Team Europe closing in on second straight Continental Cup title

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Scotland’s Eve Muirhead

It’s not as simple as one plus one equals two, but the math is on Team Europe’s side at the OK Tire & BKT Tires Continental Cup.

Heading into the final day of competition at The Sports Centre at Western Fair District, European teams have done all they could to set the table for its first-ever back-to-back titles.

Switzerland’s Alina Paetz did what she had to do, beating Sudbury, Ont.’s Tracy Fleury 7-3 in mixed team scramble play.

Scotland’s Eve Muirhead helped with an 11-5 verdict over Calgary’s Chelsea Carey. And, Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg completed the sweep with a 9-4 decision over Rachel Homan of St. Albert, Alta.

Heading into Sunday’s skins games, Team Europe holds a 20.5-6.5 edge over Team Canada. On a day when 33 points (five per three afternoon games and six for evening meetings) are up for grabs, Team Europe needs just 10 points to successfully defend its title.

It’s been two years since Paetz switched her curling focus, giving up skips duties while focusing on throwing last stones for the Silvana Tirinzoni-skipped team that won the 2019 women’s world championship title.

“It’s definitely different,” said Paetz, who skipped Saturday night’s mixed scramble winning team supported by Swiss teammate Esther Neuenschwander at second, boyfriend Sven Michel at third and Valentin Tanner at lead. “I haven’t won as a skip since I joined the girls.

“It’s special to play at the Continental Cup. It’s special to play mixed scramble as a skip without skipping for two years.”

Team Europe is in a much more comfortable spot in this go-round than they were heading into last year’s final-day win at Las Vegas.

“It’s a comfortable position, but we saw last year that anything can happen on Sunday,” Paetz said about Team Canada’s comeback attempt last season. “It’s going to be a tough day tomorrow. We have to be sharp. We know the Canadians will play well tomorrow. I hope we can keep the good work up and play as well as we did today.

“We are enjoying ourselves out there. We have such great teammates. It’s great to play here and it’s great to have so many great teams playing here. I’m excited about what’s coming tomorrow.”

Paetz had to draw on her experience to find a way to overcome an early deficit against event rookie Fleury at skip, Darren Moulding at third, second Liz Fyfe and lead Brent Laing. With a strong finishing kick, Paetz scored five straight points in the last three ends to seal the deal.

“Tracy played amazing,” said Paetz. “She had some tremendous shots in the second and fourth ends. We really had to make some good shots to beat them. The three-ender (in six) was definitely the turning point in the game.”

The fact the male members of the scramble team were also Swiss helped. It’s been one of the keys to Europe’s strong showing this week that the three representative countries have male and female teams here, making for an easier transition in the scramble format.

“It’s always special for us,” said Paetz. “It’s not like we’re playing back home. This is the Continental Cup. When we play the scramble, it’s special for us. We know each other well because we spend so much time together on tour. It’s fun and different than anywhere else. We really enjoy that.”

The 2020 OK Tire & BKT Tires Continental Cup continues with draws Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (all times EST).