3 (win-loss record) at the Slams is incredible.”
Fleury’s first round-robin game of the Boost National is Wednesday afternoon against reigning Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion Chelsea Carey from Calgary.