“Devastated” was how Schenectady’s Chrissy Haase repeatedly described herself and teammates Saturday following a heartbreaking loss to Debbie McCormick’s rink in the finals of the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials at the Broomfield, Colo., Event Center.
Devastated, because it cost the New York-based rink a berth in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, as well as the world championships later this month in Korea.
Devastated, because Haase’s rink, skipped by Patti Lank of Lewiston, had put in a tremendous amount of preparation for this day, on and off the ice, over the last year.
Devastated, because it was the third time in four years that Team Lank lost to McCormick in the national championship match. And it came down to McCormick’s final shot, a double takeout that gave her an 8-5 victory.
“It’s a shocking, numb feeling,” Haase said in a phone call. “At this point, we are completely devastated. We’ve worked so hard. We can play with these girls, but didn’t play our best game when we needed to.”
So while Haase, 30, returns to her job as a physical therapist at Sunnyview Hospital this week, McCormick begins preparing for the Olympics. The 35-year-old skip from Madison, Wisc., who played in the 1998 and 2002 Olympics, lost a close final to Cassie Johnson (Potter) in the 2005 trials for the 2006 Winter Games, and has since won four straight national championships.
“They definitely outplayed us today, no doubt about that,” said Haase, a product of the junior programs at the Schenectady Curling Club. “It’s always been us and her. The frustrating part is we know we can play better. It’s not like Debbie beat us; it’s like we beat ourselves.”
The match concluded eight days of round-robin play and playoffs for Team Lank, which includes vice skip Caitlin Maroldo of Rochester and Ann Swisshelm of Chicago.
In the finals, McCormick got a big advantage by scoring three in the third end. But team Lank jumped right back in with two in the next end, and the match remained close the rest of the way.
“We’re usually a good team coming from behind,” said Haase, a 5-foot-2 lead who throws first rocks in each end, then sweeps for her teammates. “We had some opportunities, but they didn’t pan out.”
Each skip dodged a bullet. Before the break in the fifth end, McCormick had five counters in the house before takeout shots by Maroldo and Lank reversed the house and had Lank sitting two. McCormick settled for a draw for one point.
McCormick executed a triple takeout, drawing a roar from the crowd, to get out of a jam in the sixth end, when Lank got one point to close to within 5-4. The winning skip then blanked the seventh end so she would have the “hammer” (advantage of last shot) in the eighth and 10th ends.
The highlight for team Lank came in the ninth end, when the 43-year-old skip faced a difficult situation. There were three guards out front, as well has a cluster of stones within the four-foot circle, including McCormick’s shot rock (the potential scorer). Lank swung her shot in to ricochet off one of her own stones and slide neatly to the center of the house, amid the grouping.
“That was probably the most fantastic shot I saw all week,” said Haase. “To me, it was a one-in-a-million shot. She had to hit it perfect. It was just a super shot.”
It also gave Team Lank a big boost of confidence, down 6-5 going into the final end.
“Our goal was to come here and win,” said Haase. “We had no doubt in our minds, even going into the 10th end, that we were going to win.”
And as McCormick worked to keep the house clean in the final end, Lank was off the mark on her final two deliveries, which came to rest next to each other in the back of the four-foot rink. That created a perfect backstop for McCormick, who knocked out both stones and stayed for the win.
Haase, who missed a chance to become the first member of the Schenectady Curling Club to win a national championship, will likely step back from curling for awhile.
“It’s a life-changing event today. We planned our next year to be the Olympic team,” she said. “We just kind of cried our eyes out. This will be hard to overcome. It will be hard to even step out on the ice anymore this season.”