Late misses helped decide a wild, exciting and rather shocking women’s final at the Canadian Olympic volley trials on Sunday.
Jennifer Jones brilliantly blew a golden chance to win in set 10. Tracy Fleury’s foul timing in extra time cost even more.
When the dust settled, Jones exited with an enthralling 6-5 victory to book her team’s ticket to the Beijing Sports Festival.
“We’re there to pick you up when you miss,” Jones said. “Not everyone can say the same and that’s really a big strength of our team.”
Brad Gushue claimed the men’s title later in the day with a 4-3 win over Brad Jacobs.
A gasp rose across SaskTel Center as Jones missed the opening shot for the win – usually a blow for the veteran skipper – with her stone rolling out leaving her only with a single ending game.
Jones realized halfway through the paper that the rock was in trouble. She angrily yelled at her teammates to try to hold it but it was a bit too curvy.
Fleury put her hand over her mouth in surprise.
“We thought we lost in the 10th for sure,” Fleury said. “I think Jen did 99% of the time, that shot. So we feel lucky to be able to go to a sideline and we really wanted to end there.
“But I didn’t make my last two pictures.”
Jones refocused and pressured Fleury, hoping to get her to throw a challenging final shot. Jones backed up to the button behind a guard and Fleury missed a rerun attempt.
Jones followed with a guard Fleury rubbed on her final throw to give up the decisive point in a steal.
“I felt close but then it was like being drawn in a circle,” says Fleury.
The men’s final was a tight defensive battle that looked like it was heading into extra time as well.
Jacobs had a chance to double but his last kick was cornered and rolled to give Gushue the victory.
Teams have vacated four of the first seven finishes. In game eight, Jacobs lost his hammer when he made a double attempt and settled for a one shot.
Gushue scored the only goal of the game in the ninth minute and Jacobs couldn’t attack enough in the 10th inning before missing.
Jones and her team of Kaitlyn Lawes, Jocelyn Peterman, Dawn McEwen and Lisa Weagle entered the Manitoba-based team’s duel with a massive experience advantage.
Jones won an Olympic gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and has won six women’s national titles. Fleury and her team of Selena Njegovan, Liz Fyfe and Kristin MacCuish, will make their first appearance in the test finale.
The initial feeling of restlessness seems to be a factor.
Launches were common late in the first game and Jones pressured early to create a quick steal. Jones buried a drawstring to force Fleury to touch, but she brushed off her stone and rolled away.
Jones also made some mistakes when she sent a tie through the rounds late in the third, eventually settling for a hit for two. Fleury responded with a pair of her own and Lawes came through late on Thursday with a superb treble to create a gap.
The top-ranked Fleury team barely prevailed over most one-round round-robin matches.
Her perfect 8-0 score earned her the first seed and a day before the final. Jones won 5-3 in a round-robin match and beat Krista McCarville in Saturday’s semi-final.
Jones added an extra point late on Friday as her draw grazed the shot stone and landed on the edge of the quad. A measure that validates a single instead of a pair.
Jones decided to keep the hammer for the 10th round by dropping a single in the ninth round giving Fleury a 5-4 lead.
Attendance was announced at 4,741 for the women’s final, bringing the weekly total for the women’s event to 57,266. The men’s final attracted 4,813 spectators with a total of 49,878 men.
Gushue and Jacobs drew 7-1 in a round-robin match but Gushue took the top seed because he won their head-to-head match. Jacobs beat Kevin Koe in the semifinals.
Koe and Rachel Homan skipped Team Canada’s entries at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics but both failed the podium. Weagle was Homan’s coach that year and joined Jones’ rink in March 2020 to form a five-player team.
This will be the third consecutive Olympic entry for Lawes, who served as Jones’ vice-captain in Sochi and teamed up with John Morris to win mixed doubles gold four years later in South Korea.
“Pinch me,” Lawes said. “I’m shocked and very happy.”
McEwen is also on the Sochi list.
Jacobs co-pilot Marc Kennedy won gold with Kevin Martin in 2010 and returned to the Olympics in 2018 skipping Kevin Koe. Jacobs, EJ Harnden and Ryan Harnden won in Sochi.
Gushue and co-pilot Mark Nichols won gold together at the 2006 Olympics in Turin. Their forwards Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker will make their Olympic debut at the Beijing Olympics February 4-20.
The Canadian mixed doubles trials are set up December 28 to January 2 in Portage la Prairie, Man.
This Canadian Press report was first published on November 28, 2021.