Woodstock Roller Derby

Montreal Steps on the Gas at Fresh and Furious: GTA DRIFT (Part 1: The Results)

With fourteen teams in this year’s Fresh and Furious: GTA Drift (too awkward  a number for a double elimination tournament), a point-differential ranking system was put into place to determine second-round seedings, meaning that teams could not take their foot of the gas in their opening games, resulting in a few lopsided results early.

Montreal announced its intentions to compete with an early one-sided victory over the debuting Woodstock Warriors. (Photo by Greg Russell)

ROUND ONE

Track One: Ted Reeve Arena

The first bracket was loaded with the top leagues in the tournament, but the opening round didn’t necessarily shake out as expected. The up-and-coming Renegade Derby Dames out of Aliston Ontario, kicked things off with a minor 69-46 upset over a Royal City team that was certainly considered one of the pre-tournament favourites. Similarly, ToRD’s D-VAS who were one of a few teams with shortened benches (11) to ensure that skaters fit under the maximum game requirements, looked out of sorts in an opening 28-18 loss to the Border City Brawlers in a defensive grinder. Two teams that looked impressive were Montreal’s Smash Squad (in their first Fresh tournament) who overwhelmed a Woodstock Warriors team making their debut by 117 points (impressive given the 20 minute games), and the Violet Femmes, a contact extension of London’s LOCO derby league, who were surprisingly physical in their 76-29 upset over the South Simcoe Roller Rebels.

Track Two: The Bubble

The host GTA Derby Debutantes lost their opening bout before eventually advancing to the quarterfinals. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The host GTA Derby Debutantes showed confidence with what were previously considered advanced strategies when they scrum-started the opening jam and most thereafter (a trend in the tournament); although never able to pull too far ahead, the Debutantes seemed to be cruising against Capital City’s Delinquents (whose roster was aided by a few skaters from Kingston’s Limestone CrusHers), before a last-jam shocker saw them pull out a 34-32 win and remind everyone that in 20-minute games, all it takes is a single jam to change the complexion of the game. In another tight one, Buffalo’s Queen City (an honorary eastern Canadian league for their years of cross-border support), were involved in another tight one, falling by three points to defending champion Gold Miner’s Daughters.  In the only blow out in The Bubble, Durham Region smacked around a scrappy Lindsay team (making their playing debut) by 44 points to pick up the third seed for the second round, missing out on the quarterfinal bye by only three points.

Border City turned some heads with a 136-28 victory over Lindsay in the elimination round. (Photo by Greg Russell).

ELIMINATION ROUND

On the strength of their overwhelming victories, Montreal and the Violet Femmes nabbed a bye to the quarterfinals, while the remaining teams were forced to play in a single-elimination knockout round with rankings based on their first round-scores. In this round the contenders certainly distanced themselves from the rest of the competition. In the most surprising outcome of the round, Border City turned some heads with the biggest offensive output of the tournament when they trounced Lindsay 136-28, suddenly positing themselves as potential favourites. The Renegade Derby Dames continued to impress as well, cruising into the quarterfinals with a 70-point victory over South Simcoe. Both Toronto teams, the Debutantes and the D-VAS, also made up for opening round losses, as the ToRD team found its game after an awkward opener and looked like a much tighter team in a 59 point win over Capital City.  GTA assured the continuation of their tournament as the Debutantes eliminated Queen City in a one-sided 73-point win. Another team that came alive after an opening round loss was Royal City, who shook off the  loss and picked up a load of confidence by eliminating the defending champion Gold Miner’s Daughters (who even had returning players)  78-26. Durham didn’t look quite as sharp in their second game, but did enough to continue by eliminating a Woodstock team that recovered quite nicely from the blowout against Montreal to put up a strong fight, losing 43-17.

QUARTERFINALS

Despite their strong physical play, the Violet Femmes were overwhelmed by Toronto’s D-VAS in the quarterfinals. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

When the elimination rounds had all shaken out, the final eight did not look too far from what the expectations had been going in. Traditionally strong Queen City was out (the only of the three participating WFTDA league’s not to advance), joining the defending champs from Timmins on the sidelines. One of the surprises of the tournament, the Violet Femmes, ran into a solid wall against a D-VAS team that was getting better by the jam and who reasserted their presence in the tournament with a defensively dominant 84-6 victory (the only time in the tournament that a team was held to single digits). Nonetheless, this intriguing contact representative of a low-contact league, certainly made an impression. Similar to the D-VAS, Royal City had started slow but was picking up steam and looked very comfortable in a 63-39 victory to knock Durham Region out of the quarterfinals (it was a solid tournament for the Durham newcomers; much needed after a string of losses by the senior teams in the league this season).

The Renegade Derby Dames’ impressive run ended with a final-jam loss to Border City in the quarterfinals. (Photo by Greg Russell).

After winning a frighteningly one-sided opener, Montreal was brought back to Earth when the host Debutantes gave them all that they could handle. Despite the incredible effort from the GTA skaters, they weren’t able to contend in the end, falling 55-28. In the most intriguing quarterfinal matchup, the debut league Renegade Derby Dames fought tooth and nail with Windsor’s Border City Brawlers who proved to be contenders in only their second year in action as they were able to snatch the last-jam victory 32-29, in the tightest of the quarterfinal bouts. Nonetheless, both teams secured their reputations for the weekend, with strong performances all around and have announced themselves as leagues to watch.

SEMIFINALS

Border City’s impressive run ended at the hands of Montreal in the semifinal. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Montreal, Toronto and Guelph’s Royal City all lived up to pre-tournament expectations by qualifying for the final four, joining the upstart Border City from Windsor. In the first of the two showdowns, Montreal once again showed chinks in a very impressive armour. Border City continued to win over fans with their astonishing play. The Windsor team opened on a power jam to take the lead and stayed within four points until near the halfway point, but once again the Smash Squad looked unfazed and outscored Windsor 33-4 over the final five minutes to pull out the 64-35 victory. Despite the early scare, when it was all said and done, Montreal was right where the team was expected to be: in the championship final.

Royal City and Toronto’s D-VAS played in a thrilling semifinal that came down to the final whistle. (Photo by Greg Russell).

Another fascinating chapter in the slowly blossoming rivalry between Guelph’s Royal City and Toronto Roller Derby played out in the other semifinal between the Top Herloins and the D-VAS.  Both teams were quickly improving all day; with every minute of track time, the teams seemed to refine their strategies and get just a bit smarter in transition, and it showed in this thrilling semifinal. The D-VAS managed to stay just one step ahead through the first half of the bout, with Royal City taking their first lead, 21-20, at the twelve-minute mark. Four minutes later a crucial power jam saw them take their biggest lead of the game, 39-27, with only three minutes remaining. A nine point pickup by the D-VAS  had them right back in it, down by  three entering the final jam. Unable to hold the opposing jammer despite getting lead, the D-VAS’ jammer attempted a hit-it-and-quit-it call off, but was ruled to be slightly early in her call and only picked up one, sending Royal City to the final with a thrilling 39-37 victory.

MEDAL ROUND

The D-VAS got some revenge for an earlier loss with a one-sided win over Border City in the third place game. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Still fired up from the tight semifinal loss and looking to avenge a surprising loss in the opening game of the tournament, Toronto’s D-VAS stormed out of the gates in their third-place bout against Windsor’s Border City. Showing a confidence and awareness that had grown throughout the day, the D-VAS dominated from the start and amassed a 49-7 lead at the halfway mark. Despite playing a defensive grinder (28-18) earlier in the day, this one was all offense all the time and the D-VAS picked it up in the second half of the game, capturing third place in a lopsided 117-13 victory over a nonetheless impressive Border City team.

Montreal ran away with it late in the championship game against Royal City. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Royal City had followed a similar arc in the tournament as the D-VAS, starting slow and peaking when it mattered most. They seemed very unintimidated to be squaring off against a league so much more experienced than itself, and caught Montreal off guard over the first few jams to take a 21-6 lead. Montreal slowly tightened things up and began to chip away, going on a 19 point run to take their first lead, 25-21, eight minutes into the thirty minute final. Royal City would not relent though, and manged to retake the lead, 47-38 at the halfway mark of the final. Up 50-42 at the 13 minute mark, Montreal picked up a crucial power jam  in what would prove to be the turning point in the game and retook the lead. Over the next six minutes, Guelph’s defense would slowly come apart as Montreal’s relentless game play saw them complete a six minute, thirty-seven point run to take a commanding 79-50 lead. That dominance would continue over the final six minutes as well, showing excellent endurance (mental and physical) to take their first Fresh and the Furious trophy with a decisive 122-61 victory. A reminder that Montreal Roller Derby is still very much the league that the rest of Canada is looking up to.

***The recap continues tomorrow with an overview of the tournament and an interview with key players.

COMPLETE RESULTS:

TRACK ONE: TED REEVE ARENA TRACK TWO: THE BUBBLE
First Round First Round
Renegade Derby Dames 69 vs. Royal City Roller Girls (Top Herloins) 46South Simcoe Rebel Rollers 29 vs. Violet Femmes (London LOCO) 76

Border City Brawlers 28 vs. Toronto Roller Derby

(D-DVAS) 18

Montreal Roller Derby (Smash Squad) 127 vs. Woodstock Roller Derby (Warriors) 10

 

Lindsey Roller Derby 35 vs. Derby Region Roller Derby 79Capital City Derby Dolls (Delinquents) 34 vs. GTA Rollergirls (Derby Debutantes) 32

Queen City Roller Girls (Rollin Royals) 33 vs. Goldminer’s Daughters 36

Elimination Round Elimination Round
(9) Queen City 17 vs. (8) Debutantes 85(4) Renegade DD 82 vs. (13) South Simcoe 12

(12) Lindsay 28 vs. (5) Border City 136

 

(10) D-VAS 69 vs. (7) Capital City 10(3) Durham 42 vs. (14) Woodstock 17

(11) Royal City 78 vs. (6) GMs’ Daughters 26

Quarterfinals Quarterfinals
Smash Squad 55 vs. Debutantes 28Renegade DD 29 vs. Border City 32

 

Violet Femmes 6 vs. D-VAS 84Durham 39 vs. Royal City 63

Semifinals

Smash Squad 64 vs. Border City 35

D-VAS 37 vs. Royal City 39

Third Place

Border City 13 vs. D-VAS 117

Championship

Smash Squad 122 vs. Royal City 61

Montreal Smash Squad: Fresh and the Furious: GTA Drift Champs

Future Stars Set to Face Off at Fresh and Furious Once Again

The third Fresh and Furious tournament (GTA Drift), hosted by GTA Rollergirls, will take place on July 14 at Ted Reeve Arena.

At last year’s 2Fresh 2Furious, eight separate leagues were represented in the quarterfinals with the upstart Gold Miner’s Daughters just rounding into form as they knocked off  Durham Region, Royal City and then ToRD’s D-VAS in succession in the elimination round to upset the field and win the tournament. It was a shocking victory for everyone in attendance, as the team from Timmins came from out of nowhere. It was shocking enough that even Nick L Bagg, the Daughters’ coach, would refer to it as “incredible.”

But that’s exactly the kind of tournament that the Fresh and Furious showdown is: a place for new skaters, new teams, and even new leagues to test themselves—often for the first time—against outside competition; it’s a chance for fresh-faced teams to see how far they’ve come, or how far they still have to go.

One of the founders of the tournament, Splat Benetar, points out that a “freshie” tournament like this is more important now than ever, “Derby has become such a strategic, fast skating, fast thinking and hard hitting game, that having a freshie environment gives these skaters a chance to play teams that have equal experience as themselves.”

Fresh and Furious: GTA Drift is the third year that they tournament has run, providing the up-and-coming stars of eastern Canadian roller derby an opportunity to get some important tournament experience, but also just that all-valuable track time. Splat points out that despite the “fresh” nature of the skaters, the competitive level of the event has increased every year: “Many newer skaters are developing their skills and learning strategies faster each year…I think it does stem from the veteran League (members) teaching their Fresh skaters all these skills and strategies.”

The one-day double-elimination style tournament will feature fourteen teams dueling over two tracks, and while all fourteen teams will at least get two games, the top two teams will get a bye directly to the quarterfinals. There are returning leagues, but certainly some new and exciting ones as well.

TRACK ONE: TED REEVE ARENA

Border City (in blue) and South Simcoe (squaring off last year) will both be sending teams again. (Photo by Joe Mac)

ToRD’s D-VAS, South Simcoe’s Rebel Rollers, Windsor’s Border City Brawlers, and the Royal City Roller Girls are all returning from last year’s tournament with a fresh batch of skaters to introduce to the community. Joining these teams will be three leagues making their Fresh and Furious debut: the Renegade Derby Dames, London’s Violet Femmes (a  LOCO derby league), Woodstock Roller Derby’s Woodstock Warriors, and Montreal’s Smash Squad.

While it’s almost impossible to predict how these young and inexperienced teams will respond to the tournament setting, the inclusion of Montreal in this pool automatically makes things intriguing. “Montreal has amazing top-level skaters teaching their fresh skaters,” Splat points out, “so they will be hard to beat.” The freshest of skaters from Canada’s most successful league will certainly become automatic front runners and will open the tournament against Woodstock Roller Derby, not only a fresh team, but a very fresh league.  The Border City Brawlers and D-VAS matchup is intriguing as well, as Border City made an impressive league debut at last year’s tournament, and it will be interesting to see how the second wave of Windsor skaters competes. Royal City, another league that did well last year and that has been surging since, will also undoubtedly introduce an impressive new group. While the nature of this tournament means that everything is essentially up in the air, look for Montreal, D-VAS, Royal City and Renegade Derby Dames to come through this bracket.

Guelph’s Royal City will be sending a team again, as will Gold City, the unified Timmins league. (Photo by Joe Mac)

TRACK TWO: THE BUBBLE

Aside from the freshly formed Lindsay Roller Derby, the Bubblle will feature leagues with at least one year’s experience now under their belts. Durham Region had a strong showing last year, defeating the eventual champion Gold Miner’s Daughters in the first round before exiting in the quarter finals. The Gold Miner’s new league, Gold City, will also be represented in this bracket, undoubtedly hoping for the same exciting results as last year, while Capital City (Ottawa), Queen City (Buffalo), and the host GTA (sending the Derby Debutantes) round out the slightly more experienced bracket in the Bubble. While once again a tough bracket to predict, look for the always well trained Queen City team to excel. Splat also  points out that the home team Debutantes are a team to watch: “Their understanding of derby strategy and great sense of team work makes them a contender.” Of course,  Timmins (who will be merging with fresh skaters from Soonami as well) will want to show that last year’s stunning performance wasn’t just a one off, but a sign of successful things to come.

Toronto’s D-VAS and Timmins’ Gold Miner’s Daughters met in last year’s final (the Daughters won 67-24). (Photo by Joe Mac)

Beyond the obvious importance of having a showcase for the next generation of up-and-coming skating talent, this tournament is exciting in its unpredictability. With fresh faces at various levels of skating ability and experience, as with last year, there are a few factors that will determine the winner. The team that not only has the endurance to last the day, but that is able to come together and improve as the day goes on will be the team that has the most success.

But the tournament is about much more than winning. As Splat Benetar points out, it’s as much about gaining that all important derby attitude: “Let’s face it, just a few months ago (many of these skaters) were wobbling and falling, trying to learn to skate and now they are out there kicking butt.  I would say that these so called ‘Freshies’ are so impressive and with their positive attitude, they will grow our sport.”

***Fresh and Furious: GTA Drift takes place on July 14 at Ted Reeve Arena. First whistle is at 11:00 AM. Tickets are available at select retail locations and online.