Curling to face Korea in semifinals
(VANCOUVER, British Columbia) - Augusto Perez and Team USA will go into Saturday's semifinals riding a three-game win streak after taking down Switzerland this afternoon at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
"The playoffs are anyone's game. We just play each game as it comes," Perez said. "We need to keep our composure and not look too far away [to the gold medal]."
Now boasting a 7-2 record, Perez (East Syracuse, N.Y.) and teammates Patrick McDonald (Orangevale, Calif.), James Pierce (North Syracuse, N.Y.), Jacqui Kapinowski (Point Pleasant, N.J.) and James Joseph (New Hartford, N.Y.) earn the No. 2 playoff spot that delays a playoff showdown with No. 1 Canada for the moment. Instead, they'll face Korea's Haksung Kim rink, which defeated Germany, 9-2, to finish with a 6-3 record. The fourth seed, and Canada's semifinal opponent, should be determined tonight as the round robin concludes. Sweden and Italy are both 4-4. The Swedes play Germany (3-5) while Italy battles Canada (7-1).
The semifinals are set for 10 a.m. Saturday with the medal games following at 3:30.
"This is our best record ever. Each year we've been getting better and better," Joseph said. "This year is not about the medal to me, it is about competing in my favorite sport. It's the thrill of the game that keeps me going." Joseph played in today's game at the second position and shot 64 percent - his best effort in three games played this week.
"We've worked with Steve [Brown, head coach] since May. He works our butts off," Joseph said. "We have worked so hard to get here and have such great people all around us. It's the perfect atmosphere to win."
Today's victory against Switzerland's Manfred Bolliger rink was a solid effort by the Americans, who shot 59 percent compared to just 37 percent by the Swiss.
"We played pretty well, but the ice was running fast on one side, and slow on the other so we tried to force them to play the sides," Perez said.
The U.S. had a draw for three in the opening end when the Swiss weren't able to remove the stones the USA front-end brought into the house. Perez had a little too much mustard on his toss, though, as it zoomed out of the back of the house, giving the Americans a deuce instead.
The U.S. got a stone hidden behind a wall of guards in the second to steal a single. Switzerland looked poised to get points on the scoreboard until two misses by Bolliger on the USA rock Perez placed in the four-foot occurred and the U.S. stole another point. The U.S. limited Switzerland to a single in the fourth end after Perez converted an angle raise to promote a U.S. stone to a grab piece of the button. With half the rocks in front of the house clogging the path, Bolliger tried a raise but the angle really wasn't there due to all the clutter.
Bolliger, who has won a gold, two silvers and a bronze at past world wheelchair championships, came through a port to the house to try to remove one of three U.S. stones in the fifth end but just nudged one further into the four-foot before running his own stone out the back of the house. He'd wreck on the guard with his final rock, giving Perez a chance to draw for four but Perez was heavy, picking up three.
Bolliger, shooting just 6 percent after five ends, made a crucial takeout against four U.S. stones that were scattered around the house resembling the holes in Swiss cheese to save the end and score a single. A perfectly executed hit and roll off of a stone on the far side of the house by Joseph helped set the seventh end up nicely for the U.S. Pierce followed up with a tight come-around draw through a port to lie two. Another draw into the house by Pierce and the U.S. had three stones nicely in place until Bolliger made a takeout to earn the second position. The U.S. would still score one, prompting the handshake from the Swiss to end the game.
"It was an awesome game," Joseph said.
NBC will air a two-hour highlights program from the 2010 Paralympic Games on NBC Sports from 3-5 p.m. ET on April 10.
The official site of the U.S. Paralympic Team, www.usparalympics.org, will also offer daily video and news highlights of the competition from Vancouver. Also check out www.paralympicsport.tv for on- demand feeds.
USA line score:
Switzerland 000 101 0x 2
*USA 211 030 1x 8
*last stone in first end
Game scores: Korea 9, Germany 2; USA 8, Switzerland 2; Japan 8, Sweden 7; Italy 6, Great Britain 3
Great Britain 2-6
*clinched semifinal berth
Live scoring from the event will be http://www.vancouver2010.com/paralympic-games/wheelchair-curling/schedule-and-results.