(TWO HARBORS, Minn.) - Michelle Summer and Gary Mazzotta started curling three seasons ago and already boast a winning record at their first national championship after posting a 7-4 win this afternoon to improve to 2-1 at the 2009 U.S. Mixed Doubles Championship at the Two Harbors Curling Club.
"We didn't come in here with any expectations," Summer said. "We thought it would be really fun, and it has been."
The Minnesota teammates, who only began curling three years ago, handed Carmen Delaney (Fargo, N.D.) and Scott Abrahamson (Moorhead, Minn.) their first loss of the competition despite trailing for the first half of the game.
The game was relatively low-scoring and even featured the rare blank end (rare in the mixed doubles format, anyway). A critical deuce in the fifth end put the Minnesota duo in control as Delaney and Abrahamson struggled with their draw weight and hit efficiency.
"I'm really excited about how we're playing," Summer said. "It's definitely more of a finesse game, and I really like that."
With the win, Summer and Mazzotta move into a tie for second place with Delaney and Abrahamson. The Seattle-based teams of Brady and Cristin Clark and Miyo Konno and Steve Lundeen remain at the top of the leaderboard at 3-0.
The Clarks held an early advantage but had to hold on tight for the win against Justin Haworth (Eau Claire, Wis.) and Melissa Gilbertson (Wausau, Wis.). The Clarks got on the board in the second end thanks to a fine second stone by Cristin Clark as she drew perfectly behind the center guard to the button. Brady Clark eventually made a hit for two points to take the lead. Three steals in a row gave them a nice 5-1 cushion after five ends. But Haworth and Gilbertson would steal two points in the seventh end and put the pressure on in the eighth, forcing Brady Clark to make a draw for the win.
Konno and Lundeen had a much simpler route to 3-0 as they defeated Tom Hemenway (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Margie Nelson (Duluth, Minn.), 8-3. The Seattle duo pounced early getting five points on the scoreboard in the first end. After giving up a steal, Hemenway made a nice draw for one to get his team on the scoreboard. They earned back the steal but never could get a big end set up in their favor to make a comeback.
Cassie and Corrie Potter (Minneapolis) improved to 2-1 with an 8-4 win over Gary and Katherine Gibeau (Cohasset, Minn.). The game, however, was much closer than the end result. The Potters took an early 4-1 lead after four ends but the Gibeaus scored a deuce in the fifth end and stole one in the sixth to tie the game. The Potters broke open the game in the seventh end with four points to stay alive in the playoff hunt.
The 16 competing teams are split into two pools of eight teams for the round robin portion. The semifinals are set for 9 a.m. Sunday pending any tiebreaker games. For the semifinals, the top team in Pool A plays the second-ranked team in Pool B and vice versa. The championship final is set for noon on Sunday.
Mixed doubles features two players per team as opposed to the traditional four-person curling teams. Each game consists of eight ends with variations from the regular game. Each team delivers five stones per end with one player delivering the first and fifth stones and the other team member throwing the stones in between. Prior to the start of each end, one team shall instruct the game umpire to place their team's stationary stone and the opposing team's stationary stone either as a guard outside the house bisecting the center line or on the back half of the button. Sweeping is allowed but with just two players that means either the thrower will sweep their own stone or the other team member will leave the house to sweep.
This is the second time the U.S. Mixed Doubles Championship has been played. The winning team will represent the U.S. at the 2009 World Mixed Doubles Championship April 17-25 in Cortina, Italy.
Game scores: Potter 8, Gibeau 4; Konno 8, Hemenway 3; Summer 7, Delaney 4; Clark 6, Haworth 4
Jamie Haskell-Nate Haskell 3-0
Ryan Lemke-Jackie Lemke 3-0
Nate Gebert-Laura Roessler 3-0
Steve Pickle-Madonna Fitzgerald 1-2
Rachel Ryan-Alex Ryan 1-2
John Hoffoss-Senja Lopac 1-2
David Cornfield-Gabrielle Coleman 0-3
Bart Read-Abigail Read 0-3
Brady Clark-Cristin Clark 3-0
Miyo Konno-Steve Lundeen 3-0
Carmen Delaney-Scott Abrahamson 2-1
Michelle Summer-Gary Mazzotta 2-1
Cassie Potter-Corrie Potter 2-1
Justin Haworth-Melissa Gilbertson 0-3
Tom Hemenway-Margie Nelson 0-3
Gary Gibeau-Katherine Gibeau 0-3
USA Curling is sponsored by AIT Worldwide Logistics, AmerAust Technologies and Nike.