Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Semi-Charmed Cash Season ends in Eveleth!

Yes, you guessed it! We qualified in Eveleth and made it as far as the Semi-Finals! So close to that elusive finals appearance and win! The last weekend of the "cash" season for us was highlighted by a high quality win over team Fenson (reigning Olympic team) in the Quarter Finals. By quality win I mean that we played well from top to bottom for the whole game and really controlled it from the start. Much like Madison we controlled all but one of our games and played very well as a team. In the Semi-Finals against our friend, and eventual spiel winner Tyler George, we had a one critical miss that put us behind by three points. The ice was pretty tough to generate offense on so come behind victories were few and far between. Certainly dissapointing for us to never have made a finals appearance on the Tour this year, but we have made a ton of progress and feel like we are starting to peak at the right time. To put it into perspective, every team starts the year hoping that they have what it takes to win a National Championships or Olympic trials, but only a few enter January really believing that it can happen. I would count us in that last group!

So now the Trials process begins. This year there are a total of 49 teams entering the "playdown" process. The process can be a bit complicated to explain, but essentially it's this.

The Qualifying Round (QR) - Jan. 7 to 11
In this round 6 Teams Advance from four different sites to the Final Trials, and 10 more teams advance to the Challenge Round.

The Challenge Round (CR) Jan. 28 to Feb 1
The 10 Teams from above compete at one site for the final four spots at the Final Trials

The Final Trials Feb. 21 to 28
The 10 Teams (6 from the QR and 4 from the CR) compete at one site over 9 days. The last team standing at the end of the event will be the next Olympic Team and National Champion.

As I mentioned in an earlier update, our QR is being hosted in Centerville, WI. John has won two National events in Centerville so we feel like it has good karma for us! Our first game is 2:00 PM on Thursday, January 8th. This will be pool play like the Madison event and we will need to finish in the top 3 to guarantee advancement. When we finish 1st, we'll advance to Denver for the final trials. There should be online scoring via the USCA website. For that and more information on the Trials use this link: http://www.usacurl.org/curlingrocks/ and click on "Championships" at the top.

BTW - If any of you are as optimistic as I am you can book your early tickets for the Final Trials in Denver here: http://www.denversports.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=128&Itemid=55

I'll send another quick update before we start next week.

I speak for the entire team when I say thanks so much for your support this season!

Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 18, 2008

“Mad Money!”

Just wanted to drop you a note get you all up to date.

Our trip to Madison was quite successful! We went 5 and 1 overall and qualified for the final 8. As you might remember, the format there was pools. We went 4 and 0 in our pool but ended up having to play a “tie breaker” game at 10:40 PM on Saturday to get into that final 8. We finished that tie breaker game at 12:30 and didn’t get to bed until 2:00 AM! The next morning we had to be up at 7:00 AM to be ready for a game at 9:00 AM! Needless to say we were not on top of our game on Sunday morning. It was a close game but we never really got much going. That was the only downside to the weekend. Otherwise we played about as well as we can as a team. We were really firing on all cylinders and controlled the majority of the games. We’re really feeling good about our progress and are very happy to have earned some more cash along the way. It’s a very good sign for us and it feels like the long schedule and hard work are starting to pay off.

To sum up the season so far…..Out of the 7 events so far, we have qualified in 3 with two Quarter-Final appearances and a Semi-Final appearance. Our goal was to qualify in 4 of our 8 scheduled events so we’re just about there. We’re currently ranked 5th in the U.S. on both the Money Earnings list and the Order Of Merit (a complicated points system to track teams). Not too bad for a bunch of kids and an old guy! J

We have one last opportunity to bump up those stats and get that elusive finals appearance this weekend in Eveleth, MN (yes, again, I know..what glamour!). The SuperOne Shootout is a relatively new event on the WCT but features many of the same high caliber U.S. teams that were in St. Paul, Duluth and Madison. The format is bracketed like the others and you should be able to get results here: http://www.worldcurlingtour.com/events.php?eventid=1879&view=Round-Robin

Once we get through this event, it will be time to start preparing for the Olympic Trials process! More to come on that soon!

Until then, keep cheering for us from afar and have a wonderful Holiday Season!

John Benton

Thursday, December 4, 2008

“That’s a Wrap!”

Well, I know have to apologize for not getting this out sooner! I really don’t have a good excuse except to say that I’ve been quite busy the last couple of weeks with work and getting ready for the Holidays. Sorry! (Boy some of you aremore excited about this than us!)

So here is my update from our trip to Canada: Thunder Bay was just as I had remembered it. A good time and very good people. I got to catch up with a few friends and play in a great facility. We ended up 2-3 which was a disappointment to us. We actually played very well and consistently but made a few mistakes by being a bit too aggressive with our strategy and not executing those shots. I would simply call them high “risk/reward” situations and in those situations we just need to be more aware of what NOT to do. The great thing is that the team continues to learn and grow with every game. I cannot tell you how valuable it is to play with teammates with that attitude!

So now it’s time to start wrapping up the last part of the “Cash” season and begin to prepare for playdowns. More on that later. For now you should know that we have two “Cash” events left to compete in. The first is this weekend in Madison, WI. This annual event features most of the top teams in the U.S. much like St. Paul and Duluth. However, the format is a bit different. There will be “pools” of teams that each play a round robin. At the end of the round robins (within each pool) at least 2 teams with winning records will advance to the Championship round on Sunday. To do that we’ll need to have no more than 1 or 2 losses within the pool. It’s a good format because each team is guaranteed to play plenty of games, which is important at this point of the year. Scores and updates should be on-line and can be found at http://www.worldcurlingtour.com/events.php?eventid=1880.

After Madison we head to Eveleth, MN (yes, all of the glamorous places) in two weeks then we’re off for the Holidays. We’ll have individual and team practices set up over that period of time and maybe some scrimmages as well. Once we get into January the Olympic Trials Playdown process will start. I will send another update with the details on that process when we get closer, but I do want to let you know that the first round of Qualifying is January 7-11th at four different locations. We had originally hoped to play in Grand Rapids, MN (the home of Gemini Sport Marketing, our primary sponsor) but weren’t able to make that happen. But we will be playing close to home in Centerville, WI, which is just across the border from Winona, MN. So if you’re interested in seeing part of the Olympic Trials process, please feel free to make plans for that weekend to be in Wisconsin! J

Okay, that’s it. I’m heading out to “Mad Town”! Thanks again for all your well wishes.

Vancouver is just a little over a year away!

John Benton
Team Shuster