CURLING: U.S. Junior Nationals begin Saturday in Portage, Wis.

Feb. 01, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 31, 2008 2008 Junior Nationals kick off Saturday in Portage, Wis. (STEVENS POINT, Wis.) - The 2008 USA Curling Junior National Championships get underway Saturday from the four-sheet Portage Curling Club in Portage, Wis. Many veteran teams and a few newcomers will compete at the 2008 Juniors Feb. 2-9 at the four-sheet Portage Curling Club in Portage, Wis. The winning teams will represent the U.S. at the 2008 World Junior Championships March 1-9 in Ostersund, Sweden. Ten men's and 10 women's teams will compete in a round robin with the top four teams from each division advancing to the playoffs on Feb. 9. Three of four women's playoff teams from last season return for another shot at the junior title. Monica Walker has led her team to the final the past two seasons and looks to finally take the top spot this season. Nina Spatola, 2006 junior champion, also looks to improve on a bronze-medal finish last year. Katherine Stewart's upstart Illinois team finished fourth last year - the team's best finish. 2006 junior semifinalist and 2007 women's semifinalist Alexandra Carlson makes a second appearance for Minnesota. The remainder of the women's field is highlighted by Alaska's Kaye Hufman making her fifth appearance; North Dakota's Amanda Tucker making her second appearance; 2006 competitor Miranda Schieber (Portage, Wis.) representing Utah; and Junior Nationals rookies Ashley Schaffer (McFarland, Wis.), Miranda Solem (Cohasset, Minn.) and Sarah Anderson (Broomhall, Penn.). Leading the men's field is defending men's champion Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.) looking for a three-peat at the Junior Nationals. Stephen Dropkin's Massachusetts team is back in the field after finishing eighth last season as well as fifth-place finishers Aaron Wald of representing Minnesota and Grant Rahn of Illinois. Michigan and Alaska both return players from last year's teams that both finished 2-7. North Dakota's Erik Jensen makes his skipping debut at juniors after finishing second in 2006 at the alternate position. Brandon Corbett's New York team is making their second appearance at Juniors after finishing seventh in 2006. Teams skipped by Washington's Matt Thomas and Wisconsin's Brad Caldwell are making their rookie appearances. Here is a list of the competing teams (with hometowns in parentheses): WOMEN: Alaska: Kaye Hufman, Lacy Birklid, Vicky Persinger, Tina Persinger, Coach Leland Rich (all of Fairbanks, Alaska) Illinois: Katherine Stewart (Chicago), Amanda McLean (Duluth, Minn.), Kendall Moulton (Lake Forest, Ill.), Kaitlin Kovach (Lake Forest, Ill.), Coach Ann Swisshelm Silver (Chicago) Massachusetts: Monica Walker (Sudbury, Mass.), Laura Hallisey (Medfield, Mass.), Nikki Rossetti (Framingham, Mass.), Jillian Walker (Sudbury, Mass.), Coach Karyn Cousins (Medfield, Mass.) Minnesota 1: Alexandra Carlson (Inver Grove Heights, Minn.), Tara Peterson (Eagan, Minn.), Tabitha Peterson (Eagan, Minn.), Sophie Brorson (Duluth, Minn.), Coach Howard Restall (Winnipeg, Manitoba) Minnesota 2: Miranda Solem (Cohasset, Minn.), Grace Gabower (Milton, Wis.), Julie Lilla (Centerville, Wis.), Chelsea Solem (Cohasset, Minn.), Coach Mike Solem (Cohasset, Minn.) North Dakota: Amanda Tucker (St. Thomas, N.D.), MacKenzie Lank (Lewiston, N.Y.), Madison Lank (Lewiston, N.Y.), Jen Jacobson (Langdon, N.D.), Coach John Benton (St. Michael, Minn.) Pennsylvania: Sarah Anderson (Broomall, Pa.), Kristin Pohlman (Malvern, Pa.), Julia Pohlman (Malvern, Pa.), Taylor Anderson (Broomall, Pa.), Coach Wayne Anderson (Broomall, Pa.) Utah: Miranda Schieber (Portage, Wis.), Leila Smith (Andover, Mass.), Chelsea Mitchell (Ogden, Utah), Jennifer Rubey (Eden, Utah), Alexandra Schieber (Portage, Wis.), Coach Rusty Schieber (Portage, Wis.) Wisconsin 1: Nina Spatola (McFarland, Wis.), Becca Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.), Anna Plys (Duluth, Minn.), Jenna Haag (Milton, Wis.), Karlie Koenig (Waukesha, Wis.), Coach Neil Doese (Menomonee Falls, Wis.) Wisconsin 2: Ashley Schaffer (McFarland, Wis.), Jacque Sirianni (Wausau, Wis.), Hannah Elko (Cambria, Wis.), Rebecca Wood (Wausau, Wis.), Brittany Schaffer (McFarland, Wis.), Coach Chris Horak (Wausau, Wis.) MEN: Alaska: Matt Birklid (Fairbanks, Alaska), Atticus Wallace (Fairbanks, Alaska), Oliver Halvarson (Fairbanks, Alaska), Ryan Flippo (Eielson Air Force Base), Coach Ron Birklid (Fairbanks) Illinois: Grant Rahn (Highland Park, Ill.), Cooper Smith (Bismarck, N.D.), Matt Brown (Deerfield, Ill.), Spencer Rahn (Highland Park, Ill.), Tom Gabower (Janesville, Wis.) Massachusetts: Stephen Dropkin (Southborough, Mass.), Jeffrey Wadsworth (Wayland, Mass.), Ryan Hallisey (Medfield, Mass.), Nate Clark (Nashua, N.H.), Alex Leichter ( Wayland, Mass.), Coach Keith Dropkin (Southborough, Mass.), Coach Scott Price (Worchester, Mass.) Michigan: Richard Smith (Andover, Mass.), Zach Aragosa (Schenectady, N.Y.), Rob Escott (Farmington Hills, Mich.), Kyle Mason (Farmington Hills, Mich.), Steve Bodiya (Romeo, Mich.), Coach Steve Scheffler (Troy, Mich.) Minnesota 1: Chris Plys (Duluth, Minn.), Aanders Brorson (Duluth, Minn.), Matt Perushek (Eveleth, Minn.), Matt Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.), Daniel Plys (Duluth, Minn.), Coach Phill Drobnick (Duluth, Minn.) Minnesota 2: Aaron Wald (Chisholm, Minn.), Ben Wilson (Hibbing, Minn.), Jared Zezel (Hibbing, Minn.), John Muller (Hibbing, Minn.), Coach Tim Muller (Hibbing, Minn.) New York: Brandon Corbett (Rochester, N.Y.), Chris Bond (Henrietta, N.Y.), Derek Corbett (Rochester, N.Y.), Kell Orlando (Seneca Falls, N.Y.), Coach Clark Raven (Rochester, N.Y.) North Dakota: Erik Jensen (Bismarck, N.D.), Marcus Tucker (St. Thomas, N.D.), Connor Gervais (Amarillo, Texas), Brock Walker (Bismarck, N.D.), Coach Dave Jensen (Bismarck, N.D.) Washington: Matt Thomas (Everett, Wash.), Sam Galey (Seattle), Nicholas Pleasants (Seattle), Justin Shega (Hibbing, Minn.), Jake Vukich (Seattle), Coach James Pleasants (Seattle) Wisconsin: Brad Caldwell (Mapleton, Minn.), Matt Collom (Galesville, Wis.), Tyler Vietanen (Trempealeau, Wis.), John Landsteiner (Mapleton, Minn.), Ash Nelson (Medford, Wis.), Coach Mischelle Vietanen (Trempealeau, Wis.) USA Curling is sponsored by AIT Worldwide Logistics, AmerAust Technologies and Nike as well as by AT,T, General Motors, The Home Depot, and Bank of America through a joint marketing program with the U.S. Olympic Committee. (30) For more information: Terry Kolesar, USA Curling,, 715-344-1199, Ext. 202, or 608-338-9900 (cell).