Spatola rink wins gold at Nationals

By Rick Patzke | March 08, 2014, 12 a.m. (ET)

Final results/standings


March 8, 2014

Spatola team wins gold at USA Curling Nationals presented by Labatt

(PHILADELPHIA) – In a gold medal game eerily similar to the men’s semifinal at IceWorks Arena the night before, the Nina Spatola and Allison Pottinger teams were locked up at four apiece playing their final end this afternoon at the 2014 USA Curling Nationals presented by Labatt.

The outcome was slightly different but no less dramatic, as Spatola (McFarland, Wis.) and her team of Becca Hamilton (McFarland, Wis.), Tara Peterson (Eagan, Minn.) and Sophie Brorson (Minneapolis, Minn.)  secured the winning point with their second-to-last rock and didn’t need to use the hammer to record a 5-4 victory.

“It was the best overall game I have ever played,” said Spatola, who also won the national title in 2010, playing vice skip for Erika Brown. “The stakes were so high, with me returning as skip, and playing such an experienced team. There were a lot of intense moments.”

Ten-time national champion and two-time Olympian Pottinger (Eden Prairie, Minn.) was denied another nameplate on the national trophy, but can take consolation in that she and teammates Nicole Joraanstad (Verona, Wis.), Natalie Nicholson (Bemidji, Minn.) and Tabitha Peterson (Eagan, Minn.) will represent USA in the 2014 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship in Saint John, New Brunswick, starting next Saturday. (*See world team selection note below for more details.)

“We came here to win a national championship,” said Pottinger. “It was really important to win the Nationals, and we fell short of our goal. We’re thrilled to be going to the Worlds, but we wanted to cap it off with the national championship.”

With sisters Tara and Tabitha Peterson on opposing teams, and Doug Pottinger, the husband of Allison Pottinger, coaching the Nina Spatola team, this game had plenty of built-in drama. And once things got rolling in the sold-out, intimate arena, the theatrics only increased.

“The game was well-played by both teams,” said Doug Pottinger. “It was exactly what you expect. These are the two teams that really deserved to be here.”

The first two ends were blanked, but Spatola’s team was able to force Pottinger into drawing the button for one in the third. Pottinger’s team returned the favor in the fourth, splitting the house to force Spatola to draw for one.

The teams became fully engaged in the fifth end, jockeying for position in the four-foot behind a lone center guard. Spatola, shooting 100 percent through the first half of the game, made a light takeout to leave her team sitting three and giving Pottinger no option other than to try to draw the button to cut the damage down. Pottinger, shooting 97 percent herself for the first half, got all she could out of the shot, just clearing a guard to reach the button with great sweeping by Nicholson and Tabitha Peterson and the line call by Joraanstad. Spatola’s side still got the point, yet major damage was prevented.

“That was the ultimate team shot,” Allison Pottinger remarked.

Pottinger’s team evened the score with one in the sixth, and controlled the seventh. Pottinger guarded one in the four-foot with her last shot, forcing Spatola to try a difficult draw to the full four-foot around a wide array of guards. The stone slid a couple feet too far, though, giving Pottinger a steal of one and 3-2 lead. 

The Spatola team regained the lead in the eighth end with a hit for two, and kept the upper hand in the ninth. Pottinger tried to freeze her first shot to an opposing stone to try to set up a deuce, but left enough space for Spatola to bang the rocks to negate the threat and leave her team counting two. Pottinger drew to a rock in the back 12-foot to score one and tie the game, 4-4, giving Spatola the hammer for the decisive 10th end. 
Pottinger’s team seemed poised to steal in the 10th after a great draw by Nicholson and tapback by Joraanstad to leave them with shot rock biting the top of the button, behind a guard. When Hamilton cleared the guard, Pottinger replaced it with her first shot. But after a timeout with Coach Doug Pottinger, Spatola’s team seized the moment and drew the winning point to the button before the opposition could completely close the door. 

Spatola’s shot covered the pin, with rocks behind it so Pottinger’s team could not simply play another raise. Their only hope was to try to come down to it with enough weight to move it back and somehow get first count. They made a valiant try but the stone glided wide of the button and Spatola’s team had its first national championship.

“I am proud of both teams,” said Doug Pottinger. “Nina’s team handled the situation very well, being in the final and playing against an experienced team, and ignoring the weirdness of their coach being married to the opposing skip.”

“Allison did a good job as well,” he added. “In the end, I didn’t want anyone to miss.”

Allison Pottinger acknowledged that it was a difficult situation for her. “It was very hard to see Doug sitting in the coaching spot on the ice. He is the person to whom I talk curling. He is doing a great job. I hope that team continues to use him.”

As for the Peterson sisters, both seemed to take the fact that they were on opposing teams in stride.

“We practice together, and have a very supportive environment,” said Tabitha. “We cheer for each other and support each other.”

“Playing against my sister is not as bad as you might think,” said Tara. “You put it aside and pretend like they are any other team. As my mom would say, ‘May the best team win.’”


*Along with declaring the national champions, this event also determined who will represent USA in the 2014 Men’s and Women’s World Curling Championships. In contrast to years past, the national champions are not automatically the chosen team for the Worlds. A points-based Order or Merit system was implemented this year taking into account major event results throughout the season, which included the Nationals.  The 2014 World representatives are the men’s and women’s teams that finish with the most points for the season and in the top three in the Nationals. 

The live webstream is available throughout the championship courtesy of USA Curling’s partnership with the 12th End Sports Network. All the action from Sheet C/3 is being streamed live. A complete game schedule is available at In addition, live scores, stats and standings from USA Curling partner CurlingZone. 

The official Twitter hashtags for the event will be #2014Nats or #curling. USA Curling will post updates and photos to its Facebook page as well at 

Media credentials can be picked up at the main entrance at IceWorks. If you have not requested a credential yet, go to 

USA Curling is sponsored by AtomAmpd, Nike, Brooms Up Curling Supplies, Sitrin, and The RAM Restaurant & Brewery and is partnered with Hilton, United Airlines, Ludus Tours, CurlingZone, and RJM Licensing, Inc. 

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For more information: Terry Kolesar, USA Curling,, 715?344?1199, Ext. 202, or 608?338?9900 (cell).