Senior Ali Creeger and her University of Nebraska-Lincoln Curling Club teammates had a lot to celebrate recently. For the first time in club history, the Huskers placed second at the USA Curling College Championship.
Getting to that point wasn’t easy though. To qualify for nationals, the Huskers competed in smaller competitions nationally throughout the season. The team earned points in a merit point system, where a win earns two points and a loss one point.
“The top 16 teams from those points then get an invite to nationals,” Creeger said. “We were ranked seventh going into nationals and we brought four players there. Once we were there, it’s a pool play so there were four pools of four.”
Nebraska advanced through pool play and on to the semifinals, ultimately winning and advancing to play the University of Minnesota in the finals. The second place finish was the club’s best ever.
By the end of the weekend, Creeger felt the team had done a nice job staying focused and communicating with one another despite a pool-play loss that could have been the end.
“I think the big thing really is the communication,” Creeger said. “You need to get along with your team and you need to be able to talk on the ice. If someone does miss a shot, you tell them that it’s OK and you can turn it around.
“You keep pushing forward.”
The Huskers did just that, eventually advancing to the finals. While Nebraska didn’t get the win over Minnesota, Creeger and her teammates were very pleased with the end result and the overall year that the club had.
“Everyone was really positive on the team this year, and that really helps the morale of the team and helped keep us focused,” Creeger said. “Even when we weren’t winning, we kept saying to each other, ‘It’s not the end of the game. Stay focused. We can win this.’”
Now that the Nebraska curlers are back on campus, they’ve already starting to field questions about next year’s team. While Nebraska is still working to build popularity for the sport of curling in the state, the second place finish at nationals helps. In fact, the club has already enjoyed responding to those inquiries since their return home.
“As [curling] does gain more awareness [in Nebraska] through the Olympics and television, we do have people sending us emails that are in high school,” Creeger said. “They’re asking what our curling program is like and if we practice, what the ice is like.
“It’s nice being able to answer those emails and say, ‘Hey, we are a great program.’”