Rocky Mountain Rollergirls

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.***

wftdatvlogo

Divide and Conquer: A Preview of the 2011 WFTDA Championships

Continental Divide and Conquer: The 2011 WFTDA Championships (Denver, Colorado; November 11-13)

For fans of flat track roller derby there is no more exciting weekend than the annual WFTDA Championships. It represents the pinnacle of the young sport, and each year provides a canvas upon which the newest strategies, the latest skill developments, and the increased athleticism that the sport requires are painted. Due to the young age of the sport and the accelerated pace at which it is growing, it is possible to say that each year, the WFTDA Championships has provided the best flat track roller derby ever played. And this year will undoubtedly prove to be the best yet.

The first WFTDA champs, the Texas Rollergirls, join every other previous champ at this year's tournament.

Since the Texas Rollergirls Texecutioners won the inaugural championship in 2006 and catapulted the young sport into the North American sports and pop culture consciousness, there have been four other champions crowned: Kansas City Roller Warriors (2007), Gotham Girls Roller Derby (2008), Oly Rollers (2009), and Rocky Mountain Rollergirls (2010). They will all be present at the 2011 WFTDA championships. While WFTDA has never crowned a two-time champion, this seems like the best chance for that to happen.

But considering the young age of the sport, this tournament has been more about developing the game than anything. In 2006 when virtually every flat track league on the planet (there were only 20 leagues in 2005, the year that the United Leagues Coalition—soon to be the WFDTA—was formed) converged on Tucson, it was an opportunity for all the leagues from the disparate corners of the United States to get together and share in the development and help nudge along the evolution of the sport.  From those early rules-refining days in 2006/2007 to Duke City and eventually Denver’s isolation and trapping revolution in 2008/2009, every major change and growth in the sport has been disseminated through the championship tournament.

2009 champs Oly Rollers were the first team to appear in back-to-back championship games.

THE CHAMPIONSHIP CURSE??

While the Texacutioners became the first team to make two championship finals (2006 and 2009), last year the Oly Rollers became the first team to qualify for two consecutive finals. Despite the fact that the Oly juggernaut could very easily make it a third straight trip to the final in 2011, traditionally defending champs have not fared well in this tournament. After Texas dominated in 2006 and defeated Tucson 129-96 in the final, it seemed as if the god mothers of the sport would never be beaten, but they did finally lose the following year and ended up getting knocked out in the 2007 semifinals to Rat City. Rat couldn’t parlay that historic victory into a championship though and fell in the first WFTDA champs classic 89-85 to Kansas City. Although Kansas would win their first three in a row in 2008, their streak would come to an emphatic end when Windy City rolled over them 155-39 on the eve of the 2008 championship (where Kansas City would stumble further, finishing out of the top four).

By that 2008 tournament, Gotham had replaced Texas as the dominant force in the sport and after crushing Duke City and Philly in the early rounds would put an end to Windy City’s amazing season with a 134-66 trouncing in the final. Gotham would then cruise through the 2009 season undefeated only to be upset by Philly in the Eastern final by 1 point (ending a remarkable 18 game winning streak). Continuing the trend of defending champs falling hard, they would be eliminated by Oly in the 2009 quarterfinals to finish out of the top four.

By the end of the 2009 tournament, where Oly defeated the historic Texacutioners 178-100, it was clear that the Oly Rollers Cosa Nostra Donnas were the new leaders in flat track. From their entry into the WFTDA in January 2009 to their eventual loss to Rocky Mountain in the western final in October 2010, they put together the greatest run in the sport’s early history, winning 22 straight bouts. But even the mighty Oly suffered the curse of the championship and although they became the first team to return to defend their title, they fell in a one-point heartbreaker (147-146) to Rocky Mountain in last year’s championship.

The defending champion Rocky Mountain Rollergirls have not been as dominant in 2011.

The defending champion Rocky Mountain Rollergirls have continued the dubious trend. Despite starting 2011 strong with big wins over Philly and Rose City, they have faded this season. A tight win against Bay Area in May was followed by the team’s first back-to-back losses since 2009 (to Charm and Oly). In this year’s Western Regionals they were only able to scrape by Rat City in the semis (117-107) before losing to Oly in the West final (143-106). While they remain favourites heading into the tournament, they do not look like the terrifying machine that rolled into the Championships in Chicago last year.

THE PARTICIPANTS

Only two of the teams enter this tournament with undefeated records in 2011 WFTDA play: Gotham (10-0) and Oly (12-0).  At the other end of the spectrum, a number of teams enter the tournament with just over a .500 record: Philly Roller Girls Liberty Belles (11-8), Charm City All Stars (9-7), and Nashville‘s Music City All Stars (7-5). The rest of the teams settle somewhere in the middle. The opening round features the “bottom eight” teams vying for a spot in the quarterfinals with the four regional winners. While Rocky Mountain (2nd West) should roll over Nashville (3rd South Central) and Philly (2nd East) should ring Naptown’s (3rd North Central) bell, look for a Charm City (3rd E) minor upset over Minnesota (2nd NC) and a similar Rose City (3rd W) upset over Kansas City (2nd SC). (It should be noted that Rose City and Naptown are the only two teams making their Championships debut). This chain of events would set up for some intriguing quarterfinal matchups, none more so than the potential Gotham vs. Rocky Mountain showdown that could occur Saturday morning.

Gotham Girls Roller Derby looks poised to win their second WFTDA championship.

Gotham has been absolutely dominant this season winning their bouts with an average margin of victory of 185 points (Rose City and Denver were the only teams to give them “trouble”: holding them to 68 and 71 point victories respectively). On top of that, Gotham seemed to improve as the season went on: they beat Steel City in April by 244 points; by the time of the Eastern Regionals (when both teams were peaking) they managed to increase that margin to an astonishing 374 points (the 404-30 semifinal victory was one of, if not the, most dominant performance in tournament history). As good as Rocky Mountain was, their performances this year (particularly that stunning July loss to Charm) has not been as confidence inducing. Call it the championship hangover, but it is highly conceivable that once again, the defending champs will make an early exit and finish out of the top four.

Naptown joins Rose City as they only first timers in the 2011 WFTDA Championship.

If any team can compete with Gotham this season, it is the Oly Rollers. While the two teams do have common opponents this year (Montreal, Denver and Rose City) it is difficult to compare the two records because of the markedly different styles they play. Gotham has seemingly mastered “bispeedual” derby: IE: they can skate with the best of them, but certainly don’t mind mucking it up in a slow, gritty game as well (they’ve embraced all isolation strategies and other evolutions of the sport including the walled and/or slow starts that are the latest trend). All along Oly has maintained their very simple game and are the masters of traditional “hit and run” derby. They are phenomenal skaters with otherworldly endurance and have shown that they can run opposition ragged. So while it is easy to see Oly advancing to their third straight final, it is much more difficult to see them defeating Gotham’s complete-game roller derby. Gotham, who has moved to the top of DNN’s Power Rankings and also the top of flattrackstats.com’s stats-based rankings, seems to be on the verge of reclaiming the Hydra Trophy that they last held in 2008.

As with last year, it could very well be an all East-West final four (Gotham, Oly, Rose and Charm), although Texas (who made up for a mediocre season with an amazing run at the South Central Regionals) seems in the best position to spoil the party given their potential quarterfinal showdown with Charm City (they met in May with Texas squeaking by in a 6 point victory).

So, is this the year that a two-time WFTDA champion is finally crowned? Will the coasts continue their derby dominance? Will the progenitors of flat track, the Texacutioners, return  to their final-four form? Thankfully, we won’t have to wait much longer for the answers.

2011 WFTDA Champs Participants (2011 Records / DNN Power Ranking)

East:

1. Gotham Girls Roller Derby All Stars (10-0 / #1)

2. Philly Roller Girls Liberty Belles (11-8 / #11)

3. Charm City Roller Girls All Stars (9-7 / # 12)

West:

1. Oly Rollers Cosa Nostra Donnas (12-0 / #2)

2. Rocky Mountain Rollergirls 5280 Fight Club (7-2 / #3)

3. Rose City Rollers Wheels of Justice (9-5 / #4)

South Central:

1. Texas Rollergirls Texacutioners (12-8 / #8)

2. Kansas City Roller Warriors All Stars (10-2 / #9)

3. Nashville Rollergirls Music City All Stars (7-5 / #19)

North Central

1. Windy City Rollers All-Stars (13-2 / #10)

2. Minnesota Roller Girls All Stars (9-3 / #13)

3. Naptown Roller Girls Tornado Sirens (12-3 / #14)

The bracket for the 2011 WFTDA Championships in Denver, Colorado (November 11-13). (Click to enlarge)

**** Read DNN’s team-by-team preview here. Tune in to all the action live on WFTDA.com.****

The Nerd’s thoughts on the playoffs so far:

Pondering the Playoffs 1: Eastern Regionals

Pondering the Playoffs 2: Western Regionals

Pondering the Playoffs 3: South Central Regionals

Pondering the Playoffs 4: North Central Regionals

Pondering the Playoffs 2: WFTDA’s Western Regionals

I think we’ve already seen the WFTDA champions in their regional playoff. With all due respect to the South Central and North Central, the performance of Gotham last week coupled with the extraordinarily competitive level of the West Region playoff leads this Nerd to believe that as it was in 2010 the two coasts will dominate come the Championships (last year West was 1-2, East 3-4).

Portland hosted this year's WFTDA Western Regionals.

What is interesting to see emerge through these playoffs are the competitive “groupings” that exist within the regions. In the East (as we will certainly see in North Central and possibly in the South Central as well), there are fairly large disparity gaps in the upper levels. While Gotham has risen to a class of its own, Philly and Charm City are clearly in a distinct group followed by the fairly large competitive group of Steel City, London, Montreal, Carolina and Boston (there is a significant drop off here).  The West is perhaps the “best” because the disparity between the very best teams has lessened over the past year instead of increased. While Oly and Rocky Mountain clearly remain the cream of the West, both faced considerable challenges from teams in the competitive grouping behind them (Rose City and Rat City respectively). Bay Area and Denver round out the incredible top six. From what I could tell the third to sixth spots could have gone any which way, and had the tournament been played again next weekend I wouldn’t be surprised if these placings did switch (though Rose City looked like one madly determined team this weekend). There is a considerable drop off here from seventh to tenth once again.

Defending WFTDA champs Rocky Mountain has proven that it is more than capable of adapting to any style of play.

In terms of strategy, the starts were once again where all eyes were trained.  There is a lot of controversy surrounding the development of these strategies, though I think mostly in regards to the no-start strategy, which, in its inactivity and avoidance of game play, is actually an anti-strategy (and which was sadly in play during the Rocky Mountain-Rat City bout). While this baffles me right now (why don’t they want to play?? Rat City captain Carmen Getsome tries to explain), what I am increasingly becoming a fan of are the gritty starts formed by starting packs walling up at the jam line. There has been a lot of (unfair in my opinion) criticism of this strategy as well; after two weeks of seeing this be developed at the highest level, I think that there is a great opportunity for brilliance here (and we are already seeing counter-strategies emerging). On the final day of Westerns as the level of play rose, these starts were used less or in more opportune moments (again, some of the awkwardness we’ve previously seen from these slow starts is from the fact that one team is so much stronger than the other, or one team is simply unprepared). People’s overreaction to this reminds me of the overreaction people had to the emergence of trapping and isolation strategies in 2009: while it looked absurd and dramatic at first (because teams were just learning it), now trapping has become a fundamental aspect of the flat track and the dramatic backwards packs that were prevalent at all levels in ’09 are a thing of the past at the highest competitive level.  While I think rules for starting jams could be refined (in that they would have to start at some point!), I have a feeling that the slow or walled-start jams will quickly evolve into regularly accepted game play. I don’t like stop-derby, but I sure love slow derby.

One thing that I didn’t like seeing emerge was a level of “diving” that has been slowly creeping into the sport. Rose City especially, seemed quite adept at stretching a back-blocking minor into a major with a well-performed fall, or failing to avoid an outstretched leg that is “sort of” in the way. It’s a touchy situation and subject and one that I think warrants more rules consideration than many of the other refinements people usually so vehemently call for.

2009 champs Oly Rollers look poised for a third consecutive run ot the championships.

While it was really hard not to be disappointed that Denver didn’t at the very least make it to the semi-final showdown with Rocky Mountain, it will be harder in November when the hosts aren’t at the tournament they are hosting. Nonetheless, the West once again sends an extraordinary threesome to the Championship. And they—Oly especially—all seem to have a shot at the top four at least, but I have to wonder if either Oly or Rocky Mountain is capable of challenging Gotham right now. Despite Oly’s win on the weekend, Gotham has still increased their lead over them on flat track stats. Rocky Mountain may be too emotional a team and “loose” right now to be able to compete against the likes of Gotham, while Oly, on the other hand, seems to be the opposite: too rigid, simplistic in their game play. Oly seems set in their fast-skating, keep-it-simple ways (and why not? It’s worked so far), but I have a feeling that if things don’t go their way early on and Gotham is able to establish a physical, gritty, multi-paced and faceted game, Oly will have a hard time keeping up. Then again, maybe Gotham and Oly won’t even meet in the final; the brackets have not been set yet, but it would be a shame if the top West and East seeds were bracketed to meet earlier.

Next up, South Centrals! Where the historic Texas Rollergirls (Champs ’06) look to reclaim top spot from their traditional regional rivals Kansas City Roller Warriors (Champs ’07)

WFTDA CHAMPS PARTICIPANTS (as of 09, 26, 2011):

East:

1. Gotham Girls Roller Derby All Stars

2. Philly Roller Girls Liberty Belles

3. Charm City Roller Girls All Stars

West:

1. Oly Rollers Cosa Nostra Donnas

2. Rocky Mountain Rollergirls 5280 Fight Club

3. Rose City Rollers Wheels of Justice