PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE -- It didn't make up for what happened last year.
There will be nothing that will entirely make up for the way third Kristy McDonald and the rest of Team Chelsea Carey lost last year's Manitoba women's curling final, their dream season and 8-0 undefeated run in the provincials crashing in one nightmarish final game against the legend that is Cathy Overton-Clapham.
"I don't think closure is ever going to come," said McDonald, "until I finally win this thing... I fully admit, I'm not over last year. Not even by a mile. That was by far the hardest loss I've ever had in my life."
And that's saying something from a woman -- curling fans better know her by her maiden name, Kristy Jenion -- who has lost three provincial women's finals over the years.
So no, this didn't make up for that little piece of the past. But a 7-5 Carey round-robin win over Overton-Clapham Friday at the 2012 Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts did position McDonald and Carey nicely for the immediate future that is the playoffs this weekend.
The win -- which saw Carey put on a spectacular clinic of double takeouts -- improved her squad to 5-1 and gave them sole possession of first place in their pool and a guaranteed playoff game heading into their final game of the round-robin this morning. They will play seventh seed Michelle Montford, who at 3-3 is already eliminated from playoff contention.
What's more, the win also put Overton-Clapham in a very difficult position today. With a 4-2 record, she needs a win this morning over three-time Manitoba women's champion Janet Harvey, who is also 4-2, to force at least a tiebreaker game. Miami's Lisa DeRiviere is also still in the mix at 4-2.
A loss to Harvey today and the woman who crushed McDonald's dream last year will in turn have her own crushed this year.
"We have to go out and win (today) and worry about ourselves," said Overton-Clapham. "And we'll see what happens from there."
Meanwhile, another legend -- four-time Canadian champion Jennifer Jones -- also has her back to the wall today in the other round-robin pool.
Jones went down to her second defeat in her last three games Friday night, getting dropped by former three-time Manitoba womens champion Barb Spencer 8-6 as Spencer made a very difficult angle-raise takeout for three with the final rock of the game.
The win clinched first place in her pool for Spencer -- who is the only undefeated team remaining at 6-0 and made clear with the win over Jones -- and the manner in which it came -- that she is a very serious contender here this weekend.
"I worked hard to build a good team this year and I have great curlers playing for me," said Spencer, who's supported here by third Karen Klein, second Ainsley Champagne and lead Raunora Westcott. "They're great sweepers and they're great girls to be around. They're very positive."
With the loss to Spencer, Jones dropped to 4-2 and is in third place this morning in an event in which only the top two teams in her pool will advance.
At the moment, those teams are Spencer and 2010 Manitoba womens champion Jill Thurston, who is alone in second at 5-1. But the good news for Jones is she plays Thurston this afternoon in the final round-robin game for both teams and would force a tiebreaker game for second place with Thurston later today if she can beat her.
McDonald, meanwhile, is left to wonder whether this is the weekend when it is finally her time. "You pay so many dues, you start to wonder when you're going to start collecting some cheques," she said.
"I've almost quit 20 times in the past five years. I was literally this close to throwing my shoes in the trash. But I'm still playing and I like to think it's for a reason, for something big."
harvey in the thick of it C5