A dive into the UNL Curling Club, what exactly is the sport that they play, the logistics behind hosting a competition and what is left on their schedule for the rest of the season.
On Jan. 23 the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s curling club hosted the Cornhusker Bonspiel. Ten teams from six schools competed in the tournament including two other in-state teams, Creighton, and Omaha. The rest of the field consisted of teams from Wisconsin-Steven’s Point, Minnesota, and Denver.
It was a show of a sport that’s played around the world, but in Nebraska, not so much.
Curling has been played for centuries. Originating in medieval Scotland, it has since spread worldwide and has become a popular winter sport, especially during the Winter Olympics. Two teams of four players take turns sliding stones across a sheet of ice towards a target called the house. The objective is to place as many stones as possible in the house, with points awarded based on their proximity to the center of the target. The use of brooms to sweep the ice in front of the stone adds an extra level of strategy and skill to the game, making it a thrilling and dynamic competition.
The curling club is unique compared to most other sports clubs on campus. around half of their new members had never played or participated in curling before joining the team including Andrew Falk.
“I went to high school with someone that had curled before and he convinced me to join the club with him freshman year,” Falk said. “Our club has a good mini learn to curl system that the club puts on during the first couple of practices where you learn the rules and how to throw so I was able to catch on pretty quick.”
Other members such as Paul Suder had quite a bit of experience under their belt before joining the club. Suder has been curling since middle school and participated in a youth league in Omaha at the Baxter Arena, so it was only natural that he joined the club when he came to UNL.
The club is divided into two sections of skills and competition. On the skills side there are no cuts, and the main goal is just to have fun and to get better. The club hosts tryouts to see who will make the competition roster for the year. The competition team travels to different tournaments throughout the year with the main goal of qualifying for the national tournament that is held in the spring.
According to UNL coach Nancy Myers, the club travels to around four different college events during the season. This year the club traveled to Milwaukee, Rice Lake, and Stevens Point Wisconsin along with Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Curling has been a club sport at UNL since 2007 except for a brief hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s bonspiel was the first time the club had hosted a tournament since 2020.
The curling club, along with all the other sport clubs on campus, have to work closely with Campus Recreation when organizing and hosting athletic events on campus.
Sports program director Brian Stelzer said that the top priorities when planning a event is booking the venue and figuring out the date to host. Events hosted at Breslow need to be booked at least nine months in advance. The financial aspect is also considered.
“We also have to look at costs, ice isn’t cheap,” Stelzer said. “We have to figure out how much to charge for the event to make sure all expenses can be paid for.”
Another group that helps out the team in many ways is the Aksarben Curling Club that is based out of Omaha. Aksarben has supported the UNL club since it was founded and helps find ice time along with coordinating and hosting a college league at Baxter Arena for local teams in the area.
Myers also serves as the college curling coordinator for Aksarben as well as being a national board member to advocate for college curling. Additionally, the Aksarben Club volunteered and helped run the bonspiel that UNL hosted.
The volunteers from Aksarben helped with officiating along with providing timing for the event.
“To the best of my knowledge we were one of the only competitions to provide timing for the games, it helps students and others manage their time and shot selection along with speeding up the game,” Myers said.
The competition volunteers also helped to prep and sweep the ice to change it from hockey ice to curling ice.
“The event went really well,” Stelzer said. “All the teams got in there, the ice was great, the teams seemed to really enjoy it, and everything seemed to go smoothly.”
In terms of the actual competition, the UNL team placed fourth at the event. The club finished with a record of 3-2 after the round robin qualifier rounds. They lost to reigning national champion Wisconsin Steven’s Point in the second event which is equivalent to what most people know as the semi-finals round.
The club is currently waiting to see if they accrued enough points during the season to qualify for the Curling National Championship later this spring. In the meantime, club members will continue to have practice and attend league play up in Omaha to stay fresh for a potential trip to Bowling Green, Ohio for Nationals.