Smoke City Betties 59 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 130
Despite three bouts in the Greater Toronto Area last night, the Hangar was packed, the crowd eager to see the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and Smoke City Betties square off in their final bout of the regular season. The Gores were all but assured of not only a spot in the playoffs, but of a bye directly to Battle for the Boot 5. For the Betties, the end of another losing season was on the horizon, but this seemed to inspire them to pull out a strong performance against the defending champs, and in the end, despite a score line that read a 71 point victory for the Gores (their twelfth in a row), the Betties were able to skate away knowing they’d brought the fight to the champs, managing to put together, arguably, their best bout of the season.
Things started off very well for the Betties, with some strong walls and solid jamming to keep things close early on. Leads were hard to get but even harder to hold as the jammers often exited their initial passes together. The Betties seem to have taken an important step forward: they’ve bought into the systems that are necessary to play to be successful, and they’ve settled nicely into their roles on the track. Particularly in the early going, and then periodically throughout, the Betties seemed to be playing the exact same game—fast, tight packs, a short jammer rotation–but the Gores, with their experience, just managed to keep a step or two ahead. There’d been whispers of a new-look Gores team—some potential surprises—and at one point, with the Gores threatening to pull away (up 40-5 nearing the midway point), it looked like the fans might see something interesting happen, but big pickups from BruiseBerry Pie and Memphis Kitty on consecutive power jams (despite some excellent power kill work by the Gores) narrowed the lead to 40-23, and necessitated some strong play from the Gores to keep the Betties in check.
The story for the Betties early on was the exceptional play of both BruiseBerry Pie and Memphis Kitty, who stepped up in a big way. Memphis Kitty has been having an excellent season for the Betties, shining first against the Death Track Dolls and then in this one; she fought for every inch of track and forced some timely calls by the Gores jammers. She seemed to relish the opportunity to face familiar opponents in Bambi and Dust Bunny. Bruise also had a great night jamming, and is developing into a triple threat for the Betties, excelling tonight especially at pivot (settling into a more organizational role) and with the star (where she was strong both strategically, and physically), and had some hard-fought battles with Hurlin’ Wall in the early going. The Gores finished the half solidly, but the Betties seemed unperturbed and remained well within reach 60-33 at the half.
As the Gores did increase their lead, some of that expected experimentation began. Looking to add depth to their jammer rotation, Bambi and Dust Bunny did pack duty for much of the second half allowing Brim Stone to lead rookie Lulu Cthulu and second year player Pinky Violence in the offence. Also, Aston Martini donned the stripe to lead the pack and rookie Wheely Nasty also gave pivoting a chance, part of another big night for ToRD rookies (in a season that is turning out to be the year of thre rookie). Emma Dilemma was solid in the pack for the Gores, while Misery Mae was a big part of the Betties defence playing a physical game, but reeling it in defensively when needed. The Betties kept hanging around, keeping the Gores in their sights, and were well within reach, down only 67-49 ten minutes into the second half.
The Betties continue to tinker with things as well; with Bruise taking on more of a role jamming, Tropic Thunder took on a larger role in pack. Similarly, having jammers titmouse and Platinum Bomb at their disposal allowed Memphis Kitty to take up the stripe and lead the packs. While the Betties managed to hang on until late in this one, the experienced Gores were eventually able to pull away. As with the bout against the Dolls (where the Betties also drifted late), the Betties could not sustain the momentum long enough to overtake their opponents. Nonetheless, having their best showing against the Gores in the last three bouts—and maintaining a consistent upward growth throughout the season—should allow the Betties to go confidently into the off season knowing that they have finally turned a crucial corner on the road back to competitiveness. They’ve got the right mix of experience and talent now; it’s just a matter of bringing it all together. For the Gores, the victory secures a trip to the June 25th championship and a chance to defend the Boot.
* The Toronto Junior Roller Derby league held its inaugural bout to kick off the double header, hosting New Hampshire’s Mad Missfits; stay tuned for a full recap later this week.
* Both games were boutcast live by the ToRD TV team via Canuck Derby TV. You can watch the archived boutcasts here. Layer9 captured it all track side in HD.
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