WFTDA

The Long Road To Nashville: How the Rideau Valley Vixens Became Canada’s First Representative at the WFTDA Championship Tournament

The Rideau Valley Vixens get lead jammer during their 224-139 semi-final win against Gold Coast at 2014 WFTDA Division 2 playoffs. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The Rideau Valley Vixens get lead jammer during their 224-139 semi-final win against Gold Coast at the 2014 WFTDA Division 2 playoffs. (Photo by Joe Mac)

It’s March 2013, at The Bunker in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and the Rideau Valley Vixens are playing the hosts, Toronto’s CN Power, in the final game of the annual Quad City Chaos tournament. This is the fifth game between the two teams in three years, in what would have been a burgeoning rivalry had the games not all been so one-sided: Toronto had won all previous meetings by an average differential of 126 points.

There is under four minutes left on the clock and though Toronto has not run away with it as they have in previous bouts, they are up by 19 points and have led for the vast majority of the game. The Vixens have stuck with a very tight jammer rotation all weekend, barely veering from it, but suddenly Coach Adam Tasanko taps his blocker Jessica Kuehl on the helmet and hands her the star. A versatile skater, she has not jammed all game, rarely ever for the Vixens at this point, but it hardly seems to matter when the whistle blows. Lock down defense, physical jamming, 20 points and 90 seconds later and the Vixens have the lead. On another Coach’s hunch, a second blocker, Sister Disaster, is then sent out with the star to close out the game. She picks up lead and the Vixens hold on to win by 13 in what at the time would be characterized as the biggest upset in Canadian roller derby history.

While that win did not directly lead to the Vixens’ place in the 2014 WFTDA Division 2 Championship game (they didn’t even make the D2 playoffs in 2013), it was a definite and noticeable turning point. From that moment on, the team—from its long-serving and well-respected coach to its core of veteran and well-respected blockers—began to carry itself with a little more confidence, even a hint of swagger. An attitude well-earned, as it’s been a long road for the Vixens; full of obstacles and potholes, peaks and valleys, including its fair share of strife and heartbreak. But then, isn’t that what champions are made of?

In The Beginning

Roller derby is a pretty big deal in Ottawa. Despite its relatively small size (just under a million people), outside of Greater Toronto and British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, there is no region in the nation that has more active roller derby players than Canada’s capital. Spread out over three senior women’s leagues, a men’s team and a burgeoning junior program, during the spring and summer months, it’s easy to catch roller derby every weekend in the city. And while having multiple leagues is not generally conducive to on-track success (for every distinct roller derby league in a city there is probably at least one melodramatic email chain and a string of broken hearts to go with it), the Vixens have (eventually) made it work.

Roller derby in Ottawa began in late 2007, and the roots of the Vixens can be traced all the way back to a meeting at the Babylon, a hard-to-define nightclub/dive bar on Bank St. It was there that the first meeting of Ottawa Roller Derby (ORD) took place. Founded by Kelly McAlear (AKA: Honey Bee), within months the league had a team, the Bytown Blackhearts, and had struck up an integral friendship with Montreal Roller Derby, who at the time was the closest league to Ottawa.

By April 2008, the team was set to debut at the Montreal’s inaugural Beast of the East, a tournament featuring the fifteen house league teams in Ontario and Quebec at the time and filled out by Queen City’s Devil Dollies out of Buffalo. Now seen as a seminal event in the development of roller derby in the country, it would be baptism by fire for the Blackhearts who were drawn to face off against one of the co-hosts, Montreal’s La Racaille, in the opener. They would lose 65-29, but for a roster that contained many of the key early league stalwarts, including current Vixens members Hannah Murphy, Sister Disaster and Drunky Brewster, it sparked in them a lifelong love of the sport.

The Blackhearts had more success later that summer at the Virgin Suicides Brawl, a Toronto-based tournament hosted by the Greater Toronto Area Rollergirls and designed to feature new teams and inexperienced skaters (that has since been rebranded as the Fresh and the Furious). Advancing to the final, Ottawa squared off against Hammer City’s Death Row Dames and after a tense last jam, appeared to have won the tournament, only to have the win stricken down after a recounting of the scores. They lost by a single point.

Both of these early performances proved to be incredibly important team-building trips for the young team, and provided essential foundational development for the skaters. However, despite the on-track success, behind the scenes, things were tense at Ottawa Roller Derby. The early days of new roller derby leagues, existing as they do in a sport that especially in 2008 lacked consistent and reliable organizational precedents, can be tumultuous at times and there were rifts forming in the new league. Citing disagreements in organization (single-owner business vs. non profit) and competitive direction, in the fall of 2008, the Bytown Blackhearts walked away from Ottawa Roller Derby and established itself as an independent, not-for-profit roller derby team.

Roller Derby Returns to Ottawa

In a 2010 interview, Jerry Seltzer told the story of roller derby’s first foray into Ottawa in 1961. Only two years removed from taking over the reigns of roller derby from his father Leo, Jerry ventured north of the border in the winter of that year. He joked that it was on that trip that the first ever flat track game was played when the truck carrying the banked track froze in Sudbury and didn’t make it to Ottawa in time.

On January 31st, 2009, the first modern game of women’s flat track roller derby would be played in Ottawa, a full 48 years after the sport had first passed through the city. On that day, in front of a sold-out crowd, the newly independent Blackhearts would host Montreal’s very strong B-travel team, Les Sexpos, with a roster featuring some of the key figures in the eventual founding and development of Rideau Valley: DDT, Soul Rekker, Blackout Susan, Scotch Minx and Screaming Meanie Massacre all helped round out the roster that would lose that first game, 108-65. It proved a valuable learning experience, and when the team travelled to Vermont to play Green Mountain the following week, they won narrowly 136-131.

Rideau Valley Roller Girls LogoAs winter 2009 played out and the Blackhearts were preparing to return to Montreal for the second annual Beast of the East tournament, further strain and disagreements with ORD forced the Blackhearts to abandon their name. However, they were able to keep the logo and, undaunted, pushed forward. Within weeks a new league was born, the Rideau Valley Roller Girls, featuring the old Blackhearts logo: a roller girl with one hand on a cocked hip and the other thrusting a still-beating heart into the air—and its first team was named: The Slaughter Daughters.

Entering the Beast of the East in 2009, most eyes were on Montreal and Hammer City, the two leagues that had dominated the earliest days of Canadian Roller Derby, but three years in, the Canadian roller derby landscape had changed considerably at this point and the tournament also featured hopeful and up-and-coming leagues from Tri-City (Kitchener-Waterloo) and London, Ontario.

While ORD’s new team Capital Carnage would get eliminated early, the Slaughter Daughters would go on to be the breakout team of the tournament, trouncing Tri-City’s Venus Fly Tramps and Forest City’s Thames Fatales before taking Montreal’s heavily favoured (and eventual finalists) Les Contrabanditas to the limit in a three-point quarterfinal loss.

It would be a launching point for the new league and within months they’d named a second house league team (the Riot Squad) and began talks to form a distinct travel team, one that could play against the newly formed travel teams in Hammer City, Montreal and Toronto.

The Vixens Come out to Play

It was snowing heavily in Toronto on February 27th, 2010, but nonetheless, ToRD’s venue at the time, The Hangar, was packed for the team’s first game of the new season. Toronto’s CN Power was preparing for a big year, and to kick things off, they were facing the newest team on Canada’s competitive travel team circuit: The Rideau Valley Vixens. The Vixens were overwhelmed on that night against their big sisters from Toronto, getting beaten 199-49; nonetheless, the game represented a new era for roller derby in Ottawa and momentum would only build from there, even while yet another league, Capital City Derby Dolls, formed in the city.

For virtually the next two years the Vixens would slog it out primarily on the road, and between one-sided losses to vastly more experienced Canadian travel teams, they would gain hard-earned road victories against WFTDA B-teams and smaller US leagues like Ithaca, Central New York, and Morristown. It was a tough, hard road that every aspiring WFTDA team goes through early on. While some never make it out, many eventually learn to thrive on the adversity and the travel. The Vixens persevered.

In June 2012, two years after the team’s debut, the Vixens would play their first WFTDA-sanctioned game on the road against Central New York. It would be a narrow loss–9 points–but would typify some of the consistency problems that the team would have in its early days in the Association (they had defeated CNY only a year before). For example, the Vixens would crush Buffalo’s Queen City by 89 points, only to turn around and lose by virtually the same score to the same team five months later. Or the 2013 upset win over CN Power would be followed by a smothering loss to the less talented New Hampshire Roller Derby.

In all, the Vixens would play thirteen games in 2013, going 7-6 for the season (6-6 in sanctioned Play) finishing 68th in the WFTDA and just outside of the Division 2 playoffs. But there was undeniably a new, single-minded competitive focus on the team and in the league, starting with the desire for many of the skaters to begin playing under their real names (at least at the WFTDA level) and the formation of a B-level travel team (the Sirens) that would become a key breeding ground for future Vixens. Similarly, in the 2013 off-season a new home team would be formed (The Prime Sinisters) and all three rosters would be shaken up to help create parity at the house league level in hopes of raising the league’s competitive level as a whole.

The Vixens began the 2014 season with a pre-season, non-sanctioned game against Alliston, Ontario’s, Misfit Militia, largely considered Canada’s top non-WFTDA team, and they’d win the scrappy affair, kicking off a five-game WFTDA winning streak that would see them solidify their Division 2 Playoff spot. They’d end up 7-1 on the season (6-1 in sanctioned play to improve 21 spots in the ranking to 47th) with only a late-season upset loss to Calgary spoiling their perfect record—but the loss provided a healthy late-season shot in the arm to refocus them for the playoffs.

The team was drawn to play in the Kitchener-Waterloo D-2 tournament, and in August became the first Canadian team to play a WFTDA playoff game on home soil. And they did not disappoint.

In one of the closest playoff tournaments in the WFTDA’s history, the Rideau Valley Vixens would be the outliers, dominating their quarterfinal and semifinal games (the 89 and 105 point differentials were the two largest of the tournament—only two other games all weekend had differentials higher than 50). When they squared off against Bear City Roller Derby’s Berlin Bombshells in the final, they would be part of history as one half of the first ever all-international WFTDA tournament final. It would, of course, go down as one of the great tournament finals in history as well, when the Vixens were able to hold on to a narrow lead in a frantic and thrilling last jam, getting outscored 20-18, but holding on for the three-point win and a berth in the Division 2 final against the legendary Detroit Derby Girls.

To Nashville and Beyond!

In 2014 the Rideau Valley Roller Girls have emerged from a potentially fractious Ottawa flat track scene to become one of the nation’s most competitive and successful leagues.

They currently have five skaters on Team Ontario (Murphy, Bottema, Margaret Choke, Soul Rekker and Sister Disaster—not to mention that Brennan, H.P. Lovecrash, and Melanie Austin are alternates); also, Soul Rekker and Murphy have both been on the national squad since 2011. In 2014, the league had its first house league regular season and championship (won by the Prime Sinisters), while its B-team continued to develop and extended its travel to outside of Canada (into Ohio and New York State). This all coming off of the Slaughter Daughters’ three-year run as the top house league team in the Canadian derbyverse, a run that included three straight appearances in the Beast of the East final, two of which they won. And now, of course, they have qualified for the WFTDA D2 championship game.

This Vixen’s roster is one that is built to win, and built to win now. They play a short bench relying on a few carefully crafted lines, and stick to tight jammer rotations. For example, in their playoff tournament, the team travelled with only 12 skaters, three who exclusively jammed. Of the nine remaining, seven of them played between 46% and 60% of the total jams in the tournament: basically two lines in an on-off rotation. Aside from a few star passes, their three primary jammers (Soul Rekker, Shania Pain, and Melanie Austin[Tatious]) jammed all but one of the team’s total jams on the weekend. All three of the jammers had strong weekends with Rekker scoring 345 points (second at the tournament) on 6.5 points per jam and a 66% lead percentage (both of which were tops on the weekend). Shania Pain finished fifth in scoring and recorded a 56% lead percentage. AustinTatious also cracked 50% (51.3%) and averaged a solid 42 points per game.

The roster is a strong mix of homegrown talent and well-integrated transfers. Four members of the charter (Murphy, Sister Disaster, Soul Rekker, and Da Big Block) remain from the Vixen’s very first game in Toronto in 2010, while another, Drunky Brewster, has become the bench manager. The team also features other homegrown talent in blockers (including Margaret Choke, Jane Rudolph, and Bottema) and jammers (AustinTatious). But some transfers are key as well. It’s been a few years since Brennan joined the league from Gainesville, Florida, while BlackeyE seems to have finally found a perfect fit after stints in Kingston and Toronto. Perhaps the biggest addition of the season has been jammer Shania Pain. Originally having learned her derby in the Yukon, Pain just completed her first season with the Vixens despite the challenge of studying in Saint John, New Brunswick, for the vast majority of the year. Although she missed a few games this season, she was incredibly impactful when present.

In Nashville on Sunday, November 1, 2014, the Rideau Valley Vixens will make history when they face off against Detroit for the D2 championship: it will be the first time that an international team will compete for a WFTDA title. Detroit will pose the biggest challenge that the team will have faced this season.

On a post on the Rideau Valley Roller Girls website after the tournament win in Kitchener-Waterloo, Coach Adam cited the biggest strength of the team as being their mental game, which has grown noticeably over the past few seasons: “I am beyond impressed with the mental fortitude and focus the team displayed,” he said. “We upped our mental game ten-fold and avoided every possible meltdown on the bench and on the track.”

It is true that there is something different about this Vixens team. You can see it in the focus of their gazes. It is the look of a team that has confidence in themselves and each other. It is the look of a team that is unified in its single-minded determination to win.

It has been a long, challenging road for the Rideau Valley Roller Girls and their Vixens, and even though it’s just one stop of many on a road that will continue long after this season, this particular one in Nashville has all the feel of being a bigger stop than most.

**Read the Nerd’s recap of Rideau Valley’s Division 2 tournament win here.

Rideau Valley Makes WFTDA History at Thrilling D2 Tournament in Kitchener-Waterloo

The Vixens defeat Berlin in an all-international final to become the first non-US-based team to win a WFTDA playoff tournament.

Canada's Rideau Valley Vixens are the first non-US team to win a WFTDA playoff tournament. (Photo from Vixen's Facebook page)

Canada’s Rideau Valley Vixens are the first non-US team to win a WFTDA playoff tournament. (Photo from Vixens’ Facebook page)

Since the team made its debut on a snowy February 27th, 2010, at the ToRD Hangar in Toronto, the Rideau Valley Vixens have been one of this country’s most enigmatic teams. Consistently fielding some of Canada’s finest skaters (including two members of Team Canada and a big chunk of Ontario’s provincial team), the team has not always lived up to the sometimes-lofty expectations thrust upon it. Until, that is, this past weekend, where they far surpassed those expectations, outlasting Berlin’s Bear City in an absolutely thrilling championship game to become the first team outside of the United States to win a WFTDA playoff tournament, earning them a spot in the Division 2 championship game in Nashville in November where they will square off against mighty Detroit.

Graduating to full WFTDA membership in June 2012, the Rideau Valley Vixens struggled to find consistency early in their WFTDA careers, hovering around the high D2 rankings and never quite able to string together more than three wins in a row, all the while capable of pulling off shocking victories (such as a 2013 victory over Toronto’s CN Power) as often as they were able to slump to disappointing losses.

After narrowly missing out of the D2 playoffs in 2013, things did finally begin to change for the better for the team this season. Kicking off 2014 on a six-game winning streak (that included an impressive non-sanctioned win over Misfit Militia), the team found itself surging up the WFTDA rankings, finally slipping comfortably into a playoff spot in May, as the sole Canadian team in the D2 playoffs (four others qualified for D1).

The Kitchener-Waterloo D2 tournament actually contained a series of historic moments: the first tournament hosted outside of the US (and Tri-City Roller Derby knocked it out of the park—universally praised for the organization); the first to feature a team from continental Europe (Bear City’s Berlin Bombshells); the first to feature nation’s capitals square off (it happened twice, first when Berlin knocked out DC in the quarterfinals); and, eventually, the first to feature a fully international final.

Gold Coast (and Team USA) skater Baller Shot Caller led her team all the way to the 3rd place game where they fell to a scrappy Killamazoo led by Javelin (33) and Neva Soba. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Gold Coast (and Team USA) skater Baller Shot Caller (jamming) led her team all the way to the 3rd place game where they fell to a scrappy Killamazoo led by Javelin (#33 left) and Neva Soba. (Photo by Joe Mac)

While the big-picture view of this tournament will focus on the history, at track level, the quality of the play stole the show; parity was the dominant story of the tournament, and it made for some phenomenal games. Of the 17 games, 9 finished with a differential of less than 20 points, and the event was bookended by the tightest results, with the opening and closing games of the tournament being settled by 3 points. Only one game—Rideau Valley’s 239-130 win over Boulder Country—featured a point differential of more than 100. Overall, the average point differential was 41.4. This, along with the first D2 Duluth’s 73 point average differential, provides the best indicator that the WFTDA’s new playoff system is producing the desired results

While this was the dominant tale, A sub narrative may have been the story of the upsets. The top two seeds (DC and Queen City) ended up playing for 5th, and while two of the top four finishers were expected (3rd seed Vixens and 4th seed Killamazoo finishing 1st and 3rd respectively), the other spots were filled by the 9th seed (Berlin) and the 7th seed (Gold Coast), both of whom had to endure (and survive) the Friday morning play-in games. Nonetheless, it was clear that despite the necessity for some slight internal adjustments, these 10 teams deserved to be here.

The final was an extraordinary display of what modern women’s flat track roller derby has to offer: furious play, as slow and gritty as it was fast and loose (the slower play an advantage to Rideau Valley), phenomenal clutch performances, and two teams that left it all on the track.

The Vixens led over the opening 5 jams before a 9-0 Bear City jam gave Berlin the lead 30-22. They would hold the lead until the 43rd jam of the game and would trade back one more time before Rideau would retake the lead two jams later and hold on until the end, holding off a 20-18 Berlin run in a frantic final jam that went the full 2 minutes. When the final whistle blew, the Vixens had managed a 243-240 victory.

Two critical moments defined the second half. The first consisted of both teams trading errors: A rare moment of confusion late in the second half (jam 42 of 47) on the Rideau Valley bench saw the Vixens not field a jammer. It looked to be the defining moment of the tournament, until, that is, the Berlin jammer (Master Blaster) attempted a risky apex jump that landed her in the penalty box, thus ending the jam. Critical errors traded so cancelling each other out.

Berlin's Master Blaster was simply phenomenal, leading the tournament in scoring and track time for a jammer. She was the worthy winner of the MVP award. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Berlin’s Master Blaster was simply phenomenal, leading the tournament in scoring and track time for a jammer. She was the worthy winner of the MVP award. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The second key moment came in the final jam. With the Vixens up by 5, they needed only to keep pace with Berlin. A key knock-out/drag back by Jane Rudolph on lead jammer Master Blaster late put the jammer a half lap back of her counterpart Soul Rekker, the Vixens’ jammer; this proved critical when Rekker picked up a last-second penalty and Master Blaster was just too far behind to catch up and score a full pass.

The play was indicative of the kind of performances that Rideau Valley got on the weekend from their core vets. In the final, with key blockers Hannah Murphy and Margaret Choke having fouled out by the midway point of the second (they’d been leading their team in track time to that point), it was incumbent upon others to step up, and step up they did. Rudolph was extraordinary in the championship game, and given the stage, veteran blocker Sister Disaster played the game of her career, key in moments of jammer relief (including two key star passes) and overcoming any physical disadvantage with heart and pure determination (she would lead the tournament in blocker plus/minus). Brennan was another critical force and first-year transfer BlackeyE has blossomed in Rideau Valley (her third league).

Berlin, playing short all weekend, used their blockers on a much more even rotation, with the extraordinarily feisty Catherine Beat-Her Bonez leading the way, but Bee Fattal (who lead her team with a blocker +122), Paulina Pocket, Emmazon and Heavy Rotation were all key.

But if you want to look at the key difference between the two finalists, it comes down to the jammer rotation. The Vixens dominated Berlin’s Donner Doro and Kozmic Bruise, limiting them to 34 and 36 points and 18% and 20% lead percentages respectively; however, eventual tournament MVP Master Blaster was another story entirely, and as she did all weekend, played over half of her team’s jams with the star (including 5 of the last 6 jams). She finished with 164 of her team’s points in the game and held a remarkable 72% lead percentage.

The Vixens had a slightly more balanced approach. Two first-year jammers (at the WFTDA level) Austin Tatious and Shania Pain (a transfer from the Yukon) played well above their experience level. Austin finished the game with 39 points and a 64% lead percentage, while Shania finished with 77 and 44% (and ended the tournament as the 5th leading scorer). But the story of the game (and the weekend) was the play of veteran Soul Rekker; in the final, she finished with 127 points and a 50% lead percentage and was critical in the last jam, going lap for lap with Master Blaster. Furthermore, she led the tournament in lead percentage (66%) and points per jam (6.5) among jammers with at least 30 jams.

Overall, both D2 tournaments have set a standard for the upcoming D1 teams to compete against. This tournament was run phenomenally in a beautiful venue with decent crowds that filled out nicely for the key Saturday night/Sunday evening games: the emotion in the building during the final was unbelievable. If these past two weekends are any indicator of what is to come in the 2014 WFTDA Division 1 playoffs, we should all expect nothing less than the best.

***All games were broadcast live on WFTDA.TV and will all eventually be available for free in the WFTDA.TV archives. Do yourself a favour and (re)watch them!

***Read blow-by-blow game recaps at Derby News Network and WFTDA.com.

FINAL STANDINGS

  • 1st Place – Rideau Valley Roller Girls (3 seed)
  • 2nd Place – Bear City Roller Derby (9 seed)
  • 3rd Place – Killamazoo Derby Darlins (4 seed)
  • 4th Place – Gold Coast Derby Grrls (7 seed)
  • 5th Place – Queen City Roller Girls (2 seed)
  • 6th Place – DC Rollergirls (1 seed)
  • 7th Place – Chicago Outfit Roller Derby (5 seed)
  • 8th Place – Demolition City Roller Derby (8 seed)
  • 9th Place – Boulder County Bombers (6 seed)
  • 10th Place – Grand Raggidy Roller Girls (10 seed)

Tournament Stats Leaders (minimum 30 jams unless indicated–Stats by Rinxter)

JAMMERS

SCORING* LEAD PERCENTAGE** TOTAL JAMS
Master Blaster (BCRD) 506 Soul Rekker (RVRG) 66% Master Blaster (BCRD) 90
Soul Rekker (RVRG) 345 Jessie Girl (KDD) 64% Lola Blow (CORD) 65
Lola Blow (CORD) 330 Master Blaster (BCRD) 62% Bitchin N Rollin (GCRG) 54
LiBRAWLian (QCRG) 282 LiBRAWLian (QCRG) 62% Matza Ball Breaker (CORD) 54
Shania Pain (RVRG) 235 Dubois/Doobie Trap (KDD) 62% Soul Rekker (RVRG) 53

*Gold Coast’s Bitchin N Rollin was the only other jammer to score over 200 points (225)

**Demolition City’s Stepheree finished with a 73% lead percentage over 26 jams.

BLOCKERS

TOTAL JAMS PLUS/MINUS
Bangs McCoy (DCRD) 119 Sister Disaster (RVRG) +151
Baller Shot Caller (GCRG) 109 Brennan (RVRG) +146
Heavy Rotation (BCRD) 106 Margaret Choke (RVRG) +134
Paulina Pocket (BCRD) 103 Murphy (RVRG) +123
Catherine Beat-Her Bonez (BCRD) 101 Bee Fattal /Karo’Bolage (BCRD) +122

Busy Weekend for Canada’s WFTDA Teams: Montreal, Toronto, Tri-City and Rideau Valley in Action

Montreal heads to the West Coast on an important three-game road trip; Toronto and Tri-City head to the Mid West for Spring Roll; and Rideau Valley heads to the East Coast.

Montreal Heads West

Montreal's Honey Badger tries to get passed Toronto's Ames to Kill and Mega Bouche in a March matchup up in Toronto. Montreal won 233-216. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Montreal’s Honey Badger tries to get passed Toronto’s Ames to Kill and Mega Bouche in a March matchup up in Toronto. Montreal won 233-216. (Photo by Greg Russell)

As the spring crawls toward summer, the WFTDA schedule is ramping up as teams jockey for playoff positions or, in the case of Division 2 teams, simply fight for a playoff spot. Fans of Canadian derby get a little bit of everything this weekend as four of the nation’s top five teams are all in action.

First off, Montreal (currently ranked 12th after moving up a few spots in the most recent rankings) head to the West Coast for an important three-game road trip all against Top 20 teams. They kick things off with a game against Seattle’s Rat City on Friday night. It was February 2011 when these two teams first faced off, with Montreal recording an at-the-time shocking 110-103 win. It would announce Montreal’s reaching the highest level of competitive play: a level they have stayed at since. They will continue their challenging road trip with games against Rose City in Portland and then the Oly Rollers in Olympia.

Montreal is off to a great start in 2014 with a 4-0 record that includes two victories in a home-and-home series against Toronto. Rat City (ranked 18th) crushed Sacred City 444-58 in their season opener, while Rose City (5th) is 3-1 in WFTDA play with 300+ point victories over Kansas City and Treasure Valley, and a tight 252-199 win over Philly. Their loss came at the hands of Texas (274-194). Montreal will end the weekend against the Oly Rollers who return to WFTDA after focusing on USARS last season. Oly is a team largely rebuilt from its run to the 2012 WFTDA championship game, and has had a rough return so far with a pretty one-sided win over Treasure Valley being followed by un upset loss to Vancouver’s Terminal City (139-130) and a 263-140 loss to Rose City.

Toronto and Tri-City At Spring Roll in Fort Wayne

Toronto (23rd) and Tri-City (40th) will both be heading to Fort Wayne for this Spring Roll 2014 Banneryear’s Spring Roll. Both play their first games on Saturday with Tri-City (3-5 on the season with wins over Ft. Myers and Queen City and losses to teams including Detroit and Naptown) kicking things off against Everett, Washington’s, Jet City (36th), while later in the day they’ll have the privilege of playing a cross-ocean opponent in Glasgow (ranked 104 and who are coming off of a season-opening loss to Cardiff’s Tiger Bay Brawlers). Tri-City will close out the weekend on Sunday against New Orleans’ Big Easy Rollergirls (82nd). Tri-City recently slipped into Division 1 and this weekend’s favourable draw gives them an opportunity to at least hold that (and perhaps even increase it with a win over a beatable Jet City team).

Toronto finds itself attempting to slow an early season slide. They peaked at 13th in the WFTDA after opening the year with two wins but have since dropped eight in a row (to tough opponents including Monteal, Rocky Mountain and London). This weekend gives them an opportunity to, at the very least, hold their position. They’ll face off against a surging Jacksonville on Saturday (16th), a team on the exact opposite trajectory as Toronto at this point in the season; it will be a good challenge, especially after they showed signs of improvement in losses last weekend to Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Toronto also has two games on Sunday, starting with Jet City (36th) and concluding with a matchup against Cincinnati (56th), a team that beat Toronto by only 20 points last year but that has been on a freefall since, and could even be in danger of losing a spot in the D-2 playoffs at this rate.

All games will be boutcast. You can find the complete schedule here.

Rideau Valley Vixens Head East

Finally, Ottawa’s Rideau Valley Vixens (64th) will be on the road to take on Maine Roller Derby’s Port Authorities (72nd) on Saturday night. Rideau Valley jumped five spots in the current ranking after knocking off DC on the road in their season opener. Rideau Valley is on the cusp of a D-2 playoff spot and a convincing win over Maine (who beat Rideau Valley last season by 35 points [187-152]) would help the push for a position. Maine is not a team to take lightly though. After tumbling badly in 2013, they have had a hot start this season, jumping 9 positions so far in 2014 on the strength of their 5-1 record.

Maine and Rideau Valley met last year with Maine picking up the 35-point win.

Montreal and Toronto Kick off Beast with WFTDA Showdown.

For the second year in a row, the New Skids on the Block host CN Power on the eve of the Beast of the East.

These two teams are building the best rivalry in Canadian roller derby. This will be the fifth meeting between them.

These two teams are building the best rivalry in Canadian roller derby. This will be the fifth meeting between them.

184, 263, 89, 17.

These are the point differentials from the four times that Montreal’s New Skids on the Block and Toronto’s CN Power have met since 2010. After the peak 284-21 win for the Skids at the 2011 Quad City Chaos, the gap has been narrowing; with that narrowing becoming all the more dramatic over the past year since the two faced off on the eve of last year’s Beast of the East.

By all metrics, this gap should narrow even more on the track at Arena St. Louis on Friday night, in what promises to be an electric atmosphere.

One thing you can be sure of is that Montreal will show up ready. Aside from a surprising blip at last year’s playoffs where a lacklustre performance blew a clear road to Champs, the Skids have been Canada’s most consistent and durable performers. And when it comes to those rare face offs against Canadian competition, they seem to always enter hungry for a victory. Never was this more evident than while repelling a ferocious Toronto attack at last month’s Quad City Chaos.

And at this stage in their development, this seems to be the last barrier of separation between Toronto and the other elite teams of the WFTDA’s Division 1: consistency, and the focus that this consistency requires.

After a reputation-building performance at last year’s playoffs, Toronto seemed to grow from the experience, kicking off 2014 with lopsided victories over formerly close opponents in Killamazoo and Bleeding Heartland before pushing Montreal to the very limits of their considerable abilities and experience in the thrilling 17-point loss on their home track in Toronto. But then everything seemed to change at halftime of another anticipated QCC matchup against a rebuilding Ohio team.

Montreal's Smack Daddy and Georgia W. Tush try to free jammer Mel E Juana from Toronto pivot Candy Crossbones at last month's Quad City Chaos. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Montreal’s Smack Daddy and Georgia W. Tush try to free jammer Mel E Juana from Toronto pivot Candy Crossbones at last month’s Quad City Chaos. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Taking an impressive 30-point lead into the break, it was a tale of two teams in the second half as Toronto came out loose, unfocused and unprepared for the brutal onslaught that a stone-faced and determined Ohio team unleashed. The considerably more experienced skaters from Columbus gave Toronto a swift lesson in the level of discipline and focus needed to compete at the WFTDA’s highest level on a consistent basis; by the time Toronto came around in the period (after a 97-14 Ohio run to start the second half), the game was already out of reach.

Nonetheless, it was a strong showing against a higher ranked opponent and Toronto had to have high expectations heading into London’s Anarchy in the UK, sporting a franchise-high rank of 13th. CN Power instead looked woefully out of place, suffering the most lopsided loss in their history (477-41 to London) before falling to Detroit, a team ranked 21-spots below them who had come into the tournament desperate to improve their lot and secure their perilous spot in the top Division; the win over Toronto guaranteed that.

It was a Toronto team that looked far removed from the one that had taken Atlanta to the limits on the biggest stage only six months prior.

Montreal and Toronto play in the 2010 QCC. (photo by Derek Lang)

Montreal and Toronto play in the 2010 QCC. (photo by Derek Lang)

The Skids don’t have as big a sample size on which be judged so far in 2014, but from what little we have seen, they seem to have learned from their so-so performance at Divisionals. Indeed, the Montreal team that showed up at QCC ’14 was the hungriest, most focused Skids team that I’ve seen in quite some time. Their thoroughly (almost shockingly) dominant win over Ohio (the very team that ended their shot at Champs in last year’s playoffs) was impressive to say the least. And the poise that they showed in repelling Toronto was evidence of their considerable experience playing at this elite level. Those hours on the track against the best this game has to offer were the difference. And as far as Toronto has come, they simply have yet to clock that all-important track time.

However, Toronto has bounced back from inconsistency before. It’s easy to forget that at the QCC ’13 Toronto lost to a Rideau Valley team that was (at the time) 30+ spots below them in the rankings. They built off of that learning experience, and used it to propel them to the D-1 playoffs. They will need to do so again this season with the Anarchy performance. They’ve got a tough schedule ahead of them, and while they need to learn from their losses, they simply don’t have time to dwell on them.

There won’t be much change in rosters from QCC to this game (Toronto jammer Rainbow Fight remains on injury reserve after suffering a serious internal injury against Killamazoo); however, Nasher the Smasher draws back into the pack and this could make a considerable difference for Toronto (she was named team MVP at Anarchy); a truly elite player, her on-track leadership will be a boon for Toronto.

Montreal's Honey Badger tries to get around Toronto's Dyna Hurtcha. The QCC '14 showdown was the closest game between the two rivals. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Montreal’s Honey Badger tries to get around Toronto’s Dyna Hurtcha. The QCC ’14 showdown was the closest game between the two rivals. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Montreal seemed to answer the Iron Wench question (that question being “How do you replace the greatest jammer our country has ever seen?”) by showing considerable depth at the position, relying on a mix of vets and “rookies.” The supremely talented Miracle Whips has all the potential to be a top-level jammer, but is still prone to the kinds of mistakes that experience has a way of correcting.

A year ago nearly to the day, these two teams played an unbelievably exciting half of roller derby in front of one of the most appreciative and electric crowds I’ve seen for this sport in this country. Toronto seemed overwhelmed by the moment and faded in the second half. This year, however, Toronto has shown that at their best, they are ready for the spotlight. The question remains: Is Montreal willing to share it?

**The game will be streamed live by CUTV. Tune in to mtlrollerderby.com beginning at 6:50 PM on Friday, April 25th.

Derby Day in Detroit! The Nerd heads to Motor City to catch up with the Detroit Derby Girls

The Grand Prix Madonnas moved into top spot in the league with the win over the Devil's Night Dames. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The Grand Prix Madonnas moved into top spot in the league with the win over the Devil’s Night Dames. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The wear and tear of the “American Century” can be seen clearly on the face of Detroit. One of the largest cities in North American, for centuries Detroit has acted as an important strategic, economic and industrial centre—ushering in the automobile era, nurturing transcendent musical forms, and producing extraordinary sports teams that once inspired the nickname “City of Champions.” Of course, the transition into the 21st century has not been an easy one for the Motor City. Famously mired in a bankruptcy and feeling the damaging effects of the decline of the automobile industry, Detroit is struggling to reshape its image in a new millennium.

In recent years there has been a clear attempt to rebrand the city as an entertainment centre, and the downtown core has been somewhat revitalized by the opening of a few new casinos and other tourist-drawing sites, yet wide swathes of the core remain underdeveloped and abandoned.

The Detroit Derby Girls play their games in the historic Masonic Temple.

The Detroit Derby Girls call the historic Masonic Temple home.

Near the intersection of Interstate 75 and Woodward Avenue is one such area. Massive buildings—beautiful beacons of the boom that occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century—stand empty; some are simply intricate facades standing sentry over gutted innards and crumbling supports. There are large empty lots—one of which, notably, will be the site of a hockey arena, the new home for the beloved Red Wings. Right now, however, the one shining beacon in the downtrodden area is a massive ornate neo-gothic Masonic Temple, the largest of its kind in the world, built late in the 19th century, and home for the better part of eight years to the Detroit Derby Girls.

DDG kicked off 2014 with the fifth game in its 2013-14 houseleague season featuring a showdown between the defending champion Grand Prix Madonnas and the perennial underdogs, the Devil’s Night Dames. Having come into the league in a 2011 expansion, the Madonnas have essentially been the top team since and heading into the game were riding a 6-game winning streak dating back to last season. The Dames, on the other hand, were mired in a 5-game winless drought and in three previous meetings, had yet to defeat the Madonnas (including a 191-36 drubbing last season).

However, the Dames are a team on the rise and now include a handful of members of Detroit’s WFTDA Division 1 All Start team (currently ranked 28th in the 40-team division). Led by their tireless captain, Murder City Mistress, the Dames roared out of the gates at the opening whistle on Saturday night and seemed to catch the champs off guard with their level of intensity. Having opened the season with a loss to the Pistolwhippers, the Dames had a slightly different look in their matchup with the Madonnas, seeing Doom Shakalaka take on the star and Terror Ettes (who had led the team with a 40% lead percentage in the opener) jump into the pack to bolster the pack offense.

The Grand Prix Madonnas joined the league in 2011 and are the defending league champions.

The Grand Prix Madonnas joined the league in 2011 and are the defending league champions.

The first half was defined by huge shifts in momentum as each team battled through penalty troubles. Led by the astonishing Racer McChaseHer (who played in 73% of her team’s jams in the season opener and neared that number again in this one) and supported in the pack by Spanish Ass’assin, ShamWow and Peaches N. CreamYa, to name a few, the Madonnas ran into early penalty trouble that saw an early lead evaporate. The Dames, led offensively by team leading scorer Feta Sleeze (5.9 points per jam in the season-opening loss) pounced and took the lead midway through the first.

But once the Madonnas were able to ride out their penalty troubles, they roared back themselves with some consistent jamming from Racer and Lily I. Monster in particular, to rebuild a significant lead. Yet the Dames refused to relent and Doom (who started slowly) broke out late in the half, including registering a 20-point jam, to pull the team back within reach, down 104-73 at the break (significantly, the 73 first-half points was already more than the Dames had ever scored in a full game against their opponent). However, disaster struck in the final moments of the half when Murder City Mistress went down a significant injury (the third skater lost to a leg injury in two games for the Dames).

After the highs of such a competitive first half, the Dames never seemed to recover from the loss of their captain. Feta Sleeze (who led the team in scoring with 33 first-half points) took on the “C” in the second and wore it admirably, consistently drawing the unenviable matchup against Racer in the second half (Racer scored her career leading 1700th point in the half). Sufferin’ Sucka Bash stepped up in the pack in the second as well, playing a very strong half for the Dames with the stripe to lead her packs in the absence of Mistress—but despite her strong play, and consistent jamming from the likes of Lost and Found (who had been held to only 7 points in the first half), the Madonnas controlled the action in the second.

Despite the improved play this season, the Devil's Night Dames remain last in the league.

Despite the improved play this season, the Devil’s Night Dames remain last in the league.

Triple threat Rocky Brawlboa did it all for the Madonnas, with bruising pack work alongside some physical jamming, Rocky was all over the track in the second half (and was eventually named the game MVP). Sista Slit’chya followed a similar trajectory of increased level of play in the second, and the depth of pack supplied by Ana Matronique, Mega Bloxx and others was too much for the upstart Dames to handle. Only managing 27 points in a smothering second half, the Devil’s Night Dames couldn’t keep up and the Grand Prix Madonnas jumped back into first place in the DDG standings (2-0), while the Dames, at 0-2, remain on the bottom.

Injuries seem to be conspiring against an inspired and much improved Dames team this season, while the Madonnas (after surprisingly tight 7-point win in the opener against the Pistoffs) are rounding into form.

Although they briefly left the Masonic Temple a few years ago, DDG seems comfortably established in the beautiful old building. It was a packed house on Saturday night, featuring a raucous and appreciative crowd. Among the physical rubble of decline, the Detroit Derby Girls stand as a model of consistency, part of this city’s psychological hope for renewal.

The 2013-14 season is DDG's ninth.

The 2013-14 season is DDG’s ninth.

***A big thanks to the Detroit Derby Girls for having the Nerd as a guest announcer this weekend. A special, and personal, thanks goes to the fantastic announcing crew of AK 40oz, Hi-Death, Big Poppa Razzi, Handle Barbarian, and Mr. Mauler; and also to Rusty Wheeler for the excellent stats work.

When the World Caught Up: Gotham looks (almost) beatable in winning fourth Hydra

Gotham won its fourth WFTDA title, but their opponents stole the show.

Gotham won its fourth WFTDA title, but its opponents stole the show.

Sometimes when you give performers a stage larger than any other that they have ever been on, they wilt under the spotlight. But sometimes they also rise up to meet that grandeur of that stage and give the performance of their life. At this weekend’s WFTDA Championship not one, but two teams were placed under the glaring light of that spotlight and were inspired to give the kinds of performances that will go down in history.

At the 9th Women’s Flattrack Derby Association championship, Gotham Girls Roller Derby, the sport’s greatest team thus far, won its fourth championship and third in a row, continuing an unprecedented run that had up until this weekend been defined by its dominance. Having won more than 40 games in a row over three years, with the final 22 of them having been by more than 100 points, the defending champs entered the weekend seeming very much like a monolith of dominance. And while they maintained their streak and proved—definitively once more—that they are the best there is, it was the opposition that stole the show.

Read Ogden Smash's Gotham vs. B.A.D. recap for Derby News Network (featuring photography by Danforth Johnson)

Read Ogden Smash’s Gotham vs. B.A.D. recap for Derby News Network (featuring photography by Danforth Johnson)

In its first championship, Ohio offered little resistance to Gotham in the quarterfinals (although they narrowly managed to avoid being part of a record-setting defeat with a comparatively strong second half in the 509-64 loss), and while everyone expected the Bay Area Derby Girls to do considerably better, no one in Milwaukee’s US Cellular Arena gave them much of a shot. Down 22-2 after three jams, things seemed to be unfolding as expected for Bay Area: Mighty Gotham once again tightening the noose early. But then something interesting happened: The B.A.D. Girls wouldn’t go away. Only a late 20-point power jam kept Gotham ahead by a significant amount (102-47 at half). The second half was much the same, with Bay Area winning over the hearts of the crowd and keeping pace with their opponents before succumbing to the champs 174-125, which was, impressively, the tightest margin Gotham had won by since June 2012.

The Texas Rollergirls Texacutioners, the grandmothers of our modern game, were apparently watching that semifinal (they’d already handily dispatched Denver in their semifinal 298-129) and must have drawn confidence from it; nonetheless, there were few, if any, who gave the skaters from Austin much of a chance in the final—indeed word around the track was that the B.A.D. vs. Gotham semi had essentially been the championship game. (Bay Area went on to finish third, handling Denver 224-174).

Gotham and Texas have a history that dates back all the way to the first WFTDA championship in 2006, where Texas defeated Gotham 32-16 in a ten-minute round robin seeding-game. Since then, they have met six times in sanctioned bouts with Gotham winning them all by increasingly larger margins culminating in Gotham’s 247 point victory (313-66) just six months ago at ECDX. With similar rosters and not much time between games, who would have expected anything different?

Read Justice Feelgood Marshall's Gotham vs. Texas recap for DNN (featuring the photography of Danforth Johnson)

Read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s Gotham vs. Texas recap for DNN (featuring the photography of Danforth Johnson)

Unlike the Bay Area showdown though, Gotham was unable to even pull ahead early with Texas leading 23-14 after four jams. Indeed, the two teams would trade leads throughout and only a very late 25-3 run over three jams would allow Gotham to pull away and successfully defend its Hydra with a narrow 199-173 win. In the pack, Smarty Pants, Polly Gone and Fifi Nomenon cemented their status as superstars, and while tournament MVP Bloody Mary led the way with the star, it was Hauss the Boss who would be the shocker in the final, pirouetting and leaping her way around Gotham packs and not looking out of place at all on the game’s grandest stage.

Beyond the shocker of those two games, the 2013 tournament was the best yet, and displayed an incredible growth of the game from a strategic and athletic point of view. Friday’s first-round matchups provided one of the greatest days of derby in tournament history, with an average margin of victory in the 20s. And while the quarterfinals didn’t quite provide the same level of intensity, there were moments of brilliance: for example in the Texas vs. Atlanta quarterfinal there was a jam that began as a tightly knit scrum start that didn’t break apart as it approached and then moved beyond turn one; then turn two. As the amoebic-like mass of bodies churned and grinded its way around the track, the crowd slowly began to clap, then cheer, then stand to applaud the gritty, sticky brilliance of the defensive derby on display: it was flat track roller derby at its very best.

The WFTDA ruleset has taken a lot of criticism, with many saying that the game is too slow, but there was little of those kinds of discussions this weekend, and one can expect that there won’t be many more to come. As slow as the slowest moments in the games were, there were breathtaking bursts of speed—the fastest roller derby ever seen. And this is the beauty of the WFTDA ruleset: that contrast between grinding slowness and blazing speed that can be achieved. And while the rules are still in relative infancy and will continue to evolve (for example, there are still too many no-impact penalties called in the game, and there is still some discomfort over allowing a pack speed of absolute 0), but the quibbles of the recent years seem fairly insignificant after the display of the potential for the game seen this weekend. That Texas vs. Gotham final was as good a game of roller derby that has ever been played, with a level of intensity and excitement worthy of any sport at any level.

And not to be overlooked, the first ever Division 2 final between Santa Cruz and Jet City was just as exciting as its D1 counterpart; a last-jam one-point thriller (195-194 for Jet City) capping off a successful D2 experiment that is providing a massive competitive platform for the next generation of Ohios and Angel Citys and Atlantas—teams that could crack the top of the WFTDA list some day.

As hard as it is to walk away from another season, a brilliant season that saw international teams compete at an increasingly higher level (hello London, welcome to champs, and Melbourne, Toronto, Vancouver welcome to the party), that saw the sport reach new heights of competitive parity–as hard as it is to walk away, we can all take comfort in knowing how strong the future of flat track really is.

**A special thanks (and congrats) to the Brew City Bruisers for hosting such a fantastic tournament.

**All games were boutcast live and will be archived on WFTDA.TV.

Hydra 2013 WFTDA Champs

2013 WFTDA Championships Preview

Hydra 2013 WFTDA ChampsAtlanta Rollergirls (8th) vs. London Rollergirls (13th)

(Friday, 2:00 PM)

Last year’s host Atlanta heads to the 2013 WFTDA Championships on the strength of an 8-1 regular season record; however, their record was padded by wins against lesser-ranked opponents, and they recorded relatively narrow playoff wins over Toronto and Rat City before losing to the B.A.D Girls 233-106 in the Divisional final.

London Rollergirls, the first international team to ever qualify for the championship tournament, amassed a 3-3 record on limited play in the regular season, but it came against top-notch opponents (including Windy City, Rose City and the Oly Rollers). In the playoffs, a narrow win over Rose City followed by a narrow loss to Denver set up a must-win against Montreal, which they handled well, defeating their international rivals by 101 points.

SKATERS TO WATCH

Atlanta_Rollergirls_logoATLANTA:

The pack is led by former Gotham skater, Wild Cherri, a formidable, frightening blocker. But it is a pack that has a lot of depth. Other key Atlanta skaters are Queen Loseyateefa (56% playoff jam percentage: IE, she was on the track for 56% of her team’s jams), Alassin Sane (53%) and Switchblade Siousxie 53%). Siousxie though, is also potentially penalty prone (averaging 5 minutes a game in the playoffs). Siousxie somewhat makes up for this by leading her team with a +49 plus/minus.

Atlanta’s jammer rotation is led by Jammunition, who has already donned the star 40 times in the playoffs. She leads the team with a 60% playoff lead percentage, has scored 199 points and has registered an impressive +127. The rest of the rotation is filled in by Belle of the Brawl (115 points, 39% lead percentage), Merchant of Menace (89, 27%) Bruze Orman (73, 54%) and Hollicidal (69, 48%).

LONDON:

London Brawling, featuring 11 Team England skaters, helped provide a World Cup preview.Despite also being a primary jammer, the incredible Stefanie Mainey is also a key London blocker, appearing in 41% of her team’s jams. Also look out for Raw Heidi (53%), Knickerblocker Glory (62%), Olivia Coupe (59%) and Shaolynn Scarlett (55%). Raw Heidi has the highest blocker Plus minus at +108, followed closely by Scarlett’s +103.

Kamikaze Kitten has been one of the top jammers in the 2013 playoffs, putting up an impressive line of 317 points (6.6 points per jam!), 56% lead percentage, and +166, scoring an incredible 50% of her team’s points so far. While London does have a strong, four-jammer rotation, there is an intense and noticeable drop off in lead percentage among the rest: Rogue Runner (135, 21%, +27), Stefanie Mainey (97, 40%, -2), and Lexi Lightspeed (57, 23%, -27).

*Read the Derby News Network’s preview of Atlanta and London.

OPPONENTS: Texas Rollergirls  (3rd)

(Saturday, 10:00 AM)

The winner will have to face off against perennial powers, Austin’s Texacutioners. Champs at the inaugural event in 2006 and runners up in 2009, Texas Rollergirls have finished in the top four in every tournament except 2010. TXRG cruised past Terminal City and Naptown in the playoffs and held off Philly to win its divisional.

After going 5-3 in the regular season with  losses to Gotham and Bay Area (the top two teams in the league) and a narrow three-point defeat at the hands of Windy City, the sport’s most experienced league once again seems poised to make noise when it matters the most.

TXRG logoSKATERS TO WATCH

Texas takes a balanced approach with its pack, riding a core of Smarty Pants, Polly Gone, Barbara Ambush, Sarah Hippel, and Fifi Nomenon almost equally. Polly, Hippel and Ambush have all run into penalty troubles at some point during these playoffs, but nothing serious as Texas was rarely challenged in their divisional.

While Hippel and Fifi Nomenon are used as depth jammers, Texas has been running a pretty tight three-jammer rotation through the playoffs that has been fairly evenly productive. Olivia Shootin’ John leads the way with 326 points (8.6 PPJ) a 55% lead percentage and an incredible +210.  Watch also for Hauss the Boss (234, 47%, +96), and Bloody Mary (208, 45%, +114).

*Read DNN’s preview of Texas.

Rocky Mountain Rollergirls (10th) vs. Angel City Derby Girls (6th)

(Friday, 4:00 PM)

After winning the WFTDA champs in 2010 and losing in the semis the following year, Rocky Mountain has been on a rebuild since, but it’s been a quick rebuild. 9-2 in the regular season (with wins over Rat City, Kansas City and Denver), Rocky Mountain knocked off Houston and Windy City before running into Gotham in the Divisional final (losing by a respectable 216-99).

Angel City roared up the rankings this season on the strength of an 11-1 record (only loss was to Rat City), although their schedule has been criticized as being a little too soft. After crushing New Hampshire in the opening round, they were upset by Philly in the semis before handling Naptown 222-130 to secure the spot in the Championships.

SKATERS TO WATCH

rocky mountain rollergirls logoROCKY MOUNTAIN:

The key to Rocky’s rebuild is in a pack that used to be filled with skaters like Psycho Babble, Deranged and Amanda Jamitinya. Triple Shot Misto has emerged as an unbelievable presence in the pack (and can jam as well when needed) while Bob Loblaw, a veteran, has grown into a much bigger role. Also expect to see Winona Fighter, Assaultin’ Pepa and May Q Pay on the track a lot.

Rocky’s three-jammer rotation is led by Casstrator (156, 41%, +26), Sweet Mary Pain (147, 60%) and Alpha Q Up (125, 29%). Look for Toxic Taunic in relief, who managed 51 points in limited playoff action on a 47% lead percentage.

ANGEL CITY:Angel_City_Derby_Girls

Angel City has a very balanced approach to its blockers, with the impressive Soledad, Jane Wilkins, Duchess Von Damn, Laci Knight, Krissy Krash and Rachel Rotten all hovering around 50% jam percentage. Big-hitting Soledad and Laci Knight both have had penalty troubles in the playoffs. Rachel Rotten has the highest plus/minus in the playoffs at +109.

Angel City also spreads out their jammers as well, although led by a core of Chica Go Lightning (214, 59%, +110) Mickispeedia (143, 37%), and Cris Dobbins (95, 48%). Look for Ghetto Fabu-lez (70, 80%) and Tyra Shanks (36, 54%) in relief.

*Read DNN’s preview of Rocky Mountain and Angel City.

OPPONENTS: Denver Roller Dolls (4th)

(Saturday, 12:00 PM)

Denver returns to defend its third place finish at last year’s championships. They had an up and down 6-6 regular season that saw them lose twice to cross-town rivals Rocky Mountain, (potentially their quarterfinal opponent). It was a tough schedule though, and prepared them well for the Divisionals where they crushed Cincinnati, had some trouble with London and finally dispatched surprising Ohio 304-134 to win the Division.

Denver LogoSKATERS TO WATCH

Denver’s pack is led by a couple of the best blockers in the game: Tracy Akers and Shaina Serelson who finished the Divisionals with amazing plus/minuses of +396 and +359 respectively. Look for one of these skates to always be on the track. The core is also made of Jessica Rivas and Susie Long, although Rivas has run into some penalty trouble sitting for 14 minutes in the playoffs so far.

With last year’s playoff hero Sandrine Rangeon out of the lineup, Julie Adams (313 points, 68% +215) is back at the front of the rotation. There is a ton of depth though with Stacie Willhelm (229, 50%), Amanda Sharpless (142, 61%) and Krystal Sprouse (117, 38%) rounding out an impressive rotation

*Read DNN’s preview of Denver.

Ohio Rollergirls (21st) vs. Rat City Rollergirls (18th)

(Friday, 6:00 PM)

After tearing up the North Centrals last year and becoming the sweethearts of the WFTDA, in 2013 Ohio took it to the next level and have qualified for champs for the first time. One of the hardest working teams in the sport, Ohio went 15-5 in the regular season before knocking off Arch Rival and upsetting Montreal in Divisionals. They eventually  ran out of steam against Denver (304-134) in a one-sided loss in the finals.

One of the game’s original leagues, Seattle’s Rat City returns to champs for the first time since 2008! They went 4-4 in the regular season against top-notch competition, before brushing past Boston the Divisionals and losing to Atlanta in the semifinals. They handled Detroit easily, 254-129, to secure their berth in the tourney.

SKATERS TO WATCH

Ohio logoOHIO:

Ohio is led by two skaters have announced that they will be retiring at the end of the season, Pippi Ripyourstockings and Phoenix Bunz. With an incredibly short bench, look to see a ton of Pippi, Outa My Wayman, Bratislava Bruisers and Loraine Acid (who were all on the track for at least 60% of Ohio’s jams in the playoffs so far).

Phoenix Bunz, one of the game’s best all-around players, was a monster in Divisionals, basically jamming or blocking constantly, recording 211 points and recording a 50% lead percentage. The Smacktivist led the team in scoring with 243 points. Kitty Liquorbottom (72 points, 21%) rounds out the short rotation.

RAT CITY:Rat_City_Rollergirls_logo

Rat City is led by the excellent Carmen Getsome who can (and will) do it all on the track. The pack play is well balanced with only K. Beezy and Shorty Ounce playing 50% of Rat’s jams in the playoffs. Look for Full Nelson, Method of Madness and Rumble Fish as well. Method of Madness and Full Nelson recoded amazing plus/minuses (+127, +125).

While Carmen is often used as a jammer, she is also so effective in the pack that she will probably be used in relief. That leaves a majority of the work to go to Jukestapose (179 points, 47% lead percentage), Luna Negra (167, 50%), and Jalapena Business (75, 48%). Sintripetal Force provides the depth and managed an impressive 142 points in limited playoff action (she scored 110 points on 11 points per jam in the clincher against Detroit).

*Read DNN’s preview of Ohio and Rat City.

OPPONENTS: Gotham Girls Roller Derby  (1st

(Saturday, 2:00 PM)

Either Rat City (returning after a long absence) or Ohio (in their first ever appearance) will be rewarded for their win by having to play the three-time champ Gotham in the quarterfinals. Winners of the past two WFTDA championships, Gotham completed another unbeaten regular season (9-0) but did suffer a loss to MRDA champs, Your Mom’s Roller Derby to remind them what losing feels like (they hadn’t lost a game since the 2010 WFTDA semifinals). They won all of their divisional games by at least 100 points including a record-setting 545-21 victory over Oklahoma City.

Gotham logoSKATERS TO WATCH

Despite playing without perennial strengths Fisti Cuffs and Mick Swagger in Divisionals, the Gotham packs looked unbelievable. Led by Donna Matrix, Anna Bokkocks, OMG WTF, Hela Skelter and the always imposing Sexy Slaydie (who is riding a WFTDA playoff leading plus/minus of +440 so far in the playoffs), there aren’t many holes in these walls.

Led by the best jammer in the game, Bonnie Thunders (367 points, 77% lead percentage and +315 in the playoffs) the Gotham jammer rotation is frighteningly deep: Suzy Hotrod (291, 65%), Vicious Van GoGo (184, 65%), Claire D Way (157, 61%) all bring something different to the line.

*Read DNN’s preview of Gotham.

Philly Rollergirls (14th) vs. Windy City Rollers (9th)

(Friday 8:00 PM)

When Philly and Windy met in June this year, Philly snuck away with a one-point win, meaning that this game is anyone’s to call. Philly had an up-and-down year, despite a 10-3 record. They got it all together for the playoffs though, where they swept aside Kansas City and easily upset Angel City before giving Texas everything they could handle in the Divisional final (253-210).

Windy City rode a 9-2 regular season into the playoffs where they crushed another long-time WFTDA team Madison in the opening round. Despite falling in the semifinals to Rocky Mountain, they held off chief-rivals Minnesota in another nail-biting 160-154 victory to earn their spot.

SKATERS TO WATCH

Philly LogoPHILLY:

Philly has incredible depth in the pack, anchored by a core of Shenita Stretcher and Teflon Donna who have as much experience as nearly anyone in the game. In the playoffs, track time leaders have also included Castro, Persephone, Tarantula, Heavy Flo and Ginger Vitis. The pack can run into penalty troubles though, with Tarantula Persephone, and Shenita Stretcher all picking up over 10 minutes in penalties so far (jammer Devoida Mercy also has 10 minutes).

Philly boasts one of the game’s most impressive jammers in Vanessa Sites (AKA V-Diva), and she was awesome in Divisionals, scoring 328 points on a 57% lead percentage (and finishing with a +188). Devoida Mercy (162, 38%), Clam Jammer (146, 52%), and Antidote (94, 45%) round out the rotation.

WINDY:Windy City Logo

Anchored by the physically imposing Sargentina and Bork Bork Bork, the Windy pack is depth defined: Konichiwow, Moby Nipps, Ruth Enasia, Yvette Yourmaker and Hoosier Mama all put in a lot of track time in Divisionals. Bork Bork Bork finished with a +196 plus/minus, and no Windy blocker has wracked up more than 9 penalty minutes so far in the playoffs.

Prototypical double threat Jackie Daniels (101 points, 52% lead percentage) anchors a deep and talented five-jammer rotation. Ying O’Fire led the team in scoring in Divisionals (215 points) and recorded a 57% lead percentage. Killa Nois (124, 50%), Athena DeCrime (146, 58%), and veteran Varla Vendetta (59, 52%) round out a tough offense. 2012 playoff superstar Sandrine Rangeon has also joined the team: the size and success of her role remains to be seen.

*Read DNN’s preview of Philly and Windy City.

OPPONENTS: B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls (2nd)

(Saturday, 4:00 PM)

Popular thought coming into this season was that if anyone could unseat Gotham, it is the Bay Area Derby Girls. They kicked off 2013 living up to those lofty expectations winning 5 in a row. But then shocking back-to-back losses to Windy City and Denver put all of that into question. While they did follow those defeats with a win over Texas, it wasn’t until an absolutely dominant Divisional playoff where B.A.D looked like themselves again, crushing Victorian, Detroit and Atlanta to earn the first-round bye.

SKATERS TO WATCH:Bay_Area_Derby_Girls_Logo

The names of Demanda Riot and bell RIGHT hooks are enough to inspire fear in any jammer, but this deep B.A.D team also includes transfer Amanda Jamitinya (and former champ with Rocky in 2010), Dolly Rocket, Kristi Yamagotcha, Murderyn Munroe, Sherlock Homeslice and Brawllen Angel. Demanda (+374), bell (+337), and AJ (+336) all recorded monstrously high plus/minuses in Divisionals

If that’s not enough, they have an amazing, four-jammer rotation to match the deep pack. Chantilly Mace has been dominant in the playoffs, scoring 312 points and recording a 71% lead percentage. But that doesn’t mean you can overlook Bricktator (215, 50%), Lulu Lockjaw (194, 55%) or Nock Nock (166, 56%) all with at least a 50% lead percentage.

*Read DNN’s preview of the B.A.D Girls.

DON’T FORGET THE D2 TITLE!

The first ever Division 2 Championship will be settled on Sunday as well, with Sac City and Blue Ridge kicking off Sunday’s action at 12:00 PM in the D2 third place game. At 2:00 PM Jet City and Santa Cruz will contest the first ever D2 Championship.

Finally, Derby News Network also profiled the reffing crew of this year’s championships. Read it here.

*** All games will be boutcast live on WFTDA.TV.***

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