UWSP curlers win National Championship
The Curling Association of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) won its second National Title in Eau Claire Friday through Sunday, March 9-11.
Led by sophomore skip Megan Banaski, UWSP defeated Nebraska 8-3 in the finals to win the USA Curling College Championship Sunday.
The Top 16 college curling teams in the United States were invited to play in the National Championship event, which included Harvard, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Colgate, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Hamilton College, UW-Green Bay, St. Norbert, Wayne State, the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Bowdoin, Hamilton, and the University of Oklahoma.
Banaski and her teammates, freshman Noah Behling, junior Logan Ebert, sophomore Cassie Strebe, sophomore Lorenzo Smith and senior Abbie Lee, went 2-1 in Pool Play to enter the playoffs as the seventh seed.
UWSP followed with a win over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the National Quarterfinals, and then beat Yale in the National Semifinals to reach the Championship Game.
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 each of the years since.
The Pointers won their first gold in 2015 and took home the 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,” said Smith. “And ever since I have been in love with the sport.
“Whether you are on the winning team or the losing team, laughs are shared between the opponents both on and off the ice,” he said. “There is a certain respect we all have for one another – no matter the skill level.”
The sport has earned extra attention this year thanks to Team USA’s Gold Medal in men’s curling at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, as the team included a pair of curlers from Wisconsin in John Shuster of Superior and Matt Hamilton of McFarland.
Closer to home, the Stevens Point Curling Club’s girls team recently won its second consecutive Wisconsin High School Curling Championship.
Both the Curling Association of UWSP and the Stevens Point high school boys and girls 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, as Stevens Point curlers range in age from six to 92.
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 congratulated 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,” said Anderson. “We look forward to their future success on and off the ice.”