As Chelsea Carey's hopes for Sochi withered under Sherry Middaugh's hammer, the Winnipeg skip gave the hometown crowd one last reason to applaud her.
That moment came on her last rock of the 10th end of Friday afternoon's tiebreaker. It was a pretty shot, as the rock made a silky curl around a sentinel in the 12-foot paint and cosied up beside one of the Middaugh squad's red stones. When it came to a stop, the skip turned to her third, Kristy McDonald, and gave a little shrug. It was the best she could do on the last of her two and the crowd issued a warm ovation.
If Middaugh had missed, Carey could have stolen to tie the game. But Middaugh didn't miss. Her last stone jostled up and sent Carey's rock groaning away from the button. With that, Middaugh scored the deuce, won 6-3, and secured her rink a spot in Friday night's semifinal against Canadian champion Rachel Homan. And Carey, she walked off the MTS Centre ice to one final round of applause. She'd curled 93 per cent that game, her best showing of the week.
"We didn't play that bad, it just didn't go the way we needed it to go," she said. "That's curling, that's sports... sometimes it just doesn't go your way."
In the hallway backstage, McDonald's voice caught as she talked about the journey for the Carey rink. "I'm really proud," she started to say, and then she turned away to wipe her eyes dry. The tears did not flow from heartbreak, she said, but from exhaustion. At last, a chance to exhale after eight tense games in six whirlwind days. "Every game was down to the wire," McDonald said. "I'm just glad we had a good week, and we had a good chance."
Slot this one in on the learning curve. The Carey rink, which also includes second Kristen Foster and lead Lindsay Titheridge, had its ups and downs. They stumbled against surging Manitoba champion Jennifer Jones in the opener, falling 10-2. But they regrouped and clawed up the leaderboard. They even had a chance to clinch second place, but tripped in the last round-robin game against Middaugh.
It's a good sign for the future of Manitoba curling. While most of the provincial spotlight beams down on Jones, Carey is 29 and still coming into her own. She came into the trials aiming to make a statement. She leaves considering it made. "We proved that we belong," Carey said.
"We've proved that before, but for whatever reason nobody believes it... all I was hearing was that we had basically no chance. And that's not true, and we knew it wasn't true, and hopefully now everybody else does too. We feel like we're in general underestimated. There's a reason that we earned our way here. We beat these teams enough to earn our way here. So we deserved to be here, and we proved that."
Now, with the Sochi dream slipped away, Carey and crew will turn their attention to the provincial Scotties bonspiel in Virden. They were finalists there in 2011. "This is the culmination of four to six years of deciding we wanted to accomplish something, and we made it happen," McDonald said. "We really want to go to a Scotties and show our stuff there. After we take a breather, that'll be our next step."