It was all about Eve on Saturday at the Ford World women’s curling championship, presented by Monsanto.
Eve Muirhead, the 19-year-old Scottish curler from Dunkeld, and her team of Kelly Wood, Lorna Vevers and Anne Laird steamrolled a pair of playoff opponents at the Credit Union iplex and stormed into Sunday’s gold-medal final (live at 3:00 pm local/5:00 pm ET on TSN) against Germany’s veteran Andrea Schoepp.
The confrontation poses raw youth versus age and experience at the skipping position but each team has its own share of both age and precociousness.
In Saturday night’s semi-final, Scotland stunned Canada’s round-robin leader Jennifer Jones 10-4, leaving the Canadian champions fighting for a bronze medal for the third time in four visits to the competition.
It was the second straight loss for the Canucks from Winnipeg after losing the night previous to Schoepp in the Page One-Two playoff.
Canada will play Sweden’s 22-year-old Cecilia Ostlund in Sunday morning’s (10 a.m.local/12 noon ET, live on TSN2) bronze-medal fixture.
It is, in fact, a game Ostlund has been hoping for all week. “We want to play Canada again,” she said. “That will top off a great week for us.”
The rookie Swedes jumped into an early three-point lead against the Jones team at the start of the preliminary rounds before succumbing to their own nervousness and hot Canadian shooting.
Muirhead shook off a first-end Canadian deuce on Saturday night and executed a spectacular angle-runback double-kill to score one in the second end.
In the next exchange, Jones was heavy on a draw to the four-foot and surrendered a go-ahead Scottish pair. Canada tied it in the fourth but two shots from Scottish third Kelly Wood set up a three-ender in the fifth.
Jones, who shot a poor 59 per cent on 16 rocks, wrecked on her last shot and Muirhead, shooting 89, executed a draw to the four-foot, actually curling away from the target and making the preciseness of the shot more pronounced.
The Canadian balloon appeared to go up at that point. A Jones runback in the sixth failed and Scotland stole a single. Then Jones missed on another tight draw in the seventh and left Scotland with another triple.
“I’m really delighted,” said Muirhead, “I don’t know if it’s actually sunk in yet, to be honest. That was such a hard game. The score was 10-3 up but it didn’t feel like that at all. We just had to keep in there, keep calm and it was fantastic to come out with the win.”
Muirhead said her one focus was “keeping my head in the game. Don’t get distracted. Focus on your two shots and your two shots only,” she said. “When big shots come off it gives you lots of confidence. Especially that one in the second end. It was a bonus to get both of them out of there. It really boosted me.”
In fact, it was a critical shot in that, had she missed it, Canada would have vaulted in front 4-0.
“We have a silver medal and now we’ll go out and go for gold and hope to give Andrea a good battle,” said Muirhead. “She (Schoepp) is just so experienced and she has such a fantastic past and won so many medals. It’s going to be a good game. We just have to go out and stay focused like we have been. We were gutted after the Olympics but this is a pretty good consolation prize.”
Canada’s Jones, meanwhile, was muted by the devastating defeat.
“It was very disappointing,” she quietly admitted. “They played really well. We couldn’t get our rocks in the right spots. We were really relaxed. The first end was great. It wasn’t a bad second end, either. After that we got caught on the draw weight and just didn’t play like we can.”
Jones was unable to explain the sudden downturn in Canada’s fortunes. “We had our draw weight all week,” she said. “This was frustrating. We just didn’t pick up on the changes in the ice and that’s our own fault. It just wasn’t meant to be. We were outplayed. We actually had a great week and we just didn’t come out and play today. We just had a bad game. That happens.”
Jones credited a scintillating Scottish performance.
“Obviously, they (Scotland) are a very good team. She has a ton of experience, playing in juniors and a year of women’s. She’s a great girl, a quality girl, kind of fun and funny, and I’m sure she’ll be in curling for a long time and that will be great for the sport.”
The Canucks hope to change their luck in the battle of the bronze.
“It’s disappointing to play in that game but we came here to win a medal,” said Jones. “We’ve played in it before and lost, so we want to change that. We were the best team here during the round robin, the most consistent team all week, and we came up cold today.”