Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pulling Up My Big Kid Pants.

This season has been a bit harder to wrap my mind around because we’ve been playing more teams we’ve never played before. Sometimes it’s the anticipation that gets you, or familiarity that gets you through. Coming up against the Eastern Iowa Outlaws last weekend was a bit weird because I had played against some of them as Cedar Rapids Rollergirls and skated with some of them during our open scrimmage, but had never seen them play as a team. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but was feeling pretty confident after our win against Kansas.
Bat R Up and Jane Bang contain Krystallica,
a regular sub for EIO.
Photo by Brian Scott.

EIO plays in an event center so they skate on a concrete floor. They coated the floor with a sticky substance, similar to D3, to give it more grip. It was pretty sticky but didn’t gunk up my wheels, so that was a plus. I did have to borrow some harder wheels from Glad, but otherwise I felt pretty good. I’ve noticed that I try to excuse my performance due to the surface we skate on, but that’s how it goes with flat-track roller derby. Being able to skate on any flat surface is what makes it so accessible to so many people all over the globe, so I have to buck up and deal with whatever floor comes our way. If plowing was going to be hard, then I would have just use the stick to my advantage and use better footwork.

I jammed second again, and after a solid first go around by Ophelia, I felt ready. I took the jam line with V-train to my right and instincts told me she liked to hit off the line. If you can knock the opposing jammer out of bounds before entering the engagement zone, then she cannot obtain lead jammer status. It’s a good strategy that isn’t always used, but definitely something to be aware of. So when the whistle blew I didn’t budge; which gave her a major elbow and me free range of the track.
I did more blocking in this bout. I enjoyed it.
Photo by Mark Dierker

From there we started building a solid lead. They seemed to be playing a hitting game which often left them spread out, leaving paths for our jammers. They also spent a lot of time in the box in the first half, but we too got in a bit of penalty trouble. Their score jumped during a few power jams with Krystallica, a sub from the Midwest Derby Divas, on the track, but by the half we were up by nearly 100 points, 164 to 65.

Triple D Zaster had a great night.
In the second half I happily blocked a lot more, which gave more time for Triple D Zaster in the star. She had a stellar performance including a magnificent apex jump. It was also the debut bout for Maker C. Stars who is becoming quite the force on the track. We held about 100 points over them the rest of the bout, with the final score of 243 to 122.

So far this season I think the biggest thing I’ve learned, on and off the track, is that it does no good to worry about the things outside myself. I cannot control the surface I will skate on, the skaters I will skate against or how the refs officiate. I will adjust my skills, skate harder and take the ref calls in stride, but I will not get frustrated or give up. Even if I am unfamiliar with my opposition, I will be prepared for anything and focus what I will do, not what they will do. Everyday is a day to improve, and I will keep evolving.

Photos from this bout:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

In Control.

Going into Saturday’s bout I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t confident either. In fact I hadn’t really thought much about the bout all week, nor had much feeling about it either way. That made me nervous. After our month of March madness I went through a fit of uncertainty and doubt but felt I had overcome it. The bout on April 9th    against the Kansas City Roller Warriors Plan B Team was going to be a test to see if I had recovered completely.
Ophelia Fracture was a rockstar jammer Saturday and scored almost half our points.
I’ve started to build up a routine come bout day, and it took me most of last season to figure it out. I wake up and have my favorite breakfast egg sandwich, complete with imagination, and enhale some version of caffeine. Then I finish up whatever errands I put off to bout day, whether it is cleaning my bearings (oops) or finding the last bits of my boutfit. Then I get to the Marriott at noon (1 or 2pm) to help setup whatever still needs done. Around 3 I start getting my boutfit on and doing my make up. The drippy black eyes were born out of the Malice in Derbyland bout from last April and went through different variations until I just stuck with the original incarnation. I’ve done a few bouts without any at all and it just looks wrong, so now they are a must.

Then I get my ipod and take the track for a bit. I like to skate around, stretch and groove out to Girl Talk’s Feed the Animals album and pretend I can jam skate. Before I know it, the other team rolls in, we go through warm ups and we’re to equipment check. The audience is filing in and the announcers are warming up their vocal chords. Game on.
Twinkletoeing my way down the line.

Warming up as a team felt pretty good Saturday, so that reassured my non-nervous nerves a bit. I had know clue what to expect, so my goal was to give it my all and see what happens.

Ophelia jammed first, and although failed to get lead, followed their jammer out of the pack, forcing her to call it off. I was up next. Slicing through the pack the first time was fairly easy and as I made my way around for the scoring pass, their jammer still hadn’t gotten out of the pack. I made four grand slams before I called it off, and she never saw the front of the pack.

It was 20 to 0 and I was in this 100%.

After the sixth jam it was our lead, 41 to 7 and I was feeling pretty good about the bout. In the following jam, Glad took the star to the box and I took a deep breath hoping this wouldn’t throw off our game. We gave them 20 points, cutting our lead in half and forcing us to scramble. For a few jams we saw a steady rotation of our blockers through the penalty box but the closest their score got was within 9 points;  we never gave up the lead. Despite constantly having the disadvantage on the track, our jammers fought hard to still make scoring passes and our blockers introduced their jammers to floor repeatedly. It wasn’t pretty, but we maintained and finished the half 115 to 102.

Half time. Refresh, re-energize, repeat. I was frustrated because the biggest thing hurting us was that we kept losing control of the pack. Control is hard to come by when there are only two blockers on the track, so our goal was to remedy this in the second half. Returning to the track we knew that Bat R Up and Jane Bang were standing in the box with only a few seconds left. I took the line as pivot, my one of only three times blocking that night, with A Few Screws Lucy at my side. The whistle blew and we didn’t budge. Kansas took off but lingered just close enough that the pack maintained behind the line. Bat R and Bang rejoined us and we took off, got Glad through as lead and she hit and quit it for one point.

Bat R Up leaves a jammer in the dust.
Emily Sherman Photography
The second half seemed to switch, and we were feeling more confident on the track as more of their skaters made it to the box. Halfway through the second half, we widened our lead to 56 points with the score of 176 to 120. By keeping more blockers on the track, we had more control and the game was ours again. They seem to get tired and frustrated but we were still going strong. I jammed a total of 13 times that night totaling 62 points. I didn't feel jittery or tired and felt like I could still take on the world.

Blocking in the last jam, I watched Ophelia Fracture score 9 points, call it, and the bout was over. I looked around and realized we had just won our fourth bout in a row! It felt as unreal as Madison, but a much more confident win. In our third season I finally have found my feet and my routine and I think the team has as well. By investing in an emphasis on teamwork, endurance and excellent sportsmanship, we are dominating on the track. So far our home bouts have been a big success and its obvious lots of new fans are finding us. It’s the year of OCCRG.


Emily Sherman Photography albums 1, and 2.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

MIR vs Rockford

With unlimited funds and time, I would try to make every bout possible, and watch as much derby as I could, but I can't. It's nice to have extra eyes in the derby world, so here's another bout recap by Dave Schrader. He would be the one front and center trackside, behind a camera. I believe he's been to every one of our bouts since early last season, and makes it to many others. Someone should sponsor him to at least pay for the gas he burns, driving from Illinois and even following us on our three week bender to Madison and Des Moines. Earning his superfan status, he sat with us during Championals in Chicago last November to watch some topnotch derby. It's exciting to find people who follow roller derby like it was football or baseball. Plus I think we love anyone who takes great pictures. Here's his bout recap of the Mid Iowa Rollers against the Rockford Rage Ragdolls from April 2nd.

Mz Lolli Pop Ya, lead jammer.
Bout was held at Rockford's Indoor Sports Center, so Rockford wore black and MIR wore blue. There were no outside pack refs so they didn't ruin any photos, and four (or five?) inside. I was singled out by the announcer before the bout because I was the only person in suicide seating along the second straightaway (he tagged me during second period as well because I was showing enthusiasm). DD Hunter was out with an injury so she worked as jam timer and I later complimented her on doing everything properly as far as I could tell. The crowd was a little smaller than the Rage bouts usually draw.

Jamming for Rockford was split between Meeso Thorny (15), Barbie Got Back (10) and Pow Bella (10) with Short Fuse wearing the star for 5 jams, Red Hot Chili Mama 3, and Taryn Skulz 2 (once with a penalty that carried over). MIR relied heavily on Mz Lolli Pop Ya (17) and Vyolent Grimm (16), although RayNa OutRAGE jammed 4 times in the first period (0 in second), Anna Killakova 7, and Wonton Hammer once in second period. Lead jammer status was split evenly between both teams; first period 10/10 and second period 9 RR, 10 MIR. Jammer penalties were first period Rockford 3, MIR 4, and second period was RR 1 MIR 2. Both teams were missing a few skaters due to injuries.

First period started out with Meeso Thorny getting lead jammer and calling it off with 3 points. This brought our first official time out because the scoreboard and game clock reset to zero. Kudos to the DJ for playing the Imperial March from Star Wars during official time outs. MIR's RayNa OutRAGE got lead status in the second jam but called it off because Barbie Got Back was on her heels as they approached the pack. Rockford held lead jammer for the next three jams with Pow Bella scoring a grand slam when Anna Killakova took MIR's star to the penalty box where she was joined by two of her blockers. Rayna finally put MIR on the board in jam five and it was 12-3 Rockford, but RayNa was sent to the sin bin at the end of the jam. Barbie Got Back came out for Rockford's power jam and scored two grand slams before being sent to the box herself (both jammers penalized, take a drink), thus releasing RayNa to score her own grand slam and earn another penalty (both jammers in box, drink), making the score 25-8 for Rockford.

Meeso Thorny slipping by Anna Killakova
Both jammers started in the box (I've seen this before and it still confuses me, although Barbie was standing) and Barbie pushed Rockford further ahead to make it 34-8. The ladies in blue then shook off the travel doldrums, got used to the track, or figured out the Ragdolls' defense because this is when they got their game on. MIR attained lead jammer status five of the next six jams and held Rockford to only one point while scoring 21, so it was 35-29 and we had a real contest. It was four-and-done, rinse, repeat. Jam 14 saw Barbie and the Ragdolls break the cycle by getting lead jammer and 2 points. Pow Bella picked up 1 point for Rockford to Vyolent Grimm's 3 for MIR (38-32) but she also caught a penalty and took the black star to the box. Lolli Pop Ya racked up14 points in the power jam to put MIR ahead 38-46 (lead change, take a drink). Red Hot Chili Mama wore the star (first time tonight) for Rockford in Jam 17, got lead, 4 points, and called it. Jam 18 saw Meeso Thorny facing Anna Killakova, Meeso got lead and the referees called the jam dead leaving it 42-46 MIR. An official time out ensued, so we heard the Imperial March again. Jam 19 had the same lineup, with Meeso gaining lead jammer again and Anna taking the blue star to the sin bin, allowing Meeso to score three grand slams to push Rockford ahead 57-46. Lead change, take a drink; official time out and we're hearing some disco crap. MIR came back solid, with Anna coming out of the box to gain lead jammer, as did the blue jammers for the next three jams, with the final jam of the half showing Lolli Pop Ya racking 14 and Short Fuse heading to the box with the Rockford star, allowing MIR to pull ahead 62-66 (lead change, drink).

The second period began with MIR's Vyolent Grimm getting the L but calling the jam because Meeso was hot on her booty as they approached the pack. Barbie Got Back got the lead in jam 2, hit 4 and quit to tie the bout at 66. Lolli Pop Ya came back with a mirror performance to make it 66-70 MIR. Red Hot Chili Mama faced off against Vyolent in jam 4 and we witnessed a stunning display of blocker prowess as neither jammer was able to complete her initial pass. We had two minutes of blockers cycling back in front of the jammer and blockers knocking jammers out of bounds while staying upright, in play, and slowing to a stop to force the jammer to reenter behind the pack. It was solid, solid defense. Points and lead jammer status were traded for the next two jams, and then Jam 7 saw Pow Bella pull the Ragdolls ahead 80-77 (drink) and tried to call off the jam, earning a minor penalty because she wasn't lead jammer. MIR got lead jammer the next three jams but wasn't able to prevent Rockford from scoring so they held their lead 89-81. Rockford earned the L two of the next three jams, but the third saw Vyolent Grimm score a grand slam over Pow Bella to close the gap to five points (93-88 Rockford). Rockford got lead the next three jams and held MIR scoreless to break the century mark (108-88) and stretch their lead to 20 including a jam in which Vyolent Grimm took MIR's star to the box and Barbie picked up 10. Lolli Pop Ya got 9 back on the next jam to show MIR wasn't out of the game.
Lots of action shots of Vyolent Grimm who looks like she skated her butt off in this bout.
I didn't note the jam in which it happened, but one second period jam saw the MIR jammer spend the entire time trying to get past Barbie Got Back while she was blocking. Barbie had it going on and life was hard under the blue star. Taryn Skulz wore Rockford's star in jam 18 but earned a trip to the box although Grimm wasn't able to bring home any points. Mz Lolli Pop Ya came out for the power jam but only squeezed out five points, so Rockford still held the edge 108-102. Meeso Thorny was looking tired as she hit 'n' quit for 4 to make it 112-102, but we all know 10 points isn't an insurmountable lead. Barbie Got Back faced off against Anna Killakova in jam 21 with under three minutes remaining. Barbie fought hard but her fatigue showed once Anna collected her fourth minor penalty and took MIR's hopes to the penalty box. Barbie scored 6 to raise the Rockford lead 118-102, and Iowa called timeout with 33.6 seconds on the clock. Meeso Thorny lined up against Mz Lolli Pop Ya in the final jam. Meeso got lead jammer and, showing the same smile she always wears while jamming, called the bout.

The bout was fairly disciplined derby. There was only one minor injury and two stoppages for lost toe stops. MIR had 16 trips to the box to Rockford's 10, and that includes the 10 jammer visits from both teams. Meeso Thorny got lead jammer 10 of the 15 times she jammed, Barbie was lead 5 of 10, and Pow Bella lead 2 of 10. For MIR Pop Ya lead 8 of 17, Grimm and lead 8 of 16, and Anna lead 2 of 7, but three of AK's jams included trips to the penalty box. The derby half of the bar erupted in cheers when some of the sports bar's tv's showed a local newscast reporting on the bout; the soccer side of the house caught on as well although they might have been a little jealous.