(FARGO, N.D.) - Erika Brown, Debbie McCormick, Jessica Schultz, and Ann Swisshelm are writing another chapter in their curling careers after winning the right to represent the United States at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
The Brown rink defeated Allison Pottinger's team, 8-7, tonight to sweep the women's playoffs here at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling at Scheels Arena.
"We all wanted to get back there [Olympics] that's for sure. Everyone played so great all week, but the last three games we really played the best we could when we needed to. We played a great team and we just came through it," Brown said.
Brown (Oakville, Ontario/Madison, Wis.) clinched the win for her team with a draw into the four-foot with the final stone of the game. This will be the second Olympic Games appearance for Brown, who was vice skip on for Team USA in 1998 in Nagano, Japan.
This is the fourth Olympic Games for McCormick (Rio, Wis.), who was skip for Team USA in Vancouver most recently. "Last Olympics obviously did not go well for me and there were times when I wanted to quit this game, quite honestly," McCormick said. "I was so frustrated and sad and all the terrible emotions that go through it. I'm proud of myself for taking a year break and playing with Erika's team as alternate. I think that really helped me realize how much I still love this sport. I felt like I could still contribute to a team and wanted to be a part of a team and just kind of wanted to face my demons and just keep going for it."
This is the second trip to the Olympics for Schultz (Minneapolis, Minn.), who was on the 2006 team; and also the second appearance for Swisshelm (Chicago), 45, who was with McCormick in 2002 in Salt Lake City, Utah. They are coached by Bill Todhunter, who won bronze at the 2007 world men's championship. "I think we're all just very excited and shocked," said Schultz, 28. "With all the hard work, everything's been coming together and this is what we've been waiting for."
Pottinger (Eden Prairie, Minn.) and teammates Nicole Joraanstad (Verona, Wis.), Natalie Nicholson (Bemidji, Minn.), and Tabitha Peterson (Eagan, Minn.) played a close match throughout against Team Brown, with the sides tied four times.
"We left one point on the board, that draw that went a little bit deep. But, they had the hammer in the first end and they had the hammer in the last. I think if we'd had the hammer in the last it would be a different story and we'd be here tomorrow. Both teams played really well," said Pottinger, who along with McCormick, Joraanstad and Nicholson, represented the U.S. at the 2010 Olympic Games.
In the first end, Brown came up short of the rings trying to draw around a center guard and gave up the single steal. In the second end, Brown's team benefitted when Pottinger rolled out with her final rock, setting up Team Brown for the deuce. After making a double takeout to work toward a blank end in the third, Pottinger had an open takeout but ended up taking the single point when it was a nose hit.
In the fourth end, Pottinger missed a takeout on a stone in the back of the house, allowing Brown to draw in a second stone. Pottinger jammed on a double takeout attempt, giving Brown an open hit for two points and a 4-2 lead.
A nice double takeout by Joraanstad set Team Pottinger up for a deuce in the fifth end. Pottinger had a chance for three but she missed her final shot and had to settle for two.
The teams both struggled a little bit in the sixth end with rock placement and Brown was eventually forced to accept a single. Pottinger then had to stare down four Team Brown stones in the house when she drew with the hammer in the seventh end for a single point.
Team Brown got set up for a deuce in the eighth end with the skip clinching it with a draw into the four-foot.
In the ninth end, Joraanstad played a hit-and-roll and tucked her stone behind the corner guard. Brown played the runback to try to remove the guard and the stone in the house, but ended up replacing the guard with her own stone. Pottinger then drew into the top eight foot to split the rings with stones. Brown removed one but didn't get enough of a roll to hide it, giving Pottinger an open takeout for two to tie the game. In the final end, Pottinger used her final stone to freeze to the Brown rock in the back eight-foot, forcing Brown to draw into the four-foot for the win.
"I thought it was pretty good, but they weren't sweeping it very hard so I was not celebrating it until it came to a complete stop," Brown said about the final stone for the win. "I've thought about it a million times. I was sure hoping that I'd get to feel the real thing. That in-turn draw ... I was waiting for it, and pretty thrilled that was my shot. That's what I wanted to throw to win, and I'm glad I did."
Winning teams from the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling will be nominated to the U.S. Olympic Team pending approval by the United States Olympic Committee.
"I'm really excited to get back and hopefully win a medal. That's what we're going for," said McCormick, 39.
The men's final between John Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) and Pete Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) will take place at 2 p.m. CT Sunday in a winner-take-all battle between the two Olympic bronze medallists. Tune in to NBC Sports Network for live coverage.
Allison Pottinger 101 020 102 0 - 7
*Erika Brown 020 201 020 1 - 8
*last rock in first end
Erika Brown, 80%
Debbie McCormick, 81%
Jessica Schultz, 92%
Ann Swisshelm, 86%
Allison Pottinger, 76%
Nicole Joraanstad, 83%
Natalie Nicholson, 85%
Tabitha Peterson, 88%
Visit the USA Curling website at www.usacurl.org and connect with USA Curling on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Foursquare.
For more information: Terry Kolesar, USA Curling, email@example.com, 715-344-1199, Ext. 202, or 608-338-9900 (cell)