Friday, August 17, 2012

Charlotte "Grits 'n Granite" Bonspiel: Recap

We had a great time curling at the Charlotte Centre Curling Club's inaugural "Grits 'n Granite" bonspiel last weekend. Hooray! It's great to see our neighbor club prospering.

Now, before I go any further, the usual "this post isn't my best work" disclaimer. (This time, I really mean it!) Usually, I write these curling recaps the Monday or Tuesday after, while everything is still fresh in my mind. But since I went straight to Tampa from Charlotte last Sunday, I didn't have time to write this up (or even think about it, really) until I got back on Thursday. And, so, some of the details of our four games have escaped me. (Although I do have the end-by-end scores, which I write down immediately after each game.) And, given that we've played nine games in two weeks now, these games are all starting to run together a little bit. Which game was that crazy triple takeout in, again? (Actually, I do remember which game that was in, but I don't remember the shot well enough to diagram. It might be a different story if we got the triple instead of our opponent, photo! Same as last week, except without our "hired gun". (The on-ice photos are courtesy of the Charlotte Centre Curling Club. They took a staggering number of photos, all of which are posted here.)

Our "hired gun" from last week (Debbie McCormick) was also here in Charlotte, and also curled with an auction-winning team (although with her husband Pete at Vice).

So, first off, how well did we do without Debbie, compared to with? Well...last week, we went 4-1 and won the "bronze medal" of sorts (lost in the semifinals, won the subsequent consolation game). This week? 1-3. Now...sure, home ice advantage is also a factor here, but I think Debbie was a bigger factor.

Meanwhile, Debbie's Charlotte team went 3-1 and won the "silver medal" of sorts, losing in the final. On paper, that's one spot better than we could do the previous weekend. But I think it's pretty much a wash, when you consider that both of Debbie's teams last week and this week lost only to the eventual champion, and nobody else. (I'd love to see the Carolina Classic champions and the Grits 'n Granite champions face off against each other, by the way.)

Game one!

Career game #191: Charlotte Grits 'n Granite, first game
Friday, August 10, 2012

End.................... 12345678 |TTL
Triangle (Vos)......... 00300010 | 04
Plainfield (Baird)..... 21011201 | 08

In my preview, I gave us a 20% chance of victory in this first game; in hindsight, I think that was a fair assessment. They're better than us, but it did take them a few ends (four, specifically) to find their "curling legs". From the midpoint on, we had a hard time getting anything going, although the game did technically come down to the last shot (or at least the next-to-last shot). We had a difficult hit for three in the 8th end that didn't quite work out, and even if it did, we didn't have last rock anyway.

That's the extent of my analysis of Game 1, but I'll also say this about the other team. I think that curling even twice a week is a luxury, but one of their curlers (Carl? Mark? See, these are the details you lose when you wait several days to write these up) said that during the season up at Plainfield, he would curl in four separate leagues, Sunday through Wednesday. And then on weekends in which he curled in bonspiels (most weekends), he would also then curl Thursday through Saturday, giving him seven days of curling a week during the season! Wow. Safe to say he's likely curled far more in just 18 months (that's how long he's been at it) than I have in my five-plus years. Someday, we'll have daily leagues, too, and the rest of us can go nuts with curling, too.

Career game #192: Charlotte Grits 'n Granite, second game
Friday, August 10, 2012

End....................... 12345678 |TTL
Pittsburgh (Marchitelli).. 0000013- | 04
Triangle (Vos)............ 1421100- | 09

Let's talk ice conditions, always an unknown heading into an arena ice bonspiel. While we here at Triangle have four sheets painted into the ice, Charlotte has five sheets set up. You can fit five curling sheets onto a sheet of hockey ice with room to spare, but we kept ours at four because the ice conditions on the outer sheets are usually pretty questionable as it is, and would be even more so if you tried to squeeze an extra sheet in there. However, the Charlotte ice rink does have a better zamboni than we do, which is supposed to help.

Game 1 was on the middle sheet (Sheet 3), and I thought ice conditions were great! You could make every shot. However, Game 2 was on one of the outside sheets (Sheet 1), and that was a pretty interesting sheet, as were the sheets we played on the rest of the weekend. It wasn't just that there was a standard fall; it's that there were certain spots on the ice where rocks would do "funny things". Fortunately, both teams in this game were arena club teams - every game except the first was actually against a fellow arena team - so neither side was at an advantage or disadvantage. We know what to do here. It was a different story when Debbie McCormick (non-arena curler, obviously) played on this sheet in the previous game; she called it "frustrating". (But she still won, of course.) However, I should mention that I'm sure the ice was still better than it was for our first Carolina Classic!'d we win this one? Well, like in most arena ice games, takeouts were difficult, and the key was to get "early position" and then guard the predictable lines. I don't have any shots to diagram, but I do have a picture of me throwing a rock in this game with the scoreboard in the background:

("Tired Parents" was our team name, which for Amber and me was very accurate, especially on Saturday. More about that in another post.)


Brief timeout from game recaps. Given that the name of the bonspiel is centered around food, I have to talk about food, at least a little.

This is the macaroni and cheese from, I think, Saturday's lunch. And, wow! Really good, and really greasy. And, of course, there were grits for breakfast, plus other "Southern" food items throughout the weekend. ("Southern" doesn't always mean "greasy", but...sometimes it does.)

Charlotte tends to pride itself on being "more Southern" than Raleigh, and they're right. Raleigh and Durham aren't really like the rest of the state.

Career game #193: Charlotte Grits 'n Granite, 2nd event quarterfinal
Saturday, August 11, 2012

End...................... 12345678 |TTL
Coastal Car. (Forrest)... 3110311- | 10
Triangle (Vos)........... 0004000- | 04

Not only did Team Forrest make a back-breaking triple takeout in this game, they also made three double takeouts throughout the game. All that despite the still-quirky ice! We were doomed. Although we kind of did it to ourselves in one of these ends (maybe the 6th?).

I always say this, but this time I really don't know exactly how the setup looked, or exactly how we managed to screw it up, except that we were a little bit heavy and ended up spreading these rocks out a little bit, and opened the door for a double takeout (which they made, of course). Or, something like that. Did I mention I didn't get a whole lot of sleep last weekend?

So, anyway, the point I'm trying to make here is this. If you're wondering what the difference between having Debbie McCormick as your Skip, or anyone else - and I should mention that Justin did a great job Skipping his first bonspiel (much better than me!) - it's the little things. Give Debbie a good setup, and she'll close out the end. The rest of us curling laymen? Well, our games are a little more interesting, usually.

Well, regardless, even if we did end up with three or four in the 6th, we wouldn't have deserved to be that close; the other team was better. Two of our four opponents in Charlotte went on to win an event; these guys were one of them. (Team Marchitelli from Pittsburgh was the other.)

Meanwhile, we were now in the quarterfinals of the "3rd event"; next loss, and we're done. I thought we had a pretty good chance to win the first "3rd event" game, but...

Career game #194: Charlotte Grits 'n Granite, 3rd event quarterfinal
Saturday, August 11, 2012

End.................. 1234567 |TTL
Triangle (Vos)....... 0031200 | 06
Palmetto (Fort)...... 1200022 | 07

First off, in a mild fluke, this is the first time I've ever played against a team from the Palmetto Curling Club (Greenville, SC). Sure, they've only been around for a couple of years, but we always see them; yet, this was my first head-to-head against them. (I don't think I've played Atlanta, either, but Atlanta usually just sends one team to the various "Southern bonspiels", while Palmetto often sends two or three.)

So, this kind of stunk. Really thought we should have won this one. They struggled in the middle frames, but had their draw weight at the beginning and at the end, and on interesting ice, draw weight was key. One shot here, and one shot there, made the difference. I'd love to have another shot at this one with a little more rest.

I'd also love to diagram our last shot attempt of the game, which basically amounted to a "hail mary"...but it was far too complicated for me to even try to approximate. Basically, they had two rocks in the house, both very well guarded, and our best option was a tight angle raise on one of our guards to try to cut them down to one and force a tiebreaker. We hit the rock we needed to hit, but it was a little too heavy, so it didn't stay in the house (or at least not close enough to cut them to one).

This loss might have stung a little more if I were the Skip, but that's actually one reason why I didn't want to Skip this weekend. :-) Fact is, more often than not, your last game of the weekend is going to be a loss.

And as such, I still have yet to accomplish my goal of playing in the final draw at an away bonspiel, but that's okay. I've got time. But I'm kind of exhausted, so my next bonspiel won't be for a while. I've curled in four bonspiels (three away) this year, and that's plenty. I mean, my rule used to be, no more than one away bonspiel in any given year. So, no more curling travel this year, unfortunately. (I must enjoy bonspieling, otherwise I wouldn't do it at all, right? There's just something about it.)

Instead, I'll close out the year simply by curling in the Triangle Curling Club Fall League, which starts in mid-September. The Fall League will feature two statistical points of interest:
- My 200th career game! I'm currently sitting on 194. There's a chance I'll miss two of eight league games this Fall, but that will be enough to get me to 200 this year.
- My won-loss record so far in 2012 is 16-17. In my curling career (going back to 2007), I've never finished the year with a sub-.500 record. Is this the year? I know it'll happen eventually.

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