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Cathy UH-O

Her team's struggles continue at Scotties in Stonewall

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STONEWALL -- She's been a junior champion and women's champion. She's been a provincial champion and Canadian champion and world champion.

Cathy Overton-Clapham, in other words, has been just about everything you could be in curling -- except easy pickings.

Until now.

In what was supposed to be a fresh start after what's so far been a terrible season for her squad, it was instead more of the same Wednesday as Overton-Clapham opened her quest for a record-breaking eighth Manitoba women's title with a pair of stunning losses at the 2013 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Overton-Clapham -- the third seed this week -- fell behind early and never recovered en route to an ugly 7-3 loss to Pinawa's 11th-seeded Colleen Kilgallen in her opening game. And then things went from bad to worse Wednesday night when she lost 7-6 to Brandon's Stacey Fordyce.

In an event where one loss is often all you can afford to make and still advance to the weekend playoff round, Overton-Clapham already has two after just one day -- and with all the heavy lifting still in front of her.

And so it goes for Overton-Clapham in a season in which her team -- third Ashley Howard, second Jenna Loder and lead Breanne Meakin -- has failed to qualify for the playoffs in their last six events on the World Curling Tour.

"I've played a long time so you'd think I'd have all the little secrets," Overton-Clapham joked, "but we're not finding them right now."

Part of the problem, Overton-Clapham says, is just the continuing growing pains of a team that was put together from scratch last year.

Those pains were in evidence earlier this month when, after missing last year's Scotties playoffs and then struggling through this season's cashspiels, the decision was made to give Howard a chance to play third and switch Loder from third to second.

That's a dramatic position switch, particularly this late in an Olympic cycle and especially for a team that still has high hopes of being one of the eight women's teams who will be competing at the MTS Centre next December for the right to represent Canada in curling at the Sochi Olympics next year.

Overton-Clapham said she was hoping the position switch might light a spark, but the immediate results -- the team went just 1-4 at a bonspiel in Switzerland earlier this month -- suggests there will be no quick fix.

Howard -- who, as the daughter of Canadian curling icon Russ Howard, is no stranger to being around curling greatness -- said prior to Wednesday night's loss that she retains faith that Overton-Clapham will, as she has so many times before, rise to this occasion.

"This hasn't been the season we dreamed up or even the start we dreamed up here," said Howard. "But there's something about Cathy. She'll be here and we'll still be in this thing."

Howard has history to support her contention. With seven Manitoba women's championships on her resumé, Overton-Clapham with a victory here on Sunday would become the winningest curler in the history of the Manitoba women's provincials. (She is currently tied with Janet Arnott, coach of the Jennifer Jones squad).

Howard also has support of another kind here this week. Her father, Russ, a two-time world champion and the 2006 Olympic gold medallist, flew into Winnipeg this week to support his daughter's squad and diagnosed some problems almost immediately.

"He stepped off the airplane," Howard recounted, "and he fixed things I didn't even know were broken in my delivery. He knows me so well. It's great to have him around. He's a great resource."

Howard joked that her travels this month down the Overton-Clapham lineup from second to third is just a logical evolution given her surname. "Howards can't sweep so we're just slowly moving down the line," she said with a laugh.

Overton-Clapham is in the same eight-team pool here this week as second-seeded Chelsea Carey, who split her opening two games on Wednesday. Darcy Robertson and Kilgallen, who also upset Carey on opening day, lead the pool at 2-0.

The top two teams in each pool at the end of the round robin on Saturday advance to the playoffs.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

more coverage on d4

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 24, 2013 D1

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