Jennifer Jones and Team Canada got a small taste of how the other half lives.
After cruising to a 5-0 record at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Victoria, Jones' St. Vital rink suffered its first setback, dropping a 7-6 decision to Stefanie Lawton of Saskatchewan yesterday.
Canada later lost the late draw to Territories skip Kerry Galusha 10-8, leaving her in second place tie with Quebec's Marie-France Larouche at 5-2, just behind B.C.'s Marla Mallett, who won twice yesterday to go to 6-1.
"You're going to lose a couple of close ones, so it's better to lose them now than later in the week," Jones said from Victoria. "We never expected to not lose a game. It's just unfortunate we didn't play well in the last end. We don't like that."
It was a back-and-forth battle and Jones seemed to take control in the eighth end with a steal of two that gave her a 6-4 edge.
However, Lawton -- who bounced back from an 0-3 start to get herself back in the mix -- made her deuce in the ninth to tie things up and played a strong final end to put the pressure on Jones.
Staring at two Saskatchewan counters, Jones played a difficult tap-back that was nearly perfect ("just a quarter of an inch too much," Jones thought) but ultimately gave Lawton a steal of one and the victory.
"I thought we took control in the second half of the game, but we didn't make enough shots in the 10th end" said Jones. "That's sometimes the way it goes."
After crushing the competition in the first three games, Jones has been involved in three consecutive one-point games, winning two of them -- including Monday night's late victory over Krista McCarville of Ontario.
Jones, who curls with third Cathy Overton-Clapham, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn Askin, had the afternoon off yesterday, but returned to action on the late draw against Kerry Galusha of the Northwest Territories/Yukon.
Meanwhile, Barb Spencer and her Fort Rouge rink took a step backward on the morning draw.
After seemingly turning the corner on Monday with two big wins to get back in the hunt for a playoff berth, Spencer was crushed 12-4 by the front-running Mallett.
Spencer gave up a steal of two in the first end to get off to a tough start and then watched the game unravel entirely in the fifth end when Mallett was able to crack a five-ender.
Spencer, who dropped to 2-4, was set to face Andrea Kelly of New Brunswick on the late draw. Spencer curls with Darcy Robertson, Brette Richards and Barb Enright.
"I still feel that four losses will get us into the playoffs. But we can't afford to lose any more games," Spencer said from B.C. "We came out flat (against B.C.) and we have to learn from that. We need to get on a roll a little bit, get our confidence back and pull together."
Meanwhile, Mallett might be leading the way, but Lawton's Saskatchewan foursome has become the team to watch.
Lawton earned two victories yesterday to vault her team back into contention at 4-3 after starting the tournament 0-3.
"We're catching on to the ice and making great shots out there," said Lawton, who beat Kerry Galusha of Yukon-Territories 10-6 on the afternoon draw.
"Every game is getting stronger, and that's what we want to build on.
"We know we can still improve, but we definitely feel good."
The Saskatchewan front end of Lana Vey and Sherri Singler has been sensational, ranking at the top of their respective positions all week.
"Our front end is curling awesome," said Lawton, who leads in overall team efficiency at 83% "They're the best front end out there.
"They make a ton of shots, and it makes it a lot easier on (third) Marliese (Kasner) and I."