“…and in the Bronze Medal Game we have the Windy City Curling Club from Chicago, IL against the Pittsburgh Curling Club from Pittsburgh, PA.”
Going into the Arena National Championship nobody on our team knew how we would fair during Nationals. If you asked any of us, we would probably have given you four different answers. While we couldn’t agree on what our final results would be, I think one thing we all agreed with was this was going to be an awesome experience. That would end up being an understatement.
From the moment that we got to the Arena we realized that it was going to be a little more official than we expected. We walked up to the table to check-in and was promptly greeted by the Host Committee, given our swag bags and welcomed to the 2014 Arena Curling National Championship. We then proceeded upstairs to the viewing area and noticed the practice that was occurring on the ice. Once practice was completed, everyone was ushered into the side area with tables for the teams for the officials meeting to go over the ground rules. This was no regular league night; this was the Arena Curling National Championship.
It actually began to sink in that we were going to be competing with fifteen other teams that wanted the championship just as much as we did. The ground rules were laid and it was time for us to go back to the hotel to get settled in and get ready for our practice. Our practice came quick and we were ready to begin our thirty minute practice session. Each team would get five minutes per sheet and then rotate until you have practiced on each sheet. As the whistle blew, practice began. With our first throw we knew we weren’t playing on our home ice. Holy buckets was the ice fast! A rock to the tee line was like throwing a rock barely past the near hog line back at home. This was some high quality ice courtesy of Ice Technicians Kevin Madsen and Quentin Way. Adjustments needed to be made…*Whistle*…time to change. As each six minute mini session wrapped up we dialed in our shots a little more. Our shots would need to be spot on as we found out our first draw was against the defending champion Kalamazoo Curling Club.
Our team, which after some recollection we determined has never played together as a team, consisted of Matt Galas (Skip), Greg Stewart (Vice), Jeff Sampson (Second) and Dave Jamros (Lead). Our first draw against the Kalamazoo Curling was a great learning experience from the beginning. Playing against a polished team certainly caused us to bring our game up to speed quickly. While we held our own throughout out the game we lost a close match in the last end. It was a great way to begin nationals – minus the loss. This loss put us into the “B” Event. We weren’t out of the championship hunt, however, our road got a much tougher as we would have to dodge the teams falling out of the “A” Event on our way to a possible playoff berth.
We wouldn’t have much time to dwell on our loss as we were slated to play our next game a little less than four hours away. Our next draw would be against the Dakota Curling Club, which we originally thought was from the Dakotas, which ended up not being the case. The Dakota Curling Club was actually in Dakota County in Minnesota. This draw was a close match the whole way and we ended squeaking out a close victory. Our first day was over, we were 1-1.
We began the day on Friday with our first draw being a 5pm ET draw so we has a little time to kill. We made the best of our down-time and decided to check out Michigan State University and get some lunch and watch some World Cup Soccer. We then headed back to the hotel to get ready for our game with Vikingland, also of Minnesota, who dropped down from the “A” Event. This game was another game that was back and forth throughout the game. The game came down to a tap-back draw for Vikingland that ended up a little wide. We escaped with a narrow win. This would be our last game of the day. We were 2-1.
Saturday began bright and early with an 8am ET draw against the host team, Lansing Curling Club. Saturday would be the day that we played the best as a team. It seemed like all the breaks were going our way and we shook early for a big win which put us into the finals of the “B” Event. Our next draw would be against the Long Island Curling Club, a team that fell from the “A” Event quarterfinals. We had plenty of time between draws once again and decided to get some lunch and once again watch some World Cup Soccer (this seems to have become a theme during our Nationals). Our next draw was at 8pm ET and this game started much like the last game against Lansing. We were spot on once again and the breaks were falling our way. We once again shook early and we were off to the Championship round. We were now 4-1.
Sunday…championship round…was the last day of Nationals. Our first draw was a rematch of our first draw. The 9am ET draw was against the Kalamazoo Curling Club. This draw was (and day for that matter) was the complete opposite of the previous day. This time we were the team that seemed to be on the wrong side of each shot. We had our chances, but were not able to capitalize and we shook early which forced us into the Bronze Medal Game against the Pittsburgh Curling Club. Our final draw of Nationals was a 1pm ET draw. We started the draw with some good momentum. This quickly changed course in the third end as Pittsburgh changed strategies and we could not recover. Our shots began to miss ever so slightly and we ended up shaking early once again. We were now 4-3. No medal… nothing to show for our time… except for our experiences engrained in our memory.
The experience of competing at Nationals is one that I will never forget as a curler. The teams that we met along the way, the host committee, the icemakers and the fans all made the experience at times surreal. The love that we felt on Facebook and thru text messages was something that kept us going each day. You really have no idea how much those little words of encouragement help you push yourself through each game.
My time at Nationals was an awesome experience and I met some great people along the way like Garnet Eckstrand and the rest of the Kalamazoo team, Mark McElwee and the rest of the Lansing team, and Guy Scholz and his Broadmoor team. Congrats to the winners and we hope to see you again next year.
Finally, I would like to extend a challenge to the women at the Windy City Curling Club. Bring a team to the 2015 Arena Curling Nationals… you will not be disappointed, trust me.
To my teammates…it was a hell of a run. Thanks for a great weekend of curling. How about we do it again next year?
Thanks for reading and Good Curling.