OMAHA, Neb. -- Years of hard work came down to 10 ends at the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling, and skip Jamie Sinclair wasn’t ready to let it all go for naught.
Not without a fight, at least.
Heading into the second game of the best-of-three playoff series, Team Sinclair found themselves in a 1-0 hole – and potentially facing the end of their Olympic journey.
But not yet.
Team Sinclair pulled out a dramatic 7-6 victory that required 11 ends, evening the series and keeping their Olympic hopes very much alive.
Sinclair acknowledged that the result was less like a win and more like survival.
“It was a tough game,” Sinclair said. “It was a battle out there, that’s for sure. Really good shots on both teams’ parts and we got some extra curling in. Eleven ends, that’s what it took. And I’m OK with that. Happy to get the W.”
Team Roth blanked the first end to retain the hammer and scored one in the second end to go up 1-0. Sinclair’s final shot in the third scored a takeout and two points to give her team the lead. Roth evened it up with another point in the fourth and forced Sinclair to settle for one point in the fifth, making the score 3-2. Roth earned another point in the sixth and stole one in the seventh to gain back the lead, 4-3.
Sinclair pulled back again in the eighth end with a deuce and stole one in the ninth to lengthen her lead to 6-4.
“It’s interesting when you give up a steal like that, because we were mentally prepared to be tied with the hammer in the 10th, so we were like, ‘OK, what do we do now that we’re up two without?’” Sinclair said. “It’s tricky because when you go super defensive, the chance of the other team scoring a deuce is very high. We realized that, we acknowledged that, and we said it’s OK if they get two, because then it’ll be the same situation, just an end later. We’re just getting a bit of extra curling in, tied with the hammer in the 11th.”
So it all went according to plan.
In the 10th end, it looked to be Sinclair in the driver’s seat with two stones in the house to Roth’s one, and two stones left to play. But her final shot missed, leaving the door open for Roth to indeed score the required two points to send the match, once again, into extra ends.
“It was a little bit heartbreaking, just because it was so close and I had the same shot twice,” Sinclair said. “And I mean, I would make that eight times out of 10, so it was a little bit unfortunate, but it wasn’t the end of the world. We were OK going into the extra end.”
Though Roth had the hammer in the 10th end, Sinclair gained that advantage in the 11th. This time, she didn’t miss. Her final shot was true and gave her team a 7-6 win.
“We know that when we have hammer tied in an extra end, we’re great,” said Sinclair's vice skip Alex Carlson. “That’s our jam. So we were just fine with them getting two [in the 10th] end. It gave us last rock in the extra end.”
In the game the previous night, Team Roth was on the winning side of an 11-end game, 6-5. Afterwards Team Sinclair went home, rested, regrouped – and went out for a steak dinner – and were able to come back with confidence in a position that’s very familiar to them.
“We joke about it, but we’re pretty great with our backs against the wall,” Carlson said. “Knowing that we have to win these games, it puts a little fire in us and we just go through and crush them.”
Team Sinclair gets one more game with its back against the wall, as the series comes down to a final winner-take-all game against Team Roth. The 2018 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling will conclude on Saturday, though the timing of that game is dependent on whether or not the men’s division needs a third playoff as well. Action continues on Friday with Team Heath McCormick looking to qualify for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team and Team John Shuster looking to even things up. That game can be seen live on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. ET, while the women’s game will be broadcast on tape delay at 10:30 p.m. ET.