The teams led by John Shuster and Jamie Sinclair were crowned USA Curling National champions on Saturday in Everett, WA, with Shuster defeating Todd Birr in the men’s final and Sinclair beating Nina Roth for the women’s title. My halftime report gave some insight as to what the trends looked like as round-robin was heading for the finish line, but there were still surprises that came from the final draws prior to the playoffs. Here is my wrap-up of the event.
- Shuster and Potter. I called these two teams the ones to watch in my preview of USA Nationals and neither one disappointed. Shuster ran through the field, posting a 9-0 round-robin record, then proceeded to dispatch defending national champion Brady Clark in the Page 1/2 game and Birr in the final to complete a perfect week. Team Potter got off to a 5-0 start and made the playoffs despite playing their last two matches short-handed due to illness.
- BAD LOSSES. I stressed this concept in both the preview and the halftime update, and those pesky things upended the field. Craig Brown, despite beating Clark and incoming year-to-date points leader Heath McCormick, ended up in a tiebreaker with Pete Fenson because of losses to Hunter Clawson and Alex Leichter. Cory Christensen missed the playoffs altogether after losing her last two round-robin matches to bottom-half teams (this after defeating both Sinclair and Roth in earlier draws). Even though they hadn’t defeated another top-half team, McCormick was in the mix to make a tiebreaker until his loss in Draw 8 to Fenson.
- Brown and Christensen. I had declared both of these teams as my second choices should the favorites (McCormick and Roth) not end up winning the event, and both teams started round-robin at 4-1. Brown’s three-game skid that included the loss to Leichter and Christensen’s losses to Cora Farrell and Jessica Schultz ended up taking the shine off those predictions.
- McCormick. I did not adequately factor in their gradual slide that started at the Canadian Open in the preview and continued to believe that they could “turn the corner” after their 1-3 start because the schedule was in their favor. In the end, the hole dug by the Draw 1 loss to Birr and subsequent losses to Shuster and Brown proved too big to climb out of even with a last half of round-robin that could have produced five straight wins (they went 3-2).
- SINCLAIR! I completely missed on how this team would perform at Nationals, even ignoring reasonable opinions from other curling analysts (yes, I mean you, @suss2hyphens and your insistence that the Continental Cup did them a world of good) to justify my pre-conception that their inconsistency and lack of a “next level” result during the tour season (manifested by their losing to Roth, Christensen, and Potter at the US Open to miss the playoffs) would see them not make the podium in Everett. In the halftime report, I even poo-pooed their 3-0 start to a favorable schedule and had nearly started with their eulogy following the loss to Christensen in Draw 4. It was only after they beat Roth in Draw 5 that I began to give them credit, but still felt like they would lose to Potter in Draw 6 and possible stub their toe at the end to miss the playoffs. Jamie, Alex, Vicky, and Monica, I am very sorry for doubting your ability and hope you will not burn this column in effigy.
Shuster and Roth will be heading off to Worlds in the next few weeks as Team USA to attempt to secure enough placement points to get the US berths in the 2018 Winter Olympics. On the tour, Sinclair will be heading to the Humptys Champions Cup along with Shuster as a result of their wins. A new rankings will come out next week with some expected movement up and down the chart.