NASHVILLE, TN – After a tense, continuously lead-switching first half between London Brawling and the Victoria All-Stars, London re-emerged from the break with some key play lessons figured out and a fire in their bellies that led them to victory, 173-142. The first international game in WFTDA Championship history did not, however, disappoint in any way, as both teams brought everything they had to the track repeatedly, making the distances they’d traveled visibly worth the effort.
Kamikaze Kitten, from London (#3), was drawn on an almost immediate track cut penalty, leaving Swish Cariboom, of #5-ranked Victoria to take lead on a powerjam in the first few seconds. Although, just as Kami returned and hit the back of the pack, Swish got her own cut, and Kami took the first game points. With no lead remaining, the jam kept playing out, and ended 8-5, London leading.
Stef Mainey took the star in the 3rd jam, in what was probably a move prompted by the solid defensive play Victoria has become known for, and she made her double-threat qualities apparent. Heading into the end of the 5th min of play, Stef added to the incremental points London was adding up. They held the lead 14-5 after holding Victoria scoreless for two jams.
London responded to the classic diamond-formation defensive play by Victoria by trapping blockers, and keeping walls small and distracted. An equally deep 4-jammer bench on each team was yet to give many predictions on what to anticipate from jammers this far in.
Christy Demons had repeat recycles against her, but still incrementally crept the score back up with a 13-point run, leaving Victoria with a lead change by the 12th min of game play, 22-18. London seemed keen to take lead, by taking a scoring pass and calling the jam as their game tactics, while recycling efforts from their blockers kept Victorian jammers on the back foot. By the first quarter mark, the teams were at 33-23, Victoria leading still.
But then Giles penaltied, and London had time to focus on offense for Rogue Runner, as Arocha (formerly Lady Go Go) pulled a swooping track-clearing hit on Victoria’s defense, making space for points. After London pushed ahead to 37-33, Victoria then grabbed 4 points, switching the lead, and this continued.
Stef Mainey seemed to make a clear visible decision that her defensive play was more needed in the game, as she stopped short of the frontline defense of VRDL, and handed the star to Shaolynn, while London held an increasingly frustrated Smashin’ Pop back from defensive play.
By the final two mins before half-time break, a single point held the two teams apart, and while Lexi tried spinning around the outside of the pack, she slammed into blockers from Victoria. Gaining no ground, the jam completed with the teams at 57-56, for Victoria.
A final quick lead grab and call from Giles pushed the team just a little ahead, and the first half was done with the score at 61-56, Victoria leading. By that point, although London was slightly behind on lead claims at 44.4% to Victoria’s 50%, Victoria was averaging 1.1 minutes of penalty per jam as opposed to London’s 0.4 minutes.
In the second period, VRDL sat with three blockers in the box, while Kami neatly landed a huge apex leap, and proceeded on a points blitz. It couldn’t even be slowed by a box trip moments later for her. London had the game at 86-61 by the second jam in, and as Giles sat in the box, Rogue Runner went on a points spree of her own. Giles returned and quickly star-passed to Tui Lyon, who didn’t get a chance to hit the pack before the whistles sounded. The next jam saw jammer engagement and speeding packs, that held the score where it was, at 110-61, with London emphatically in the lead now.
Clearly London had learned some lessons from the first half, and were set to put play adaptations to work. Ten minutes back into the half, the points cushion had widened to the point where it had begun to feel dubious whether VRDL might be able to fight back into contention.
With 17:40 remaining, the Victorians picked the 141-65 spread to call their first team time-out and regroup. While bracing and shouldering against the solid Victorian defense, Kami was forced into a cut. That allowed time for Swish to emerge from the penalty box and begin scoring for her team, but with only four more points, it wasn’t going to make much of an impression.
The game then followed with London in careful control of play, while Victoria penalty-mounted as they appeared increasingly frustrated with the change in the game. Kami gave us the highlight of yet another huge apex jump, this time less successfully as she landed immediately in the box. Infrequent Victorian jammer (for this tournament, after returning from an ACL injury) Mad Mel Arena, used that powerjam with some real success, claiming a 20-pointer immediately after Christy Demons had done the same. And as the score rounded 165-118 still in their favor, London called their first team official review, asking for a penalty on the opposing jammer and presumably for some of those points to be erased. It was unsuccessful, but London wasn’t to be deterred.
By the final jams, even a defensive clamp-down from Victoria, which forced London into a star pass to Arocha, wasn’t about to bust London’s points buffer. When the final jam featured a massive backwards drawn-out recycle on Swish, Victoria’s eventual lead jammer claim wouldn’t save the game for them. At the ultimate game whistle, London had claimed a second game in the tournament, with a score of 173-142 for them. They also earned the right to make #BEES happen once again, meeting Gotham at 8.30pm CDT tonight.