You can tell a lot about a team by studying its bench. At the recent Beast of the East, ToRD’s Smoke City Betties found themselves in a must-win elimination game against a very young Rouge et Gore team that was playing in its first tournament. It was a tight game, back and forth, and with about five minutes left, if you looked at the two benches, you would see a stark contrast. Without even watching the play on the track, it was obvious who was going to win the game.
While the Rouge et Gore bench was excited, congratulatory, cheering every moment, the Smoke City Betties bench was distraught, unfocused and argumentative: there was anguish on the faces of some of the skaters. Not surprisingly, Le Rouge et Gore won the game in the closing moments and eliminated the Betties from the competition.
Fast forward a month and the Betties are getting trounced by the Death Track Dolls in their final regular season game of 2013. It will be the biggest loss by the Betties since 2010, and the most points ever given up by a Betties team. But if you took a moment to look at the Betties’ bench during that game, it was apparent that something had changed. There were smiles on the bench, and calmness, and loud, vigorous cheers for every small victory—a lead, a stolen point, a nice block. It seemed an awful lot like in the face of their biggest defeat in a year that had started with such high expectations, the 2013 Smoke City Betties were finally pulling it together.
The Gore-Gore Rollergirls bench, on the other hand, has barely ever looked different in the long history of the team, regardless of who was one it. More than any other team in ToRD, the Gores have an attitude and a swagger that transcends an annual roster and has resulted in the most consistent record in the league season by season. Through challenging seasons like the last and through rebuilding ones like the present, the Gores have always found a way to win and have found the attitude and confidence to push them through. It’s an almost inexplicable fact that has guided this team through three championships (2007, ‘09, ‘10) in six straight trips to the Battle for the Boot.
This weekend, when the Betties and Gores clash in ToRD’s semfinal, it will break a coincidental streak of facing off in the semifinals only in even years (2008, 2010, 2012), with the Gores winning all three previous semifinal meetings (not to mention a fourth playoff showdown—the 2009 Battle for the Boot).
Last year, the Betties dominated the regular season showdown between the two teams only to fall to a resurgent Gores in the semifinal. This year, when they met in the season opener, it was a fairly close matchup, marked by shifts in momentum (The Gores came out strong, the Betties rallied with the Gores eventually wrestling control back late in the second half). In the end, the Gores won 167-110.
The Gores have found success with a makeshift jammer rotation that is being built around the trio of Lexi Con, Taranosaurus Rex and R.I. Pink with contributions from many others throughout the lineup. Lexi Con has been particularly explosive in this, her rookie season and has led with the highest Jammer Quotient in the league for much of the season. Also, the Gores have done a great job of sprinkling their veterans throughout the pack lineups, propping up rookies who have developed steadily all year. The Gores looked simply dominant to close out the season, and will be riding the significant wave of momentum built from their record-setting 323-point performance against the Chicks Ahoy!
The Betties, on the other hand, have faced an unexpected level of adversity this season and while they have looked great for patches of time, have been unable to maintain a consistent level of play in 2013. In their season-closing loss to the Dolls, they were able to come out and match the Dolls play for play through the first 15-20 minutes only to finally succumb to the relentlessness of the Dolls and fell out of the game significantly (going a 20 minute stretch without scoring at one point). The Gores have shown that they are more than capable of pouncing at any given moment, and signs of weakness or inconsistency from the Betties will be taken advantage of. Key for the Betties will be finding this consistency, and providing adequate support for their jammers against what can be a hard-hitting pack.
The Gores and Betties are inextricably linked to each other in a relationship that predates ToRD and is indeed woven into the very fabric of Canadian Roller Derby. This will be the fourth semifinal and fifth playoff showdown between these two teams, with the Gores (actually an offshoot of the original Betties) having won all previous meetings. It’ll be a classic ToRD showdown with an opportunity to Battle for the Boot on the line.
* The ToRD semifinal will be prefaced with a game between ToRD’s farm team, the D-VAS, and the South Simcoe Roller Rebels. Be sure to arrive on time to catch this game featuring ToRD’s future stars. Doors open at 5:00 PM, with opening whistle scheduled for 6:00PM. The Gores vs. Betties showdown will get under way at 8:00 PM.