Scotties taking its toll on Team 'Toba?

Manitoba skip Cathy Overton-Clapham watches her shot against Quebec at the Scotties Tournament of...

Manitoba skip Cathy Overton-Clapham watches her shot against Quebec at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on February 21, 2011. (SHAUN BEST/Reuters)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:59 AM ET

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. -- We probably should have seen this coming.

I mean, you don't just throw together a team and immediately slide all the way to a national championship.

And that's basically what Winnipeg's Cathy Overton-Clapham did after she was told her services were no longer required by Team Canada -- she cobbled together a team and began rolling the dice.

That they came up sevens at the provincials was one thing. Here at the national Tournament of Hearts, they've hit a run of snake-eyes.

And the bite of four losses in its first five games has poisoned Team Manitoba's chances of making the playoffs.

So what's gone wrong?

Poor shot-making, for sure. Some questionable calls, definitely.

A lack of support from her teammates, at times.

But this has been a team effort, the skip screwing up one day (a loss to B.C., Sunday), the third the next (see Karen Fallis, Monday against Quebec).

In the 7-6 Quebec loss, Cathy-O was left with more junk to clean up than a holiday season garbage collector, continually left with impossible runbacks and one impossible draw, in the eighth end, with a Quebec stone already on the button.

"Something's happening from the beginning, and by the time I shoot we're in trouble," the skip was saying after her only Monday game. "We don't even have the button available. We're going to have to figure it out."

If that was a subtle finger pointed at her teammates, so be it.

A day earlier, the skip was pointing the finger directly at herself.

Lately, the body language out there suggests the strain is starting to wear on Team 'Toba. They're starting to question each other.

"If we're not putting the broom in the right spot, tell me to give you less or more," Overton-Clapham said. "We'll have to talk about that."

There's plenty to talk about, actually, including the possibility of inserting alternate Breanne Meakin, who was actually Cathy-O's full-time third until her run to the Canadian junior nationals left her unavailable for the Manitoba final.

Fallis took her place, and the rest is becoming history.

But I wonder about something else, too.

Whether the burden of being the skip for the first time at the nationals is wearing on one of the best thirds to ever play the game.

Especially given the enormous attention Cathy-O has endured over the whole Jennifer Jones affair.

I slid this theory in Fallis's direction, and she swept it into the rings of believability.

"She's played third in this thing a lot," Fallis began. "But has she skipped in this thing? Now she's the centre of attention. And she's the house favourite here. It's a lot. As much as she'd like to say she's handling it... she is handling it. But it's hard. It's really hard.

"We're new. We threw this team together. All of it is hard. Everybody wants her to do so well, and wants so badly for her to do well. We all do. It's a lot."

Overton-Clapham was the all-star third at this thing a year ago.

Now she's just an average skip, shooting 68%, peppered with questions of "What's going wrong?" after every game.

"I'm not exhausted," Overton-Clapham said. "I'm not used to this part of it, for sure."

She's not always the one screwing up. But she's the one answering for it.

"I'm frustrated that I didn't help her out at all," Fallis said, referring to her miserable game, Monday, in which she shot just 55%.

Overall, Fallis ranks 10th among thirds.

Bringing back Meakin, which they're talking about, is probably a no-brainer. They've got nothing to lose.

But it starts at the top.

And one of the most decorated curlers in Manitoba history is finding it can be lonely up there.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.

Twitter@friesensunmedia


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