Haines women are on the roster for Juneau’s Gold Medal Tournament for the first time in about a decade.

Tournament organizers last week notified members of the local women’s league that a Haines team would be among four in the bracket. Haines women will face Craig, Kake and last year’s tournament winner, Hoonah.

Krista Kielsmeier, a Gold Medal devotee who helped organize the women’s city league play this year, said she was excited a Haines squad could make the tournament in the same year the league started. “We’re thrilled we can play. To go from open gym to city league to Gold Medal in the same year is way beyond what I thought we could do.”

As of Wednesday, the team had identified about 15 women who wanted to play at the tournament. Other potential players, including former residents and Haines High School alumni, will be contacted and businesses sought as team sponsors. Practices were to start next week.

“The out-of-towners are really going to pump up the team. At a certain point we’ll have to make tough decisions deciding who’s on the final 12 (roster) for the tournament. We’ll try to have a democratic process… but it’s going to be really difficult to choose because there have been so many good players,” Kielsmeier said. “We’ve got a good mix of bangers, shooters and slashers.”

Lisa Shove played on a Haines women’s team at Gold Medal in 2002, a year after graduating from Haines High School.

“I remember that it was challenging. There were some older, stronger women. We got knocked out (of the tournament) right away,” Shove said this week.

She’s encouraged about this year’s squad, particularly runners like Stoli Lynch, Sarah Elliott and Christine Hansen. “We have runners to keep us going, which helps a lot. The last time, we had enough players plus a couple on the bench. This year we have a great selection of people. Having that bench to sub in, we should be competitive.”

Shove said she would like to see a women’s game at Haines’ Dick Hotch Tournament.

Gold Medal Tournament co-chair Edward Hotch said seven women’s teams from around Southeast applied to play in the tournament and others expressed interest. He said a limited tournament volunteer pool is a major reason more teams can’t participate in the tournament. “If we had more volunteers, we could probably up it.”

Hotch said the Lions Club, which organizes the tournament, invites back winning teams. First teams to be eliminated from the tournament typically must sit out a year before being invited back.

Between 18 and 20 men’s teams are invited to play in Gold Medal each year in three brackets, with some men’s teams also turned away in each bracket, Hotch said. The tournament is a fundraiser for the club.

Women’s play at Gold Medal begins March 22.