CURLING: Upsets and excellence at curling's Club Nationals

March 06, 2008, 1 a.m. (ET)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 6, 2008 Upsets and excellence at curling's Club Nationals (STEVENS POINT, Wis.)-Texas and Arizona staged upsets, both earning their second wins, and the showdown between Illinois and Minnesota was a stage for excellence at the U.S. Club Nationals in Mankato, Minn. this morning. Arizona's Coyotes Curling Club team edged New York, 10-9, but not the easy way. New York's Ardsley Curling Club team of Joyance Meechai, Pauline Davies, Sandra Gaffner and Lisabeth Sugahara scored four points in the sixth end to take a 9-4 lead, only to see Arizona radically change the game's momentum, first with a single, then with steals of two, two and one for the victory. New York fell to 3-4, while Arizona's Scottsdale crew of Karen Tait, Carol Ann Naso (of Fountain Hills), Theresa Shaw and Gwen Gray are now 2-5, out of the running for the medal rounds but proud of their performance."Our team has played happy and relaxed. We're glad to be here,"said skip Tait."Momentum changed from us just missing (making shots) to New York just missing, so we edged back."The Coyote Club team is grateful to the Alltel Ice Den arena for its support."After we beat California to qualify for Mankato, the arena donated five practice sessions, ten hours, and some funding in the two weeks before we came up here."About half the Coyotes members are ex-Canadians with long curling histories, whose curling experience is valuable for training new"Coyotes."In a second upset, Texas, from the Dallas/Fort Worth Curling Club, established game control with three points in the third end, then, tied 6-6 with last rock advantage, scored two in the tenth to earn their second win, and to knock the Grafton Curling Club women of North Dakota 2 to 3-4. Texas is skipped by Judy Willingham (of Cleburne), with Linda Murphy (Longview), Kathleen Harlow (Ft. Worth), Valerie McHugh (Aledo) and Marcie Alsobrooks (Ypsilanti, Mich.). Family traditions run deep and long in curling. Harlow's grandfather, Illinois based-Norman Rickards, was USCA president in 1979, and was inducted into the USCA Hall of Fame in 1991. Team North Dakota 2 includes Mary Jaster, Jennifer Thompson, Jennifer Tibert, Marlene Niemann and Victoria Niemann, all of Grafton. In a game marked by terrific shooting, Minnesota was handed its first loss by Illinois, 9-8, but only after some heroic shot making by both sides. In the last end, with the teams tied and Illinois with last rock advantage (the"hammer"), Minnesota, using the Free Guard Zone to its advantage, had two center guards protecting the four foot, one just on either side of the center line (the FGZ rule forbids taking out guards until after lead rocks have been thrown, to encourage more rocks in play and a more interesting game, and it has worked since its introduction prior to the admission of curling as a full-medal Olympic sport in the early 1990s). Deciding to use the Minnesota guards and"get around first,"Illinois third Amy Brown made a terrific draw around the center guards to a few inches behind the tee; but Minnesota skip Norma O'Leary promptly froze to Brown's rock to lay count. Illinois skip Tracy Lawless followed along the same path as O'Leary, with more weight, intending to chip either Minnesota's count rock or her own backer out of the way. She got the backer, so O'Leary, still count and needing to steal to win, threw a perfect guard to block both the draw and a"come off of"take out possibility on the"inturn"side of the sheet. After due deliberation, Lawless threw, and her team perfectly swept, an outturn draw with back four foot weight, coming around the long center guard by two to three inches, and moving O'Leary's stone back precisely 11.3 inches (or so it seemed to observers), just enough to avoid the need to measure. A relieved Amy Brown said,"I knew Tracy would hit the broom and have good weight. I was mainly concerned that I call sweep correctly, since sweeping, or not sweeping, would be critical for that particular shot."Lawless felt"a little mental fatigue from skipping at this level, which is a new thing for me."But not too much fatigue, it seems. Team Illinois is now tied for second place at 5-2. The Exmoor Curling Club (Highland Park) rink front end players are Leslie Earls and Deborah Moulton. O'Leary's supporting cast, from the Duluth Curling Club, include Pam Cavers, Mary Johnson and Patti Luke. In other games, Maryland edged Wisconsin 2 by stealing two points in the 10th end when Wisconsin's last draw slid a foot out of count. The Potomac Curling club rink, skipped by Ann Drummie, rose to tie Wisconsin and Illinois in second place at 5-2. The Green Bay, Wisconsin rink is skipped by Joy Pahl. North Dakota 2, of the Grand Forks Curling Club, crushed Ohio's Mayfield Curling Club team 10-1 in six ends. Round robin action continues Thursday through Friday afternoon. The top four teams qualify for Saturday morning's semifinals. The men's and women's championship finals are set for 2 p.m. Saturday. The U.S. Club Nationals, now in its fourth year, does not lead to the World Championships, rather rewards the top league-playing team in the U.S. The winners of the recent U.S. National Championships in Hibbing represent the U.S. at the Worlds. Standings: Women: Minnesota (O'Leary) 6-1 Illinois (Lawless) 5-2 Maryland (Drummie) 5-2 Wisconsin (Pahl) 5-2 New York (Meechai) 3-4 North Dakota 1 (Bohlman)3-4 North Dakota 2 (Jaster) 3-4 Arizona (Tait) 2-5 Texas (Willingham) 2-5 Ohio (Festersen) 1-6 Men: Minnesota (Harris) 6-1 Wisconsin 1 (Brown) 6-1 Illinois (Wright) 5-2 North Dakota (Tangedal) 5-2 Maryland (Edie) 4-3 Oregon (Schaak) 3-4 Washington (Rasmussen) 3-4 Ohio (Cohen) 2-5 Wisconsin 2 (Journeaux) 1-6 Colorado (Gleeson) 0-7 USA Curling is sponsored by AIT Worldwide Logistics, AmerAust Technologies and Nike as well as by AT,T through a joint marketing program with the U.S. Olympic Committee. (30) For more information: Terry Kolesar, USA Curling,, 715-344-1199, Ext. 202, or 608-338-9900 (cell).