Sail Her Poon

Gores cap off another unbeaten regular season with win over Betties

The Gores were pushed early by the Betties who had their best bout of the season. (Photography by Neil Gunner)

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.

Fast, physical packs defined the bout.

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.

Hurlin Wall' continued her role as jammer hunter with some hard blocking on Betties' jammer Sail Her Poon.

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.

Brim Stone was back jamming for the Gores.

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.

Platinum Bomb was just one of the skaters playing multiple roles.

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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Dolls and Betties Tussle for a Playoff Spot

The Dolls took the last year's meeting between these two teams, 213-53.

Death Track Dolls (0-1) vs. Smoke City Betties (0-1)

In 2011 there are no playoffs for the ToRD’s 4th place team, which means that starting the season 0-2 could potentially end the championship dreams of either the Smoke City Betties or the Death Track Dolls. But playoff hopes aside, there is a lot more at stake for these two teams at this early stage of the year; namely, pride. Both teams entered 2011 with high hopes. After a year of being the league’s doormat, the Betties drafted for experience and relied on the memories of all those painful 2010 learning experiences to drive them forward into a new era. The Dolls, who had recently gone through growing pains of their own, competed in 2010, going toe-to-toe with Battle for the Boot finalists the Chicks until the second half of last season’s semifinal; nonetheless, with the least amount of roster change this off season, hopes were high.

So it was met with great disappointment when both of these teams struggled out of the gate. The Dolls looked flat in their bout against a Gore-Gore Rollergirls squad loaded with rookies (though they managed some inspired pushes at various moments), while the Betties looked far from unified in their effort against the Chicks Ahoy! relying on the strong individual play of a few key players to keep them in it at all. Needless to say, both teams will be looking for a lot more in this one.

The Dolls will rely on their veteran pivots to control the packs and keep things tight. (photo by Sean Murphy)

THE DOLLS WIN IF…

They play a smart (clean) and simple game. That worked for the Chicks against the Betties and there is no reason to think that it won’t again. A big part of the reason that the Dolls looked overmatched in their season opener was due to a tendency to continue to play an individual game. While this won’t be as big of an issue against the Betties as it was against the ultra-organized Gores, if the Dolls want to take that next step in the competitive ladder, they are going to have to step it up and buy into the types of systems that separate the top teams from the bottom. Following the leads of experienced pivots Panty Hoser, Monichrome and Dolly Parts’ Em will be key. They’ll also have to play a fairly clean bout as well, and their 32 minors against the Gores was only three less than the amount the Betties picked up against the Chicks.

Betty Bomber has become a key jammer for the Dolls, but her presence in the pack is missed. (photo by Kevin Konnyu)

Offense could be the most interesting story in this one. The Dolls jammers ate up the Betties last season, with Land Shark, Betty Bomber and Audrey Hellborn all putting up big numbers. Hellborn’s out for the season and they have yet to find a suitable replacement for her: combined, Sharky and Bomber had the star for an amazing 90% of their team’s jams against the Gores. Remarkably, they seemed to hold up well under the pressure. Land Shark had a comparatively inconsistent season in 2010, but was back to her old self against the Gores, leading the offense as her team’s top rated jammer, scoring 24 points (1.04 PPJ) and managing a 43% lead percentage against formidable opposition. But not having much depth at the position means that Bomber, who is also important in the pack, is stuck playing a one-role game.

Betties vets like Pretty Peeved will be key in getting this team back on track. (photo by Sean Murphy)

THE BETTIES WIN IF…

Well…It’s not quite as simple for the Betties.

In a pre-season interview, when asked about the Betties, Dolls co-captain Betty Bomber said with confidence that “as long as [the Betties] can work together, they will be a team to look out for this season.” Portentous foreshadowing that didn’t play out in the season opener but could become a reality at any time. With an abundance of individual talent, the Betties need to put those pieces together in a unified effort; the Chicks dominated the pack against the Betties, and were unmatched in their walls and isolation strategies. But this Betties team was like a sponge last year, soaking up knowledge in the face of defeat, and that attitude seemed to persist after the opener this year: in post-bout interviews with ToRD.TV both Bruiseberry Pie and Sail Her Poon cited better pack strategies as a key for this team moving forward. It seems that the Betties need to define roles for themselves on the track and on the team, but determined play from veteran pivot Pretty Peeved and jammer Memphis Kitty is hopeful.

Sail Her Poon clears a path for titmouse during their 2011 season opener. (photo by Derek Lang)

While defensively, they held the Chicks to significantly less than the 266 points they managed last year, they were unable to generate any offense. Only Memphis Kitty managed to hit double digits (11 points—she was also the only jammer to manage over 30 % lead percentage). But a little help from a more-together pack could help titmouse continue to build on the invaluable experience she has been gaining with CN Power in 2011 (including a spirited effort against the Skids at the QCC). Sail Her Poon (who had a strong bout but didn’t jam against the Chicks) also has been jamming with the All Stars and managed some measure of success jamming against the Dolls last season, scoring 13 points. Tropic Thunder was also effective against the Dolls in 2010, leading the Betties in scoring with 18 points. While both she and Poon each managed only a 17% lead percentage, upon closer inspection you can see that those two were consistently matched against the Dolls’ top three jammers (Bomber, Land Shark and the currently injured Audrey Hellborn), making leads a hard thing to come by for the rookie jammers.

***Tickets for the April 16 bout are available online or at a number of downtown vendors. Doors at the Hangar open at 6:30 p.m., opening whistle at 7:30.

ToRD.TV sets up the bout with Dolls veteran (and ToRD.TV personality) Monichrome:

2010 ToRD All-NERD TEAM (Part 2): THE ROOKIE LINE

Gores' Hurlin' Wall 2010 Rookie of the Year.

THE 2010 ROOKIE CLASS

The 2010 rookie class is arguably the top rookie class so far in ToRD’s brief history. But with the re-emergence of the DVAS as an organized bouting squad of undrafted players and the growing popularity of Toronto Junior Roller Derby, the drafts are only going to get stronger and stronger every season.

That being said, putting together only a single line of rookies was extraordinarily difficult. But here it is, the 2010 All-Nerd Rookie Line:

PIVOT

Pivot: Sail Her Poon (Smoke City Betties)

While no Smoke City Betties made my starting 14, the rookie line—for obvious reasons—is full of Betties. With an overwhelming amount of rookies, the Betties’ first year skaters had no choice but to take on big roles both off and on the track. No skater epitomized this more than Sail Her Poon.

A rookie captain, Sail Her Poon showed comfort and poise on the track well beyond her experience. Skating in 42% of the Betties’ jams this season, Poon  would  spread that playing time across all three positions on the track. Despite being a rookie on an outmatched team, she managed to pick up the first JQ points of her career (finishing top ten in Jam %, points and points per jam). In the end, she split her time in the pack and jamming almost perfectly 50-50. This complete-track awareness is why Poon is wearing the stripe on the Rookie Line.

Blocker: Marmighty (Chicks Ahoy!)

BLOCKERS

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls’ Hurlin’ Wall was the only rookie to make the Starting 14, so it shouldn’t be any surprise to see her here. A strong positional jammer whose timing got better as the season went on, Hurlin has the athleticism and track sense to be a complete pack player. The sole rookie on the Chicks Ahoy! this year, Marmighty, also makes the cut. Marmighty got a crash course in derby on a Chicks squad loaded with veterans and it showed in her play. Starting off strong positionally, she finished a +/- of+91, and it didn’t take the New Zealand import long to get confident with her physical game either, and finished third

Blocker: Grim Avenger (Betties)

on the Chicks in blocks and fourth in knockdowns; able to muscle her way into prominence on a stacked lineup. Lastly, another member of the Betties’ rookie class, Grim Avenger. From the opening bout (in which she skated 15 of her teams’ 37 jams) Grim was expected to play a big role in the Betties pack: she played up to those expectations. By the final bout of the regular season she was wearing the stripe and leading packs (she would be an integral part of the Betties’ strong playoff performance against the Gores as well).

Jammer: Tropic Thunder (Betties)

JAMMER

ToRD has developed into a tough league to be a rookie jammer in. The most that you can ask for is for her to endure and, hopefully, keep getting up. Tropic Thunder accomplished that and more for the Betties this year. From her breakout performance at the Fresh Meat Scrimmage during last year’s off season to the triple-threat role she played in the opening bout, Tropic Thunder became an integral part of the Betties’ attack by the end of the season and ended up jamming 25% of her teams’ jams on the season. She also led her team in scoring in the Betties’ final two regular season bouts of 2010. She is the third Bettie on this team and one of many who form the solid foundation for the Betties’ future.

Recap the The All-Nerd Starting 14 here.

Upcoming: Saturday, final post of 2010. A few favourite photos and off-track highlights.