Jones begins title defence with win at Hearts

Jennifer Jones opened her defence of the Scotties Tournament Of Hearts with a victory. Jones tossed a last-rock come-around draw to defeat Quebec's Marie-France Larouche 7-6 in Draw 2 of the Canadian women's curling championship on Saturday night.

Jennifer Jones opened her defence of the Scotties Tournament Of Hearts with a victory.

Jones tossed a last-rock come-around draw to defeat Quebec's Marie-France Larouche 7-6 in Draw 2 of the Canadian women's curling championship on Saturday night.

"They [Quebec] played a perfect 10th end," said Jones. "We didn't play a bad 10th end, but all you wanted was a shot and we had a shot and the girls swept it perfectly."

Larouche was chasing of most of the game after missing a button draw for an opening deuce in the third. But she manufactured deuces on the seventh and ninth ends to tie the score playing the final exchange.

"We're pretty happy with how we played after a long day with the Hot Shots," said Jones, who also won that skills competition for the first time.

"There's always a little doubt [about the last shot] because I hadn't thrown a lot of draws that game. The line was a little bit tight for a time but it just ended up perfect."

Team Canada's Jones (1-0) is tied with four other rinks after the first day of competition. B.C.'s Kelly Scott whipped Newfoundland's Stacie Devereaux 7-2 on the late draw, while Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario all won in the afternoon.

New Brunswick's Andrea Kelly had an opportunity to climb atop the standings with a second win Saturday night, but watched her last freeze effort overcurl allowing Nova Scotia's Heather-Smith Dacey to score two for an 8-7 win.

Both teams finished 1-1 on the day along with Winnipeg's Cathy Overton-Clapham, who defeated Kerry Galusha of the Yukon/Northwest Territories 7-4 in Draw 2.

"We haven't started off well in the past," said Kelly, whose team has logged 5-6 records in three previous Scotties, but is unbeaten in the last three provincial championships.

"I think we had a better day today. We're learning more about strategy each time we come here, what you can and can't do."

Smith-Dacey has returned to the skip position this year after a long stint playing third. She was ticketed to play the position for Colleen Jones until she was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and was forced to pull out prior to the provincial Scotties.

"I enjoy skipping," said Smith-Dacey, "but it takes some time to get back in it. But, you know, it's always an honour to be here no matter what position you're playing."

Scott stole three singles against the rookie team from The Rock.

"You can't go by the scoreboard," Scott said. "It was a battle. She made a lot of good shots early to keep the score close. But later on she had some shots she didn't finish off, and that gave us a jump on the board."

Overton-Clapham (1-1) got off to a quick 4-0 lead, stealing three in the third end while Galusha's last rock picked up debris.

"We were fortunate there," said Overton-Clapham, who was a part of defending champion Jones's lineup but was dropped from that team at the end of last season.

"We're still not as sharp as we could be. We're still learning the ice and getting a feel for the draw weight."

Hometown favourite Suzanne Birt dropped her opening match, allowing back-to-back thefts of deuces to Kelly in an eventual 9-7 defeat.

Birt's Charlottetown unit cracked a promising three-ender in the first end, but Kelly bounced back with deuces in the second and fourth to square it. The thefts of two in the fifth and sixth ends decided the issue.

"We made a few great shots and had a couple of bad misses and maybe some missed communication on one or two," said Birt, a former two-time Canadian and one-time world junior champion.

"The second steal of two really hurt us. There was missed communication. It was a wide open shot and it was really too bad."

In other first-round games, Saskatchewan's Amber Holland hit for three in the second end and kept control against Overton-Clapham to record an 8-6 win.

Holland led 7-2 after six ends and succeeded in warding off a couple of late Manitoba rallies.

"It was really important to get that first win," said Holland. "We found out how important last year when we didn't get it and didn't play well, to boot. Playing well is the most important aspect."

The same team from Kronau finished 6-and-5 at Sault Ste. Marie.

"We weren't happy with how we finished last year so we're determined. We are going to be better. I think we're working harder, everybody's a year older and a year wiser."

Alberta's Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary clobbered Galusha 9-2 and Ontario's Rachel Homan of Ottawa hung a 9-3 whipping on Smith-Dacey.

"The ice will get pretty good after a couple of draws but right now draw weight is pretty patchy," said Kleibrink.

"I suspect the ice is a bit green and I think you'll see us hitting for the first couple of games. It looked like a struggle for everyone when you looked around. It always gets better after a couple of games. The good news is it's curling nicely so you can bury rocks."

The 21-year-old Homan, the youngest skip in the tournament, admitted to a slight case of nerves stepping on the Scotties ice for the first time.

"It was the same in the provincial championship," she said. "There were nerves, but good nerves. It's pretty exciting.

"At least we know we're not going to go 0-and-whatever. We weren't really worried about it but it's no fun when you get on a losing streak."

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