Thursday, February 24, 2011

Holland Vs Jones

Defending champion Jennifer Jones and Ontario joined Saskatchewan in the playoffs at the 2011 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, while Nova Scotia and B.C. will meet in a tiebreaker Friday.

Saskatchewan's Amber Holland went 9-2 to earn the No. 1 seeding, followed by Jones in second at 8-3. Ontario's Rachel Homan was also 8-3, but ranked third behind Jones because of a loss to the defending champs in the preliminary round.

Nova Scotia's Heather-Smith Dacey and B.C.'s Kelly Scott finished 7-4 and their tiebreaker Friday afternoon (TSN, 1:30 p.m. ET) will determine the fourth playoff team.

Saskatchewan and the Jones team from Winnipeg meet in the Page playoff between the top two seeds later Friday (TSN, 6:30 ET) with the winner advancing to Sunday's championship game.

The loser drops to Saturday evening's semifinal to face the victor between Ontario and the tiebreaker winner earlier in the day. The loser of the three-four game is eliminated.

Jones and second Jill Officer have four Canadian titles together and the last three straight with Dawn Askin at lead. Third Kaitlyn Lawes is a two-time Canadian junior champion.

The Jones rink has far more playoff experience than Holland, whose team went 6-5 and didn't advance in last year's Scotties in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

"You know Jennifer's team is going to play tough in the playoffs," Holland acknowledged. "That's what they do. We play them on the World Curling Tour and when they're playing the last few games, they're always tough.

"A person I used to curl with said 'you need to get to finals to play in them to have the experience to play in them.' I think for them, they've been in those situations so many times, they do all those things well."

Saskatchewan downed Jones 9-3 on Sunday, but lost steam towards the end of the round-robin in losing two of their last three.

Jones clamped down on second spot with a pair of wins Thursday, including an 8-5 victory at night over Alberta, eliminating Shannon Kleibrink's Calgary team from contention.

Jones wasn't feeling much of an advantage over Holland based on Saskatchewan's lack of playoff experience.

"The fact they haven't made the playoffs at a Scotties I don't think makes a difference," the veteran skip. "They've had a great week and they've been around the block a few times. We know we're going to have to play great."

Scott, a two time Canadian and former world championship, stayed alive in dramatic fashion, stealing six points over the last five ends against Saskatchewan in an 8-5 win.

"The old sneak attack," the B.C. skip said. "People were almost ready to write us off. We clawed our way into something to play tomorrow."

B.C. second Sasha Carter is over seven months pregnant, but insists she has another game in her.

"Four more if need be," Carter declared. "One game tomorrow, that's a cinch. Put the feet up all night and in the morning."

Of the five teams remaining, only Jones and B.C. were considered pre-tournament favourites.

The average age of Homan and her teammates is 22. The skip won a Canadian junior title and was runner-up at the world junior championships last year. But the Ottawa rink exhibited few rookie nerves throughout the preliminary round.

"We had a talk about what we needed to do and just reassured each other that we believe in each other and we're dedicated and we worked hard to get here," Homan said. "We belong here."

Nova Scotia was another dark horse. Smith-Dacey was unexpectedly promoted from vice to skip of the Nova Scotia team when five-time Canadian champion and Hall of Famer Colleen Jones was struck with meningitis in December.

Like Homan, the wife of former Canadian champion Mark Dacey also spoke about having the courage to believe they had a chance at a title.

"It's been an interesting road," Smith-Dacey said. "I've just been focused on not changing the goal because we've had a change in the team. Just really trying to step up and be what I have to be on the team and adapt to my new role.

"It's about belief at this point, believing you belong."

Alberta and P.E.I.'s Suzanne Birt finished 6-5 followed by Quebec's Marie-France Larouche and Manitoba's Cathy Overton-Clapham at 4-7, Kerry Galusha of the Territories and New Brunswick's Andrea Kelly tied at 3-8 and Stacie Devereaux of Newfoundland and Labrador at 1-10.

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