MONTREAL -- When the final rock counted and the game was lost, two short words to tell the tale, from a whip-smart skip who usually shares so much.
There was no other way for Chelsea Carey to put it, after Team Manitoba fell 6-5 to Alberta's Val Sweeting in the extra end at the semifinal round of the Tournament of Hearts. The loss stopped the Manitobans' spunky march through their first Scotties, shuttling them into Sunday morning's bronze-medal game against Saskatchewan's Stefanie Lawton, instead of the night final against defending champion Rachel Homan.
Can't say the Manitobans didn't battle, on this last one. It just slipped away from them in the end. Both sides put in shaky ends, both sides made mistakes. The difference? "We paid for our misses more than we made them pay for theirs," said Carey, who was named to the Scotties second all-star team. "We fought the inch a little bit. We were real close to a lot of shots that we didn't quite make, and that's how it goes... it wasn't our week I guess."
But it was though, almost, in that Carey, third Kristy McDonald, second Kristen Foster and lead Lindsay Titheridge pushed 9-2 through the round robin and clinched second place, giving them two shots at making the final game. In the Page playoff, they gave Homan's rink a run for their money but couldn't quite seal the game. And on Saturday night, well, there were some janky shots: Carey's heavy seventh-end draw, for instance, that gave Sweeting a steal of one.
Still, the Manitobans had a chance to win, and almost did. After forcing Sweeting to a single in the ninth, the Manitobans were down 5-4 and carrying the hammer home. They set it up all right, and McDonald made a pretty double kill to keep their hopes for a winning deuce alive. That hope evaporated when Carey's first rock wrecked on a guard and stayed out of the house, forcing her to draw for one, tie it up and hand Sweeting back the hammer in the extra end.
There, the Albertans didn't give them much, though Alberta third Joanne Courtney's second rock flashed straight through the house. If Carey had nabbed a steal there, well, Courtney might have been seeing that one in her nightmares. "It's a good thing we won that game," she said of that flash, with a little laugh. But with the game on the line, Sweeting just had to draw to the four to win, and she did.
"We've practised that a lot at home," Sweeting said. "When you have the best sweepers out there, you're pretty confident making it."
The disappointment Carey felt then, when Sweeting's final draw to the four-foot settled where it should. Maybe it was less than when she fell in the tiebreaker round of the Olympic Trials, maybe it was worse. It's hard to say, until it settles, until the whole weight of their first national-championship campaign has set in. "I don't know how to compare anything right now," Carey said. "I feel nothing but it sucks right now. That's all I've got."
What to take away: This team battled. They battled against Homan, and they fought hard to recover from their mistakes against Sweeting. Complicating matters was that, after days escaping the flu that ripped through the Scotties field, Foster finally came down sick. She might have sat the semifinal out, except fifth Breanne Meakin was out sick, too. So Foster hauled herself upright, and brushed beautifully through nausea with fever-flushed cheeks.
"She did awesome," Carey said. "She fought through some really difficult stuff. She played great, and swept her butt off considering how sick she felt. She was a warrior."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the sheet, Sweeting, Courtney, second Dana Ferguson and lead Rachel Pidherney were living out a dream. Homan will be a tough opponent, of course, having gone undefeated through the week. But on Saturday night, at least, making it to the Scotties final was enough. "Just even getting on the plane and coming to Scotties is a dream come true in itself," Courtney said. "We're having so much fun out there."