Thursday, November 4, 2010

Frenemies 'til the End.

Ophelia Fracture and Sugar & Slice lineup.
I think at the beginning of Monster’s Brawl last Saturday, we were still riding our high from beating the Cedar Rapids Rollergirls the week prior. We were entering the track with the Quad City Rollers, a team we had played four times previously, skating away with three wins, so we walked into this one pretty confident. Speaking for myself, my head wasn’t in the game right away from the first whistle and I’m not quite sure why. I started in the second lineup jamming against Lady Gotcha and we were being chatty on the line until the whistle. Maybe we have just gotten too comfortable with our QC friends so our mental game wasn’t quite there at the beginning. Whatever it was, I sat down after the first jam feeling shaken and unsure.

A few jams later, and after the first of many official time outs, our score went down a few points and we watched the score climb for the QC Rollers, putting them in the lead. The next few jams went on like this, a little scattered on our part, and they kept control of the pack by getting lead jammer repeatedly. Recently I’ve realized the importance of the first pass, and strategizing within the pack to get your jammer through first. Once your jammer has lead, the pack can focus more on the opposing jammer and if yours is in trouble, she can just call it off.

About half way through the first half, I think we finally got our minds reset on the strategy and skills that we had practiced all month. The numerous time outs probably allowed for our brains to relax and finally sync up with each other. Since the bout was so messy, penalties were being called left and right, some of which were contested or required further discussion amongst the refs. We had done a good job of staying out of the box in Cedar Rapids, but it was not the case this time.

Animal Mother and Triple D. Zaster hold the jammer at the front as Bat R Up helps GLADi8HER through the pack.
In the last eight minutes of the first half we gained control of the pack and began working together more fluidly. I think the greatest accomplishment we have achieved out of our second season is our teamwork on the track. The most beneficial thing a team can do for itself is practice together and often. The more intimately you know everyone’s skating style, voice, derby stank and ability, the more your game comes second nature during a bout.

At half time we were feeling the surge of our comeback, but were still keeping our heads on and discussed what we could do better. It had become quite chaotic, but we knew we just had to keep our minds focused and not let certain ref calls or penalties on the track get to us. We like to pride ourselves on being an even-tempered team, so the all we could do was continue to play our best and fair game.

Captains Sugar and Animal talk to head ref D'shiz.
With the score at 105 to 51, we had pushed ahead into a comfortable lead, yet the bout was still leaving a sour taste in my mouth. The mood of the whole thing was weird and there were lots of timeouts and penalties that were just upsetting the flow of the bout. The excitement that roller derby gets from a crowd is the fast paced action, not the zebra huddle. (Although that does add breaks for dancing on the line.) I have to say Animal Mother deserves a pat on the back for all her work as an Alternate Captain for this bout. If a team has any qualms with a certain call or any general concerns, the Captain and Alternate Captains are the only ones who may address the refs. Bat R Up was often in the box for official reviews, requiring Animal to be assertive and decisive in between jams.

The second half began, and it was immediately evident that black was back, and dominating in the pack. I think we all saw Gigahurtz (who arrived bout day as an alternate and got put in last minute) kick in to gear with some explosive hits and smart skating in the pack. Zom B Blokr brought all our strategy practice to fruition by taking directing the control of the pack for a whole jam as she managed to put nearly all the QC blockers in the penalty box and stopped the pack to a crawl for a successful power jam. I also saw Benzo Bang execute two amazing hits in a row, rivaling the impact Bat R Up leaves on the memories of most skaters. I could care less when I was on the bench because watching the beautiful teamwork of my fellow skaters on the track left me ecstatic.

As we got deeper in the second half and our score began to jump, I could feel the skating on the track become a bit scrambled. QC was giving everything that had to try and rein us in, but we still kept our control and didn’t let up. I have to say, it wasn’t quite the bout I was expecting to wrap up the year with, as three of the Quad City girls and one of our own did not get to see the end of the bout due to ejection. In the recent version of the WFTDA rules, penalties carry over the half and you are only allowed seven total, whereas before you could receive five major penalties per period for a total of ten. After receiving your seventh penalty the head ref will ask that you leave the track and return to the locker room. That, along with gross misconduct ejects a player from the bout in order to keep the skating fair and safe. If you are coming to bouts expecting an all out brawl, you are mistaken; trips to the box, egregious acts and fighting is not tolerated.

Gigahurtz guards the line as Bat R Up takes out Sugar & Slice.
With three of Quad City’s heavy hitters gone, their pack was left weakened and their jammers tired. Our pack control and smart skating finished the bout 225-104. We may not have ended the year “undefeated,” but a 9-2 record for our second season is definitely something to write home about. Besides any numbers or stats, just watching us play is evidence enough of our progress as a team. My concept of roller derby and how the game is played has broadened extensively, enhancing my skill level all around. Seeing some of our fresher skaters finally click and become vital assets to the team is reassuring that we’re doing something right. It’s obvious that from here we have the potential to get even better as our team expands with recruitment and move forward with our apprenticeship.


  1. I love hearing your take on the bouts and jamming. I learn so much about the sport from your writing and I can't WAIT to see you jam again. Your commitment and passion for the derby and your teammates is very inspiring. Plus you have a sweet, sweet ass. :p

  2. Me and my friends' jaws hit the floor when Benzo out-of-nowhere'd the best hit of the night. And we'd barely re-affixed them when Bat R Up jammed and, instead of just bowling through like we expected, DDR'd her way between a gauntlet of blockers.

    I know we shouldn't have been surprised by now -- OCCRG derby is definitely our group's new favorite event!