A few months ago, had you told me that the best regional tournament of the 2011 WFTDA playoffs would be the North Central, I would not have believed you; but in terms of parity and the close-bout excitement that comes with that, it was clear that the North Central provided the most entertaining region, top to the bottom, of the playoffs. On top of that, the derby itself had everything you could ask for: hard hitting, smart, grindingly slow, breathtakingly fast; there was lots of slow derby, but no “stop” derby.
All regions had at least a few exciting bouts, usually in the earlier rounds, but in the North Central, bouts were close across the board. The average margin of victory in the tournament was 51 points (far and away lower than the other tournaments: South Central 88 points, East 95, West 102), but more excitingly, the average margin of victory in the matchups featuring the final four (the semifinals, finals and third place bout) was an amazing 16 points! Except in the West, where the final four had an average margin of victory of 33, this was usually the point when the best pulled ahead and lapped the field (it was 121 in the South Central and a whopping 162 in the East when Gotham completely ran away with it).
What this meant for the other regions is that there was usually a pretty clear line drawn between “talent groupings” (pockets of competitive teams), and this was lacking in the North Central. Only three bouts in the whole tournament had a margin of victory of over 100 points (there were 6 in the West, 7 in the East and 8 in the South Central). More telling though, were the amount of games that could have gone either way. 7 games finished with less than a 30 point differential (to compare, there were only 3 in the East, two of those involving Montreal.). There was really only one major blowout, Minnesota’s 137 point victory over Mad Rollin, which could also be considered somewhat of a shocker since both of these teams qualified for the Championship last year (though the Dairyland Dolls have been in a fairly steady decline since; they ended up finishing 10th).
As surprising as Mad Rollin’s fall was (they also qualified in 2009), the story of the tournament was the rise of the Naptown Roller Girls Tornado Sirens. Although they were on an impressive 10-2 streak heading into the playoffs, their biggest victories had been over relative unknowns Demolition City, Sioux Falls and Omaha, while their losses had come to regional rivals Minnesota and Detroit (a somewhat one-sided 72 point loss in May). While they had solidified their 4th place ranking in the region, there was nothing to indicate that they would be able to crack the top three. Led by some all-star jamming from Amooze Booche and Maiden America, and a tight-recycling pack defence, they announced their intentions with a thrilling 11 point semifinal loss to the top seed Windy City Rollers. Their ability to contain Racer McChaser and the Detroit Derby Girls under the pressure of a third place bout (on a few occasions they seemed out of it, only to crawl their way back) shows that they have the constitution to survive the big-game pressure.
Naptown joins Rose City from the Western Region as the only two first-time competitors for the WFTDA championship. But unfortunately for the teams of the North Central, they will be in tough to compete with the rest of the qualifiers. All three North Central representatives have performed poorly outside of their region, with even Windy City (who has still never lost an inner-region bout) struggling against the likes of Bay Area (who failed to qualify in the West) and Kansas City (second in the South Central). Though they were able to beat Championship-bound Charm City early on in 2011, they later struggled against Eastern non-qualifiers Montreal and Steel City.
Although they may not be competitive at the top level yet, the parity in the region actually bodes well for the future, and in the long term, the North Central may be better off than the other regions in that a more competitive foundation is being laid. Windy City may have kept their unbeaten streak alive for now, but after being taken to the limit by Naptown and Minnesota, it is clear that things in the North Central are about to be shaken up.
WFTDA CHAMPS PARTICIPANTS (2011 records/DNN ranking in parentheses):
1. Gotham Girls Roller Derby All Stars (10-0 / #2)
2. Philly Roller Girls Liberty Belles (11-8 / #11)
3. Charm City Roller Girls All Stars (9-7 / # 12)
1. Oly Rollers Cosa Nostra Donnas (12-0 / #1)
2. Rocky Mountain Rollergirls 5280 Fight Club (7-2 / #3)
3. Rose City Rollers Wheels of Justice (9-5 / #5)
1. Texas Rollergirls Texacutioners (12-8 / #10)
2. Kansas City Roller Warriors All Stars (10-2 / #7)
3. Nashville Rollergirls Music City All Stars (7-5 / #19)
1. Windy City Rollers All-Stars (13-2 / #9)
2. Minnesota Roller Girls All Stars (9-3 / #16)
3. Naptown Roller Girls Tornado Sirens (12-3 / #17)