Ontario skip Rachel Homan showed in her first appearance at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts that she could hang with the top rinks from around the country.
She's set to make a return appearance at the Canadian women's curling championship, which kicks off Saturday in Kingston, Ont., and hopes to make more than just a playoff appearance this time around.
"We've been there before and we made it all the way to the semis our first time," Homan said of her 2011 showing. "I think this time our team has grown a bit, has got more experience and we expect to be right there hopefully battling in the final if we can."
At 23, the Ottawa skip is one of the best young players in the game. Her rink of third Emma Miskew, second Alison Kreviazuk and lead Lisa Weagle holds the third spot in the Canadian Team Ranking System.
Homan will also have a supportive Ontario crowd on her side when play begins at the K-Rock Centre. There are several experienced skips in the 12-rink competition, including defending champ Heather Nedohin of Alberta, B.C.'s Kelly Scott, Manitoba's Jennifer Jones and Nova Scotia's Mary-Anne Arsenault.
"It looks like a really tough field," Homan said. "Lots of teams with lots of experience, a lot more years than us. But we've had our fair share of finals and playoffs and TV games and things like that."
Homan posted a 13-0 record in the 2010 national junior playdowns and won a silver medal at the world junior championships that year. Several family members and friends will make the two-hour trip down the highway to lend their support.
"We can't wait to go and we really want to do Ontario proud and see how far we can go," she said.
Round-robin play continues through Feb. 22 and the final is set for Feb. 24.
Jones's team steady
Jones, meanwhile, will be playing at the Scotties for the 10th time. Her Manitoba rink hasn't missed a beat since she returned to action after having a baby girl last fall.
"I came back for provincials and it felt like I had never been away," Jones said. "So we feel really good, we're having a lot of fun and we get along great.
"We just love to play, so hopefully we get to play as much as we can in Kingston and it turns into good things."
This year's field also includes Suzanne Birt of Prince Edward Island, Kerry Galusha of the Northwest Territories/Yukon, Kristie Moore of Alberta and Quebec's Allison Ross. Rounding out the list are Jill Shumay of Saskatchewan, New Brunswick's Andrea Crawford and Stacie Devereaux of Newfoundland and Labrador.
"You always say this but it really is a tough field from every province across the board," Jones said. "So there's not one team that we're looking out for. We know that all the games are going to be tough and we're going to have to come out and play each and every one of them."
Nedohin defeated Scott in last year's final in Red Deer, Alta. She went on to play at the Ford world women's curling championship in Lethbridge, Alta., and finished third behind Sweden and champion Switzerland.
The winner of the 2013 Scotties will represent Canada at the March 16-24 world playdowns in Riga, Latvia.
In men's play, the March 2-10 Tim Hortons Brier will be played at Rexall Place in Edmonton. The winner will represent Canada at the men's world championship March 30-April 7 at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.