OMAHA – As her last rock crawled down the ice, Jamie Sinclair felt a moment of unease. "I was a little bit scared," she said. "I'm not going to lie."
Sinclair needed only to put that final stone into the 8-foot circle to seal a victory Friday, keeping her team alive in the best-of-three women's playoffs at the U.S. Olympic trials for curling. The throw felt like a winner coming out of her hand — until the rock decided to put one final twist into a Game 2 already overflowing with drama.
Its agonizingly slow slide looked like it might come up short. With Alex Carlson, Vicky Persinger and Monica Walker sweeping frantically, it had just enough juice to beat Nina Roth 7-6 in an extra end. That tied the series 1-1, setting up an even more nail-biting scenario: a deciding game Saturday, with the victor representing the U.S. at the Olympics in February.
The final three ends dragged the two rivals across the emotional spectrum. Both made spectacular shots, both made errors, and the tension turned Baxter Arena as silent as a golf course. Carlson, of St. Paul, said her team's record of late heroics meant that it never lost faith.
"We know when we have hammer, tied in an extra end, we're great," Carlson said, referring to the all-important final shot. "That's our jam. We love it.
"We joke about it, but we're pretty great with our backs against the wall. Knowing we've got to win these games, it puts a little fire in us. We just go through and crush 'em."
For the past two years, the Sinclair and Roth teams have been the top rivals in U.S. women's curling. They entered the playoffs with a 5-5 record in head-to-head play; Sinclair has had the edge recently, with a 2-1 record against Roth in the trials round-robin and a victory in the title game at the 2017 U.S. championships.
In Thursday's playoff opener, too many mistakes in the late ends left Sinclair on the wrong side of a 6-5, extra-end loss. Friday, the skip made a superb double takeout in the ninth end and saw her shot roll closest to the button, requiring a measurement to confirm a steal of one point for a 6-4 lead.
Her team seemed to have victory in hand in the 10th, when Team Roth needed to get two of its last three rocks into scoring position. Sinclair's final throw knocked out one of her own stones, giving Roth a draw for two points and a 6-6 tie. Knowing they would throw the last rock in the extra end, though, kept Team Sinclair calm.
"We're very confident," Sinclair said. "I think we've got some good momentum on our side now."