WFTDA D1 Preview: Tucson

WFTDA D1 Preview: Tucson Photo credit Danny Ngan. Prints and high-resolution downloads are available for purchase at http://photography.dannyngan.com/thebigo2015.

With both Division 2 playoff tournaments now in the bag, and the top contenders have earned their spot in St. Paul, MN for Championships, it’s time to turn our collective minds towards the Division 1 teams gathering in Tucson, AZ. This is the first of  the four weekend tournaments through October 4th, and from each D1 playoff the top three teams make it to Minnesota in November.

In this tournament, eyes will likely be on the first of the teams from outside the United States currently ranked in the top twelve by the WFTDA – 1st tournament seed, and 3rd-ranked, Victoria. 2nd seeded Bay Area will also be one to watch, as some would claim that movement from their#2 overall WFTDA ranking to current #6 might mean that their star is falling. In any case, with only the top three making it through to Champs, as per usual the most hard-fought game may well be the 3rd placer on Sunday at 4pm (MST). Otherwise it could be any of the games for teams on the rise and fall this long weekend, as they try to make a statement on the track when it matters most.

Read up on how each team has done so far this season, and then catch all the match-ups this weekend on WFTDA.tv. You can also listen to Episode 6 of Derbyface to hear Winter, Nox, and Deadwards make picks for this weekend’s bracket.

Game 1: #7 Terminal City Rollergirls vs. #10 Tri-City Roller Derby

Honey Badger and Tri-City at Spring Roll. Photo by Derby With Recess.

Honey Badger and Tri-City at Spring Roll. Photo by Derby With Recess.

The battle of the two Canadians will actually be the first time that the two teams meet. Despite sharing a nationality, WFTDA ranked #27 Terminal City and #40 Tri-City have never actually played before, which means that although earlier this year Terminal beat previous unbeaten Canadian top team Montreal by a narrow 5 point margin, the actuality of the difference between these two teams remains to be tested.

Although, perhaps the common experience of playing Montreal might be a good tester on this game – last year in Salt Lake City, the New Skids defeated Tri-City with a crushing 366-145 blow. Of course, the fact that a large chunk of the charter team for Montreal retired before they met Terminal this year, may not be completely telling.

Terminal City vs. Rose City at Hometown Throwdown. Photo by Regularman Photography.

Terminal City vs. Rose City at Hometown Throwdown. Photo by Regularman Photography.

So anticipate almost anything in this match-up, although a seedings upset seems less likely. If Terminal’s track record means anything, we’re likely to see strong single-player offensive strikes, and strategic lone wolfing on the track, with hard-pushing jammers and some repeated star passes. Tri-City proved themselves rapid learners last year in their playoffs, pushing back with some key responses after the half-time in their game against Montreal, which means the second half of this game may be extra exciting.

Terminal City and Tri-City will take each other first thing Friday, and the winner will play again later that day at 4pm (MST) against the #2 seed, Bay Area.

Game 2: #8 Arizona Roller Derby vs. #9 Mad Rollin’ Dolls

Mad Rollin' Dolls vs. Santa Cruz at Midwest BrewHaHa. Photo by Derby With Recess.

Mad Rollin’ Dolls vs. Santa Cruz at Midwest BrewHaHa. Photo by Derby With Recess.

While a lot has happened since that fateful year of all the transfers in and out of Arizona, the team themselves hasn’t seen consistent play throughout the last season. In fact, a huge loss by close to 350 points in April against fellow tournament team, #3 seeded Arch Rival, makes it clear that the difference between the #8 seed and the others in the higher end of the seedings might be larger than it seems.

While the #35 Mad Rollin’ Dolls come in at 9th seed into this tournament, below #31 Arizona’s 8th seeding, Flat Track Stats’ prediction for play gives a hugely solid 81% chance of the win to the Dolls, which will likely make for a fascinating game with two teams with something to prove pitted against one another. The Dolls might also have been around a long time in WFTDA play, but they’re a team determined to be on the rise, and hungry to meet Victoria to see what the Australians have in store for them.

Arizona vs. Demolition City at Skate To Thrill. Photo by Jeff Higgins.

Arizona vs. Demolition City at Skate To Thrill. Photo by Jeff Higgins.

Arizona and Mad Rollin’ meet Friday at Noon (PDT), with the winner moving on to go against the #1 seed Victoria at 6pm (MST).

Game 3: #3 Arch Rival Roller Girls vs. #6 Team United Roller Derby

For a team new to the WFTDA, #22 Team United has years of talent that helped get them to Tucson, but are lacking the tournament experience which could end up being their downfall. #11 Arch Rival has been on a steady rise this season, and come in at their highest seed ever. For an in depth preview of Arch Rival versus Team United, and how things played out the last time they met up, check out the special feature, Road to Playoffs: Arch Rival v. Team United.

Photo by Bob Dunnell - www.mrmcwheely.com

Photo by Bob Dunnell.

Arch Rival and Team United will play Friday at 2pm (MST), with the winner moving onto the semi-final round Saturday at 2pm (MST).

Game 4: #2 B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls vs. Winner of Game 1

This season, Bay Area watched their top 5 WFTDA ranking slip away and above all else, this has been a rebuilding year for them. With Nock Nock, Bricktator, and Chantilly Mace gone from their jammer rotation, Bay Area has struggled to make their offense work. On the defensive end, Bay Area also has newer members to the team. With so many new pieces, many of whom are transfers, it took Bay Area nearly all season long to mesh and resemble the Bay Area we’ve seen from past seasons.

Though Bay Area lost twice at Golden Bowl, it was clear in the game against Texas that Bay Area has made significant strides since the start of the season.  At Golden Bowl, Bay Area took Angel City for granted, and Angel City responded strongly, beating the Golden Girls, 135-123.

Dual Hitizen transferred to Bay Area this season. Photo by Donalee Eiri - Photography by D.E.sign.

Dual Hitizen transferred to Bay Area this season. Photo by Donalee Eiri – Photography by D.E.sign.

Against Texas, Bay Area looked more like themselves than in the previous game. BAD started the game with a small lead, before Texas promptly overtook them. Though solid defense and stepping up at key points, Bay Area was able to tie the game, before falling behind once again at the half. The last 5 minutes of the game went back and forth, as Bay Area crept closer to Texas’ lead. Texas outlasted B.A.D. however, 157-144.

While Bay Area struggled all season long to put points on the board, the team does seem to have solidified since the beginning of the season at The Big O and Hometown Throwdown.

This matchup will be Friday at 4pm (MST), with the winner moving on to Saturday at 2pm (MST), against the winner of Arch Rival and Team United.

Game 5: #1 Victorian Roller Derby League vs. Winner of Game 2

Victoria won’t be the first non-US team to play in this tournament, but they will be the only one outside of North America, and the first International team from the top twelve of the WFTDA rankings.

Since of course only the top twelve D1 teams (the top three from every D1 playoff tournament), make it on to Championships each year, the Australians resting currently at the #1 tournament seed, and #3-ranked position makes them seem like an easy shoe-in for one of those top three spots. In fact, with #2 seed Bay Area ranked at 3 spots below them, at #6 WFTDA (or #9 according to Flat Track Stats), and no losses yet this year, the really interesting thing about Victoria’s play at this tournament will likely be how to understand what their strategy means for their chances through Championships play, not whether they’re likely to make it.

Photo credit Danny Ngan. Prints and high-resolution downloads are available for purchase at http://photography.dannyngan.com/thebigo2015.

Photo credit Danny Ngan.
Prints and high-resolution downloads are available for purchase at photography.dannyngan.com/thebigo2015.

While the Australians have gained and lost teammates across the time period since last end of season play, including such game stalwarts as Calamity Maim, it doesn’t seem to have dented their rise through the rankings, and climb toward the potential final Championship game. Anticipate new faces, like Bone Shaker who is formerly of Adelaide Roller Derby, and Lorrae Evans who is back in Australia from London.

Their game against the winner of Arizona and Mad Rollin’ Dolls (the 8th and 9th tournament seeds) isn’t likely to be a hefty fight, but it will be worth watching nonetheless as the first States-wise glimpse of the Antipodeans’ play this half of 2015. We will see what their opponents will push them to display, tactics-wise.

They take on the winner of Game 2, Friday at 6pm (MST). If they take that game, they’ll move on to 8pm (MST) Saturday against the winner of game 6, Rocky versus Charm.

Game 6: #4 Rocky Mountain Rollergirls vs. #5 Charm City Roller Girls

Charm City vs. Windy City at ECDX. Photo by Joe Mac.

Charm City vs. Windy City at ECDX. Photo by Joe Macf.

The last time Charm met Rocky was at the 2014 WFTDA D1 Playoffs, where Rocky Mountain won, 183-156. This time around, according to Flat Track Stats, Rocky Mountain is once again heavily favored to win against Charm City with an expected point ratio of 15 to 7.

Rocky Mountain, currently 15th in the WFTDA, created an extremely challenging schedule for themselves this season. Rocky took on the 6 top 10 teams this year including London, Angel City, and Texas at PAC Destruction as well as Denver at Besterns and hosting Gotham in May. Despite losing by at least 100 points to all top 10 teams, Rocky Mountain has shown steady growth and determination. At Besterns, Rocky had more success, defeating Rat City, Wasatch, and Terminal City. Rocky also conquered Team United earlier in the season, in an unsanctioned Strength Factor Challenge game, which will play into Rocky’s favor if they happen to meet again in a battle for 3rd place.

At East Coast Derby Extravaganza, Charm City took on Windy successfully, and fell to Stockholm by just 63. At the start of the season, Charm City took on Philly Roller Derby and lost by a margin of 51 points—an improvement for Charm since the 2014 season. However, when Philly and Charm played each other in August for a WFTDA sanctioned game, Philly defeated them by 178—holding Charm to only 88 points. Whether this speaks more to Philly’s improvement or Charm’s decline is yet to be seen.

Sharon Tacos of Rocky Mountain at Besterns. Photo by Donalee Eiri - Photography by D.E.sign.

Sharon Tacos of Rocky Mountain at Besterns. Photo by Donalee Eiri – Photography by D.E.sign.

Rocky Mountain versus Charm City will be also be interesting, as Susy Pow just recently moved and transferred to the 5280 Fight Club from Charm, taking away part of their jammer power. We’ll see how Charm City has filled in since her departure, and how it will affect them this weekend.

This final Friday night game will start at 8pm (MST) with the winner moving on to a semi-final game against the winner of Game 5, Victoria versus Winner of Game 2.

This weekend Derby Central will be on site and reporting from home to help keep you up to date on tournament scores and recaps, so be sure to follow our Tucson Central page.

Follow the action and antics on our Twitter @CentralDerby, our Instagram @DerbyCentral and on Facebook.

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