WFTDA D2 Preview: Cleveland

WFTDA D2 Preview: Cleveland Photo by Quick N Derby. quicknderby.com

The 2015 WFTDA Tournaments kick off this weekend in Cleveland, Ohio with one of the two Division 2 brackets. Division 2 play ahead looks a lot different this season, as lots of movement in the rankings has displaced many long time top 40 teams into D2s, and others out of tournaments altogether. Six of the participating teams this weekend played in a D1 bracket last year, making this year’s D2 tournament season one packed with experience.

Catch the action live on WFTDA.tv or follow our social media all weekend long for scores and recaps.

Game 1: #7 St. Chux Derby Chix vs. #10 Brandywine Roller Girls

St. Chux blockers hang onto a Naptown jammer at Skate to Thrill. Photo by Jeff Higgins.

St. Chux blockers hang onto a Naptown jammer at Skate to Thrill. Photo by Jeff Higgins.

The first game of the weekend could also be the first upset of the tournament, especially if Flat Track Stat’s prediction is correct.

St. Chux had an impressive season last year, which almost landed them in D1 playoffs by June, but this year has been a different story, as they are now ranked at #54 in WFTDA. With a few skaters leaving and a major injury in their jammer rotation, they have been rebuilding the team, as their 2-8 sanctioned record indicates. #62 Brandywine has won 7 sanctioned games in 2015, while losing 3, but took on quite a different range of teams.

St. Chux’s Pack in Black definitely put the work in this year, going to Arizona for How the West Was Won, and hosting their own invitational, Skate to Thrill, while playing teams closely ranked to them. Their downfall, rankings-wise, was playing a few lower-ranked teams on the rise, namely Calgary and Tiger Bay, and by losing to teams they were more competitive with in the past. They do have some soul-crushing blockers returning this season, such as Whip L’Ash and Pixie Dust-ruction, but may be lacking the deadly pack cohesion they had in the past.

Brandywine vs. Ithaca. Photo by Andrew Keyes Photography.

Brandywine vs. Ithaca. Photo by Andrew Keyes Photography.

The Brandywine Belligerents got a boost when they played a falling DC Rollergirls in April, a #77 vs. #56 matchup, benefiting Brandywine with a 14-point win. Otherwise Brandywine mostly played lower-ranked teams, beefing up their win column, and supplemented that with a respectable loss against Steel City in May, 202-106. Brandywine made their first trip to playoffs last year, and despite only playing with 11 skaters, they finished 8th after entering the tournament with the #10 seed. The main core of skaters from last year remain on their roster, but we will see if they bring more than a dozen this time around.

The winner of this game will play a second game Friday at 4pm (EDT) against the #2 seed, Kansas City.

Game 2: #8 Jet City Rollergirls vs. #9 Oklahoma Victory Dolls

Whoa Nellie! returns this year as a jammer this year for Jet City. Photo by Tyler Shaw.

Whoa Nellie! returns this year as a jammer this year for Jet City. Photo by Tyler Shaw.

These two teams both played in the bottom of a Division 1 tournament last year, and find themselves working uphill in a D2 bracket this year.

It’s hard to know what to expect from WFTDA #57-ranked Jet City who only played four sanctioned games since last Fall’s playoffs, and lost all of them. Granted, they played Oly and Rat City, but it’s hard to get a more full picture of the one-time D2 champion team.

#58 Oklahoma, on the other hand, played 9 games, winning 6 of them, while their team is in a transition this year.

Jet City went all the way to D2 Champs in 2013, taking gold by 1 single point over Santa Cruz, which then pushed them into D1 playoffs this past season. They had a slow start after their flight got delayed and they were forced to play their first game on very little rest, and ultimately finished 9th in the 2014 Charleston tournament. Their regular season games this year resulted in a losing record, including an upset at the hands of Emerald City who was ranked 31 places lower at the time, and beat them by 76 points. Their most recent game was a 257-91 loss to #16 Rat City, which isn’t a bad outcome for the difference in rankings.

Each year the top 60 teams get more and more competitive, and Jet City says they’re just excited to be a part of it. “This June our score in the WFTDA rankings is a 282 and we are ranked number 57; last June our score in the ranking was 271 and we were ranked # 30.  All the teams are getting stronger and better.”

OKVD was on the wrong side of two close losses at last year's D1 WFTDA Playoffs. Photo by Donna Olmstead Photography.

OKVD was on the wrong side of two close losses at last year’s D1 WFTDA Playoffs. Photo by Donna Olmstead Photography.

The Oklahoma Victory Dolls participated in the Clover Cup this year and finished with a 1-2 record, only beating Northwest Arkansas. A majority of the rest of their season was against lower-ranked teams, but InstaSLAM of OKVD emphasized that despite some changes to their All-Star charter, they’ve been working hard to adapt their blocking style and work on their mental game. “The biggest change this season is a merger with the Oklahoma City Outlaws Roller Derby league. This brought in a lot of fresh new talent and we’ve been thrilled to work together to enhance roller derby in the state of Oklahoma.”

The Victory Dolls prepared for their first matchup with Jet City by watching a lot of footage, but if the Bombers can advance to a second game on Friday, they will relive their 2013 game with Santa Cruz because the winner will play them at 6pm (EDT) for a chance to move on to the semi-finals.

Game 3: #3 Columbia QuadSquad vs. #6 Houston Roller Derby

Columbia QuadSquad swept all three games at their Southern Discomfort invitational this year. Photo by Ken LeBleu - Jammertime.

Columbia QuadSquad swept all three games at their Southern Discomfort invitational this year. Photo by Ken LeBleu – Jammertime.

D2 is already a highly competitive Division to be in, but it looks like the #3 seed and #6 seed game will be as exciting as the #4 and #5 game usually is. On Flat Track Stats, Columbia is only ranked one spot higher than Houston, whereas they are #46 and #53 respectively in the WFTDA rankings. The QuadSquad’s higher positioning may be in part due to all their games except one this year involving a team ranked below them. Houston took on the season a little more aggressively, placing 3rd at the Clover Cup and going 2-1 at BrewHaHa, as well as taking on Detroit and Tampa.

Both these teams also attended a D1 tournament last year, and finished in the lower end of their bracket, so they will be fighting to finish higher this year.

Columbia kept 2015 kind of light, playing half of their games at their own invitational, Southern Discomfort. They finished 3-0 while ranked 40 at the time, against then-ranked #54 Killamazoo, #77 Brandywine, and #74 Green Mountain. In July they did take on #29 Steel City and only lost by 35 points in a low scoring 135-100 game.

Houston gets their jammer out against Santa Cruz at Midwest BrewHaHa. Photo by Joe Mac.

Houston gets their jammer out against Santa Cruz at Midwest BrewHaHa. Photo by Joe Mac.

After struggling a bit at playoffs last year, and losing Freight Train to Texas this year, Houston has shown this season that they will not go down without a fight. Their record for 2015 is 6-3, with losses only coming from teams ranked above them. If they can surpass Columbia in their first matchup, they will take on Kansas City, a team they already beat at Clover Cup this year. If they can make it to the Championship game, they could potentially face Santa Cruz, who they lost to but just by 30 points at BrewHaHa, giving them a good possibility of making it out in the top of the bracket.

The winner of this matchup will take on the winner of the Game 4 on Saturday at 8pm (EDT).

 

Game 4: #2 Kansas City Roller Warriors vs. Winner of Game 1

Kansas City is another former D1 team attending Divsion 2 tournaments this season, and they’re entering in the top of the bracket ranked #45 in WFTDA. Turnover since 2012 has seen them drop slowly in the rankings, so each time around has seen a bit of rebuilding for the Road Warrriors.

A junior program and transfers from a local MADE team and other WFTDA leagues has helped get new talent in however. “So much of what we’ve experienced is the need to keep a core group of leaders who can help groom the talent we have. We also had an incredibly tough 2014 season.” Mary Lou Wretched explained that some of their rankings drop was due to especially tough match-ups like Gotham and Rose City last year.

Kansas City lost in a nail-biter against Toronto at Spring Roll. Photo by Derby With Recess.

Kansas City lost in a nail-biter against Toronto at Spring Roll. Photo by Derby With Recess.

This year most of their games were played at big weekend events, placing 4th at Clover Cup and winning 2 of their 3 games at Spring Roll; their one loss being to Toronto by 3 points. Kansas City hasn’t taken on either of their potential first round competitors before, despite living just five hours away from St. Chux. Mary Lou says they’re preparing by eliminating distractions and working on their game.

Anticipating closer match-ups in this year’s tournament, Kansas City has been approaching this weekend with the desire to go all the way to St. Paul in November. They told us “This season, we’ve really focused on playing together as a team and relying on every individual.” Kansas City is one of five teams who have taken 1st place in WFTDA Championships, when they took it all in 2007.

If they win this game, they will move on to the semi final on Saturday at 8pm (EDT) against the winner of Game 3. KCRW is in a good position to exit this weekend in 1st or 2nd, which would mean a trip to Champs to play for the Division 2 Cup.

Game 5: #1 Santa Cruz Derby Girls vs. Winner of Game 2

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk Bombshells have had a hard, yet successful season which helped them enter Cleveland ranked #42 in WFTDA, earning them the #1 seed for the weekend. They finished in 7th place last year after going 2-2 at the D1 tournament in Sacramento. The year before however, they went all the way to D2 Champs and just missed out on first place by 1 point.

Santa Cruz took on Angel City at Tinseltown Showdown. Photo by Donalee Eiri - Photography by D.E.sign.

Santa Cruz took on Angel City at Tinseltown Showdown. Photo by Donalee Eiri – Photography by D.E.sign.

As a middle ground team, they put in the work this year by attending two invitationals and taking on London who was in the region for Pac Destruction in June. They won all their games except two, which were against top ten teams Brawling and Angel City. At Tinseltown, they showed off how they can hang on under pressure with a 2 point win over Sacred and a 10 point win against Arizona. BrewHaHa highlighted their strengths as they beat the higher ranked Steel City and Madison.

Shamrock N. Roller, Hell Louise, CoraZone, and Queen Litigious are the only skaters who remain from the 2013 team that placed 2nd overall in D2, but they could replay that game if Jet City beats Oklahoma earlier in the day. If the Bombshells win their first game, they will move on to a semi-final game at 2pm on Saturday against the winner of Game 6.

Game 6: #4 Treasure Valley Roller Derby vs. #5 Demolition City Roller Derby

Aralia Spine and Scarlet Danger make a deadly duo on Treasure Valley. Photo by Wes Bailey.

Aralia Spine and Scarlet Danger make a deadly duo on Treasure Valley. Photo by Wes Bailey.

The last game on Friday will be between the WFTDA #49 and #50 -ranked teams, which looks like it should be a close match-up. Both teams have vicious blockers who can work well on their own or cohesively with the pack. These two were in Division 2 tournaments last year, with Treasure Valley placing 5th, and Demolition City leaving 8th after a first round upset by Bear City by one point.

Treasure Valley’s season has seemed a little bit inconsistent, having beat the Oly Rollers by 15 points in May, but losing to Brewcity at BrewHaHa in June. Sinister Kate says their teamwork and communication helped them with their victories, but penalties got the best of them at BrewHaHa.

“We learned a lot from those games, specifically how to overcome so many penalties happening at once, playing short, etc.” At that event they also only beat then #73 North Star by 21 points, but was lacking some jammer power with Dawn of the Shred sitting out with an injury. If they still contain some of the last minute winning power they had in their playoff debut in 2013, they could go end up with a good placing this weekend.

Bambi ThumpHer of Demolition City. Photo by Jeff Higgins.

Bambi ThumpHer of Demolition City. Photo by Jeff Higgins.

Demolition City’s Dyamite Dolls have had their share of close games in the past year, but also held their own against higher ranked teams such as Detroit and Ohio. At Skate to Thrill, they lost two games before beating the hosts St. Chux by 66 points. Marion A Matrix sees their success this year as a reaction to last season after they struggled with adapting to their competition. “Now I feel like we analyze our own game play better and look at what our opponents are bringing and are starting to capitalize on their weakness instead of playing to our strengths.”

Demolition City will have fewer competitors to analyze, as it seems that Treasure Valley is only bringing 15 skaters to Cleveland, although they have played with a short roster for the past three seasons, so this is nothing new for them. Whoever can take this Friday evening game will play Saturday at 2pm against the winner of Game 5.

Also check out the new podcast, Derbyface, to hear a quick weekend preview by Deadwards on Episode 4.

Keep coming back to our Cleveland Central page for scores and recaps from the weekend. Follow us on Twitter for scores, our Instagram for fun shots, or our Facebook for everything you need to know.

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