UWSP Curlers Win National Championship
For the City Times
EAU CLAIRE — On Sunday, the Curling Association of UWSP, led by sophomore Megan Banaski, defeated Nebraska 8-3 to win UWSP’s second College Curling National Championship.
Banaski and her teammates, freshman Noah Behling, junior Logan Ebert, sophomore Cassie Strebe, and sophomore Lorenzo Smith, and senior Abbie Lee, went 2-1 in pool play and entered the playoffs as the seventh seed, but beat Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the quarterfinals and Yale in the semis to reach the title game. Teams playing in this elite tournament included Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania (Penn), Colgate University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Hamilton College, UW-Green Bay, St. Norbert College, Wayne State College, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Bowdoin College, Hamilton College, and the University of Oklahoma.
Team Banaski’s success continues their young program’s record of excellence. The Curling Association of UWSP formed in 2014 and has reached the national championship tournament in every year since. They won their first gold in 2015 and took bronze in 2017. The core of that 2017 team graduated, but Banaski’s young team gelled quickly. The program’s success partly reflects strong freshman recruitment: both Banaski and Behling excelled in high school and came to UWSP specifically to curl at the college level.
They have also introduced the sport to many students for the first time. Alternate Lorenzo Smith had never curled before coming to UWSP.
“The team reeled me in with their cookies at the club sports fair,” he says, “and ever since I have been in love with the sport.” Smith especially values curlers’ tradition of sportsmanship: “Whether you are on the winning team or the losing team, laughs are shared between the opponents both on and off the ice. There is a certain respect we all have for one another — no matter the skill level.”
The sport of curling has earned extra attention this year thanks to Team USA’s gold medal in men’s curling at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Two of the gold medal winners hail from Wisconsin: Superior’s John Shuster and McFarland’s Matt Hamilton. Their success has spurred popular interest in the sport, as curling clubs across the country report large crowds at open houses and instructional sessions. Closer to home, the Stevens Point High Schools Girls Curling Team recently won their second straight state championship. At every level of the sport, it is an exciting time to be a curler in central Wisconsin.
Both the Curling Association of UWSP and the Stevens Point High Schools Curling Teams play out of the Stevens Point Curling Club, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to bringing the sport to residents of all ages and abilities. Stevens Point curlers range in age from six to ninety-two. In addition, the club offers a season-long “Little Rocks” program for ages 10-13, and a four-week “Kids Curl” program for ages 6-9. Club President Doug Anderson congratulates the UWSP curlers, many of whom play regularly in leagues. “The fact that they lost some key members to graduation and were able to put on such a strong performance is a tribute to the Curling Association they’ve put together at the university. We look forward to their future success on and off the ice.”