Author Archives: Thomas Ezquerro '18

College curling teams chase national points in Falmouth

FALMOUTH – You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to appreciate curling. But maybe it helps.

Greg Dooley is looking to compete in the USA Curling College Championships for the fourth straight year – while earning a Ph.D in astrophysics from MIT.

“Curling gets me out of Cambridge and is a really fun activity. It’s social and I get to meet up with friends. I come back to school on Mondays feeling refreshed,” he says. “But I also like the strategy that is involved. There is a good amount of thinking about where you place the stone, how you’re going to call the sweep, and the communication back-and-forth with each other. Once you’ve curled for a while you realize how important all that is.”

See a photo gallery from Saturday’s competition

Dooley made the journey with his teammates Saturday to the Cape Cod Curling Club in Falmouth to compete against five other colleges in a one-day bonspiel. Matches began at 8:30 a.m. and lasted until 4:30 p.m. as teams vied to accumulate merit points that could send them on to next month’s nationals in Minnesota. Also participating were teams from Bowdoin College, RPI, Yale, Harvard and Boston University.

The event was hosted for the third straight year by Bowdoin, even though team members had one of the longest commutes at more than four hours. But traveling great distances is not uncommon for competitors who have become hooked by a sport that most people see only when the Winter Olympics roll around every four years.

Many of the same schools who were in Falmouth will head to Utica, N.Y., next weekend for a bonspiel. In a season that began in October and ends later this month, these collegiate curlers will compete across the Northeast.

“These kids are amazing,” said Bill Gallagher, a Cape Cod Curling member who helped organize Saturday’s event. “We donate the ice time, but they coordinate everything as far as getting the schools here.”

As a club sport, none of the teams have official coaches. Instead, the more experienced curlers serve as team leaders.

In curling, a player slides a heavy stone down a long sheet of ice as teammates use brooms to sweep the ice, thus causing the stones to curve or curl toward a circular scoring target. Sixteen stones are thrown in each round, which is called an end. Points are awarded at the conclusion of the end, depending on which team’s stone or stones is closest to the scoring area, called the house.

Teams earned two points for each match win at Saturday’s bonspiel, with the losing team collecting one point. Total team points for a season that ends in mid-February will determine the 16 teams that qualify for the nationals.

Bowdoin entered this weekend’s completion ranked third nationally, while RPI was tied for first. Yale, Harvard, BU and MIT were all within the top 16 heading into the weekend, but none were yet assured of a trip to Minnesota.

“We’re on the bubble,” said Dooley, whose MIT team is ranked 14th. “This weekend and next weekend are very important. We need to play well and win some games.”

Curling remains something of a niche sport, even on campuses that field teams. None of the schools competing on Saturday have more than 20 members in their program, while MIT has just seven this year and Harvard sent only three curlers to Falmouth.

But those that compete are devoted to a sport that many started playing only in the past few years.

“I began curling when I came upon a learn-to-curl program at Yale. I was hooked from day one,” said Allison Goldberg.

A Phoenix native, Goldberg is studying for her Ph.D in pharmacology, yet she finds the time most weekends to attend bonspiels.

“It’s a really welcoming sport,” she said. “You can start at nothing and work your way up. Everyone you meet is so enthusiastic. It’s definitely an up-and-coming sport at Yale.”

Bowdoin teammates Silas Domy and Lauren Bostick organized Saturday’s bonspiel. Most bonspiels run through the entire weekend, but a lack of available ice time limited Saturday’s competition to one day. Therefore, games that can last up to 2 1/2 hours were reduced from eight ends to six, and a championship round had to be scrapped.

“It’s a less stressful event without the finals, but it’s still fun,” Domy said. “Everybody is still looking to accumulate points to qualify for the nationals. It’s a really nice environment here, but we’re competing and we want to win.”

Still, there are unlikely to be any dust-ups at a bonspiel.

“Curling is a pretty social sport,” Bostick says. “We have these weekends when we compete, and then we have lunch and dinner together. But the competition can get intense.”

Domy, a government and environmental studies major, calls curling “psychological chess.”

“There are just a million combinations of what can happen,” he said. “There are a lot more variables than in other sports.”

This much seems certain: Curling demands commitment. Bowdoin doesn’t have a curling rink on campus, so the team drives 90 minutes to Belfast, Maine, for practices and home competitions. They figured to make it back on campus after Saturday’s bonspiel at around 9 p.m.

“But after our success this year we’re gaining something of a following,” Domy says. “It’s pretty cool, actually.”

Originally posted on with photos


Curling excited for nationals in Minnesota after strong season

The curling team will travel to Chaska, MN this March to compete at the USA Curling College Championships for the first time since the team won the Division IV title in 2011. While only in the program’s sixth year, the Polar Bears have had a lot of success this season. They’re currently ranked third overall and first in their region.

“We’ve been really happy with the way this year has been going so far,” said Lauren Bostick ’16.  “Since it’s winding down, we just have to keep that momentum going until Nationals, and then, even though we’re graduating and we don’t have much stake in what happens afterwards, of course we hope that the team will continue and grow.”

Looking forward, Silas Domy ’16 is both positive and cautious about the team’s prospects at Nationals.

“[We’re] sort of up in the air. We’ve both won and lost against most other teams we’ve played,” said Domy. “Yet I don’t think we’ve ever had four of our five best players on the same team in a competition this year.

Since only four people participate in each game, teams with stronger rosters won’t have their strongest lineup compete in every game or every tournament. This year’s team has a strong core of 10 players, representing all class years and experience levels, forming the program’s deepest squad in recent years.

“We have a very cohesive team,” said Domy. “Without that, we probably wouldn’t have a team because I think Hamilton is the only other similarly sized school that usually has a team in the entire country.”

With more committed players this season, the team has been more aggressive in its scheduling, traveling all the way to Rochester, NY and Philadelphia, PA for tournaments, which are called bonspiels. The team co-hosted the 6th Annual Crash ‘Spiel with the University of Maine on January 24, featuring eight teams from seven colleges. The team will also be hosting a one-day bonspiel this weekend in Cape Cod, which will feature eight teams from Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York.

Outside of some assistance from adults at the curling club in Belfast, ME, the team is entirely student run. Domy and Bostick have organized and led the team since their sophomore year, managing everything from scheduling, to coaching new players, to driving the team to practices and bonspiels. While challenging, the seniors note their experience as one of the program’s key strengths.

“The fact that we had two years to figure things out makes the program stronger,” said Bostick. “Of course it would be better if we had upperclassmen to guide us along the way, but since we’ve been in charge, there hasn’t been that change in leadership where things would have to start over. The development has been slow, but I think it’s really rewarding to see it come to fruition this year. Now we know what to do, and we just have to do it.”

Curling at its most fundamental level involves two teams sliding large stones across a sheet of ice, competing to have the stone that’s closest to the center of the target that’s painted on the ice. The four players on each team rotate through the roles of throwing the stone, using a broom to control the speed and direction of the stone and directing the other team members. A standard game consists of eight ends, which are sections of the game similar to innings in baseball. During an end, each team throws eight stones, and the team with the stone closest to the center of the target wins points for that end. The games are fairly low scoring. Typically neither team will have more than ten points at the end of competition.

The team holds weekly practices in Sidney J. Watson Arena, although the hockey rink isn’t the most suitable environment for curling training, as the sport takes place on differently textured ice. However, these casual practices serve as a great way for new people to try out the sport and get introduced to the team.

“You don’t have to be particularly strong or fast. You don’t need to have won the genetic lottery to be good at this,” said Bostick. “It’s just something you commit to, and you learn the technique and understand the strategy, and it’s something you can play for a really long time against all age levels.

Originally posted on with photos

Video: Bowdoin Curling Team Wins Silver in Championship ‘Bonspiel’

Bowdoin College’s curling team is brushing brooms and throwing stones on its way to regional and national prominence. This season the team won the Maine State Championships and came in second in its division at the regional games, losing to Harvard University.

Nationals weren’t held this year – which Bowdoin won in its divisionlast year – because of funding issues with College Curling USA.

Captain Carl Spielvogel ’13 said his team’s “very happy with our results because we moved up from the very bottom of the bracket, in years of experience, and lost to the top [bracket].” The current team, which Spielvogel founded last year, consists of Jay Tulchin ’13, Andrew Hancock ’13 and Jimena Escudero ’13.

Spielvogel has also been instrumental in getting a college league started in Maine, according to a recent story in the Bangor Daily News.Now Bates and Unity colleges both have teams. And in early March, 10 teams from around New England and New York traveled to the Belfast Curling Club in Belfast – Maine’s only curling rink – to compete in the Maine college league’s first bonspiel, as curling tournaments are called.

Escudero, who joined the team this year, said the 23-hour bonspiel of nearly nonstop curling was the highlight of the season for her. “It was great to meet and socialize with curlers from all over the region, and as it was the first time I really saw curling in action, I feel like I learned more about the game than I had in all the weekends leading up to it.”

Spielvogel says he anticipates the team will be a strong contender next season. “Next year we’ll be training hard to qualify and make it to nationals. With ice time granted twice a week to us at Bowdoin (thank you Bowdoin!) and ice time at Belfast, we’ll be ready to hit the ice in October to practice drills.”

Originally posted on with photos.

Curling prepares for home bonspiel

After winning a national championship in its first season last year, Bowdoin’s club curling team is looking to repeat its early success. More than halfway done with its season, which ends in April, the team has its sole home competition this weekend.

Individually, the athletes have been practicing regularly, traveling an hour and a half to Belfast, Maine, every Sunday for ice time. Due to the long commute, the players curl individually whenever they have time. Some curl midweek in leagues, while others practice over school breaks against other programs, such as Harvard, Boston University, Colgate, and MIT.

The team is looking forward to its two biggest events of the season: the Maine Collegiate Championships and Easterns. Last year, the Polar Bears took first in the former bonspiel—the name for curling competitions—and are looking to repeat this weekend.

Despite the squad’s excitement about the upcoming events, there are some noteworthy changes to this year’s curling calendar. Instead of Nationals, the divisions will be split up into Eastern, Midwest and Central. Most curling events include D-I, D-II and D-III competitors, with both undergraduate and graduate competitors. Curling is unique because teams may be comprised of curlers from different schools, so players from MIT, Harvard, Bowdoin, and Unity College get to know one another and spend time together.

There is a lot more to curling than may meet the eye, according to captain Carl Spielvogel ’13.

For one, it’s all about stance. Curlers spend a significant portion of their time balancing on one foot as they brush the ice, in order for the stone to travel down the surface. Spielvogel said that loose clothing allows for optimal movement. In addition, players must memorize where on the ice the stone will curl the most depending on its weight, and how to use the ice to their advantage.

Spielvogel said he enjoys curling because “it is all centered around sportsmanship.” Before the match, players shake the hands of all their teammates and their opponents and say, “Good curling.”

The biggest challenge thus far has been an interest in curling, as the team currently consists of fewer than a dozen participants. There are several events that the team could have competed in, but the team has found it difficult to attend due to travel and expenses.

Originally posted on with photos

Curling headed to Chicago for nationals

“We didn’t know we were any good.”

Those were the words of curling team captain Carl Spielvogel ’13—the head of a 6-1 team that is heading to collegiate nationals in Chicago. Spielvogel was speaking about the team’s first major tournament in Boston—effectively Eastern regionals, he said—where it landed in third place in the second division.

Winning the competition was only about an inch away, team members said.

Now the foursome of Andrew Hancock ’13, Jay Tulchin ’13, Margot Haines ’13 and Spielvogel will head to the Midwest and aim to reach the podium in their division. The goal, Spielvogel said, is within reach.

Coming in third place “was a big deal,” Spielvogel said. “We had people from all over inviting us to come curl with them.”

Prior to the Boston Collegiate Tournament, the curling team had won the Maine State Championship, though the only other school to participate was Unity College.

But results have come only after much effort. Each Sunday, the curling team—which consists of at least eight regular participants, Hancock said—travel an hour and a half north to practice at Belfast Curling Club, the only curling club in Maine. Practices last three or four hours, Hancock said, including strategy meetings and playing simulated games.

“It’s good fun, it’s not a varsity sport,” Hancock said. “You help each other out.”

Spielvogel, who had no prior experience with curling, originally thought of starting a team last year.

“I was with some of my friends watching the Olympics, and we said ‘We should start the curling team.'” Spielvogel called Belfast Curling Club and got in contact with Douglas Coffin, who is now the team’s coach.

Tulchin said Spielvogel approached him about curling long before they received their club charter.

“[I was] sort of half-expecting it to fall through, half expecting it to come to fruition,” Tulchin said.

Sure enough, however, Spielvogel received the club charter and the curling club was an official entity starting in September 2010.

Given the team’s relative success already, team members were confident they would be able to recruit more participants next year. Competitively too, Spielvogel was looking up.

“Personally I think we’re good enough next year to be in the first division,” he said.

Originally posted on with photos.