Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
LEDUC – The margin between victory and defeat in curling can be so painfully slim sometimes.
If the angles on a couple of runbacks in the last two ends had been slightly different, it would have been the MacEwan Griffins celebrating with a bronze medal in the women's draw at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championship on Wednesday afternoon.
Instead, the NAIT Ooks took the final spot on the podium with an 8-6 win that was so close it came down to the last shot.
The win was in MacEwan skip Ashton Simard's hands with that final stone in the 10th end, but the level of difficulty on the draw she was trying to execute was somewhere between double black-diamond and putting a human on Mars.
NAIT skip Emily Clark had frozen a rock on the left 40 per cent the button in front of her own that remained when a MacEwan runback missed. Simard needed to draw into the right side of the button with nothing less than perfect weight in a shot that few Scotties-level skips would pull off. She came up slightly short.
Simard and her rink of third Erin Wells, second Andie Kurjata and lead Sara Fraser settled for fourth place – still a solid achievement considering all the curling programs at the Canadian collegiate level.
"We had a good week. We just came up a little short," she said. "We made a bunch of great shots. Top four in Canada college is pretty good."
It was MacEwan's second-straight loss to cross-town rival NAIT at the CCAA tournament after beating them 10-5 in the ACAC semifinal.
The defeats mirrored each other. Just as in the opening-draw defeat to NAIT earlier in the week, the Griffins couldn't hold onto a late lead. MacEwan was up 5-3 going into the ninth in that one and lost 6-5. On Wednesday, they were up 6-4 going into the ninth and couldn't hold on either.
"We had opportunities and just couldn't (get the right roll)," said Griffins head coach Tom Kitagawa. "Even in the ninth end there, if she pushes that rock back a foot, it would have been a great shot and they would have been really hard pressed for two, but that's what happens.
"When you get two really good teams playing, it kind of comes down to who makes and who misses. It's really no different than when you watch the Kevin Koes and the Brad Jacobs of the world. It's the same thing."
The Griffins appeared to be in the driver's seat for a bronze when they scored three in the eighth after masterfully putting rocks behind guards on either side of the house and watching as Clark was heavy on back-to-back draws.
But in the ninth, with four guards of both colours in play, the Griffins attempted a runback of their own to takeout NAIT's shot rock, but missed the angle. The Ooks were more successful on a runback of their own guard to score two, which set up their steal of two in the 10th.
Simard said if she could play those two ends over, her strategy would likely have been different: "Just keep it a little bit more open. Keep it simple."
Both teams curled a combined 73 per cent.
Despite the defeat, the Griffins have nothing to be ashamed of as the program took an important step forward.
Simard and Kurjata were a part of the Griffins rink two years ago that missed the playoffs at nationals. And last season, they didn't even qualify. So, things are moving in the right direction.
"I was hugely proud," said Simard. "We all played well. We all made the shots when we needed to."
EXTRA ENDS ... Fanshawe won the CCAA women's gold medal match with a 5-4 win in an extra end over Camosun ... MacEwan's Erin Wells was named a CCAA tournament all-star at the third position.