The Big O Preview: Part 1 WFTDA

The Big O Preview: Part 1 WFTDA Texas vs Victoria from 2015 Champs. Photo by Danforth Johnson. facebook.com/danforth.johnson

Hosting the Big O since 2012, Emerald City Roller Derby has put together perhaps the most exciting lineup yet, with 7 of the top 10 WFTDA leagues attending, 4 different countries, MRDA leagues, Junior leagues, and expo bouts by both the women’s and men’s USA national teams. This will also be the first look at most of the teams attending, and with a list of skaters from around the world either retiring or moving between teams, there are some revised rosters that will be tested this weekend.

This WFTDA Recognized Tournament will not only air on WFTDA.tv, but 2 games on Saturday night will be broadcast on ESPN3, like the final day of WFTDA Championships was last fall. Check back to our Big O Central page (coming soon) for scores, recaps, and more. Follow us on Twitter (@CentralDerby) and Instagram (@DerbyCentral) for updates as the weekend progresses as well.

The Big O spans 3 days, from April into May, so that means some WFTDA teams may have a different ranking between Saturday and Sunday. Any rankings we mention over the course of the tournament this weekend will be from the March 31st, 2016 WFTDA Rankings, but we will also mention some rankings given by Flat Track Stats (FTS) as they may be more accurate as this month comes to an end.

#2 Victorian Roller Derby League (FTS #2)

From Melbourne, Australia, Victoria took 1st place at WFTDA Playoffs in Tucson last fall, and their own jammer, Christy Demons, took tournament MVP after scoring 361 points over three games. They went their furthest yet at Championships in 2015 by taking 3rd place, and are able to claim that title as the first non-U.S. team to medal at Champs. Their final 122-99 win against London wasn’t their most exciting game that weekend however, but it was their 2-point loss, and near victory, against Gotham that was most impressive.

Their suffocating defense and persistent jammers have earned them the spot just below Gotham at #2 in the rankings, and history has shown them getting stronger and stronger every season. Despite losing Tui Lyon to Angel City, Victoria did gain Shaina Serelson from Rose City, who should fit into their cube-style blocking quite nicely. It appears that Mick Swagger has dropped her coaching position and has picked up skating again with VRDL (formerly skating with Gotham and Rose). Swish Cariboom made 2015 her last season on the track, cutting one jammer from their rotation, but we saw great things from Bonnie Wyckman (aka Mary Fagdalene) at Champs.

Last year at the Big O, Victoria swept all 3 of their games against Texas, Bay Area, and Denver, as well as a bonus game against Atlanta. This year they will take their incredible positional blocking and precision offense against #9 Bay Area, #5 Texas (both on Friday), #4 Rose City, and #7 Angel City. Saturday’s game against Rose City will not only help reveal whether or not VRDL’s higher ranking holds true, but it will be shown on ESPN3 at 4pm PDT.

#4 Rose City Rollers (FTS #3)

+ Axles of Annihilation

As the reigning 2015 Champions, the Rose City Wheels of Justice have been sitting at #4 in the rankings despite having possession of the Hydra. So all things considered, they still have a lot of work ahead of them if they want to take it home again this fall. With 2-time 2015 MVP Scald Eagle in their arsenal, Rose still has their main jammer rotation intact, with Loren Mutch and Jessica Rodriguez (aka Licker-N-Split) as well. They gained Tarantula from Philly Roller Derby, as well as a handful of skaters from Santa Cruz who have seemed to have made their way to Portland. As we mentioned above, Serelson has moved overseas, and Jamie True and Napolean Blownapart have reportedly taken a “wee little break this season“.

"Scald Swanson" takes on Loren Mutch during the White vs. Purple Rose game. Photo credit: Regularman Photography.

“Scald Swanson” takes on Loren Mutch during the White vs. Purple Rose game. Photo credit: Regularman Photography.

Rose City’s last sanctioned game was when they defeated Gotham at Champs with a 1-2 punch of defense and offense in pairs, a risky yet effective move against the likes of Bonnie Thunders. The only game the Wheels of Justice have played this season was against themselves in a White vs Purple game, which clearly proved the consistency of their roster. At the half they were tied at 70, and by the end purple won by 1 point.

Their toughest matchup this weekend will likely be against Victoria who they haven’t played since October of 2014 at D1 playoffs, with Rose winning 236-96. In comparing their recent game histories, VRDL has performed a bit better on paper. Rose City may have beat Gotham, and by 11 points, but Victoria held the lead over Gotham for a majority of their game while Rose saw 10 lead changes and was down as much as 40 points. Rose beat London by 12 points at Champs, but Victoria took them by 23. Rose took Texas down by 34 points at playoffs, but VRDL beat them by 96 at Champs. They do play entirely different games however; Rose will take strategic risks which are punctuated by big scoring jams, while Victoria plays a persistent, strong game built on cohesion.

#5 Texas Rollergirls (FTS #9)

+ Firing Squad

The Texecutioners have been a bit of a wild card the past few years, with injuries and roster changes that have kept them working hard to stay in the top 10. They no-doubtedly have a talented core that we will see again this season, but their 2016 charter is missing FiFi Nomenon, Shortcut, and Sarah Hipel (although she did mostly bench coach last season), while gaining Kill Ems who has spent time blocking on both Windy City and the Outfit. Losing a versatile skater in Fifi, Freight Train proved her strengths both as a blocker and jammer last season, and scored 48 points against Victoria at Champs.

Texas took 2nd at the D1 Playoffs in Dallas, and was nearly knocked out of Champs in the first round with a tough game against Minnesota and their home crowd. Last year this time, they went 0-3 at the Big O, losing to Denver, Victoria, and Rose City. This time around they are taking on 4 teams with two on Friday, including a rematch against Victoria, and will also be featured on ESPN3 when they take on #7 Angel City on Saturday at 6pm PDT. Taking on teams ranked 2-13, it will give a good idea of where the Texies are at this season, but as they showed last year, they may not hit their groove until later in the season.

With such a long weekend, Texas’s range of talent in their roster may help keep them fresh, but their focus on defense in the past may leave their jammers tired. Offense will be key in a game against VRDL, and we’ll see how they fair with new coaches Dilla and Just Carol (formerly a skater with Charm City). Their first game will be on Friday against #13 Rat City at 2pm PDT.

#7 Angel City Derby Girls (FTS #5)

+ Rocket Queens

Angel City’s final game at Champs was a close one against the London Rollergirls, as it came down to the final few minutes of the game before it was decided by some late jammer penalties by ACDG. Notorious cross-trainers, Angel City has gotten stronger on and off the track over the past few years, and have proven to be talented top-10 contenders. At Playoffs they did struggle to put up points against #1 Gotham, but were able to keep up an average of 42% in picking up lead jammer status. They will face #2 Victoria this weekend, which will give us a look at their game at that level of play.

The Hollywood Scarlets play a strong, aggressive game in the pack, while jammers such as Satan’s Little Helper and Chica Go Lightning utilize tricky footwork. Their jammer bench sticks to a strong rotation of 4, but they did put Darby Dagger on the line for a few jams last tournament season. Their only game so far this year was a Strength Factor Challenge game for Cherry City, which Angel City shut them out with a score of 614-0. A highlight reel from that game also shows Stormy Heather getting some experience in the star as well.

This will be ACDG’s first time at the Big O, and their blockers will be re-enforced this season with Tui Lyon from VRDL, and the insider knowledge she brought with her. With an average of 43 total penalties from both Playoffs and Champs, the Scarlets will need to keep their fouls in check as they face the #2, #5, and #8 teams this weekend. Their first game will be against #8 Denver at 4pm PDT on Friday, and Angel City will be one of the four teams to be shown on ESPN3 on Saturday when they play #5 Texas.

#8 Denver Roller Derby (FTS #10)

+ Bruising Altitude

The Denver Mile High Club has absorbed many talented skaters over the years, but this year it seems like numerous skaters are making the move to DRD. Their roster shows transfers Canibelle Corpse from Arizona, Reptar (A.P. Leasure) from Kansas City, and Sharon Tacos, Susy Pow, and Phantom Menace from Rocky Mountain. On the other hand it is lacking Dezellem, who is now with Pikes Peak, Quigley who has moved to Portland, as well as Salvador, Lorch, Lester, Dew, and Bucsek. With all of that in mind, it’s hard to say exactly what kind of Denver team we will see this weekend.

Denver vs Bay Area at 2015 Champs. Photo by Donna Olmstead Photography.

Denver vs Bay Area at 2015 Champs. Photo credit: Donna Olmstead Photography.

In the past it has been their debilitating Denver defense that has annihilated their competition, but it struggled against Jacksonville’s speedy jammers at D1 Playoffs last fall. Denver was left to fight for their spot at Champs after losing to New Jax City by 30 points, but they sealed the deal by placing 3rd against Atlanta. They were taken out in the first round at Champs however, where they came against their long time rival Bay Area. In fact, it’s been three years in a row that BAD has eliminated them at WFTDA Championships and the two have a split 6-6 history between them (from my count), making their matchup on Saturday even more exciting.

Their toughest fight will likely be against #4 Rose City, who they lost to last year at Hometown Throwdown by 89 points. Your first chance to see if they have put in enough #werk leading up to this weekend will come on Friday against #7 Angel City at 4pm PDT.

#9 Bay Area Derby (FTS #6)

No longer “Girls”, Bay Area Derby is #stillBAD this year to reflect the diversity of their members and supporters. Not only are they making adjustments to their name, they may have to make some modifications on the track as well, after already having dealt with some turnover last year. Their 2016 roster is missing Amanda Jamitinya, Belle Right Hooks, Steely Jan, Dolly Rocket, LuLu Lockjaw, Kid Ace, and Fluezy who went back to her original league, the Undead Bettys. Also affecting their blocking force, Demanda Riot had a nasty ankle break earlier this year at the Jantastic Invitational.

Going 2-1 last year at the Big O, Bay Area was focused on a rigid, walled defense and lacked offense for their newer jammer rotation. Over their Playoff and Champs games, different jammers were effective against different opponents, although Skrappie was more consistent at scoring the most points for Bay Area. By Champs, they did seem to offer more offense for their jammers which helped them beat Denver by 31 points after losing to them by 24 at Hometown Throwdown in June. However, with veteran Lulu leaving this year, there are some big skates to fill in the jammer lineup this year.

Their hardest opponent will likely be their first one on Friday at 12pm PDT. It will be against #2 Victoria, who they just saw in Tucson and lost to by 44 points, and that will be a game where offense will be key. Saturday they will face #5 Texas, who they last played at the Golden Bowl last year and who BAD lost to by just 13 points. Lastly they take on their Bestern foe, #8 Denver who will be looking to avenge their most recent loss.

#10 Arch Rival Roller Derby (FTS #11)

Arch Rival is another team to change their name between seasons, and while dropping the “G” and adding the “D” they go by ARCH instead of ARRG (which may clear up some confusion with Auld Reekie Roller Girls also attending this weekend). 2016 was Arch Rival’s year, finally making it to WFTDA Championships and nearly squeaking out a win over Jacksonville on the first day, but losing by 8 points. They haven’t played since that game, so this week will be a good check-in on their progress and if it is still on the upward trend.

They have had a bit of change in their roster, with Brickyard moving North to the Minnesota Rollergirls, their Sunday opponent, and losing Mighty Mighty Boston, Mayer Francis Slaye, and Rinehart to retirement. However, the Midwest derby gods did give ARCH Smarty McFly back after she spent a couple seasons in Chicago. They had a deep, 5-jammer rotation last season, but Brickyard and Boston were two big point scorers. They did also gain another skater in the star with Psychokid D Freakout, a transfer from St. Chux.

Their aggressive and quick-recycling defense helped them take a win over Minnesota at Midwest Brewhaha last Spring, 169-133, and they will face each other again on Sunday at 6:30pm PDT. Otherwise they have never been to the Big O, and haven’t taken on either #26 Terminal City or #13 Rat City. Terminal will be their first game first thing on Friday at 10am PDT.

#12 Minnesota Rollergirls (FTS #8)

Minnesota vs Rocky Mountain, April 9th. Photo by Preflash Gordon.

Minnesota vs Rocky Mountain, April 9th. Photo credit: Preflash Gordon.

The Minnesota Rollergirls may have won the hearts of skaters and fans last year by hosting WFTDA Championships, but they will have to drop the “Minnesota Nice” this weekend. They will not only face a surging #10 Arch Rival team, but will take the track against the reigning WFTDA Champs, #4 Rose City. They have hit the track already this year, beating #16 Rocky Mountain 334-42, but MNRG was also facing a very different Rocky team.

Since they were hosting the Champs tournament, they got the benefit of a loud and rambunctious crowd to back them up when they took on Texas. Holding the lead over the Texans for the whole first half, they kept it tight for the remainder of the game, but some issues in clock management contributed to their 12-point loss. Their strong, rotating and braced defense was what made the game so close.

Losing Fannie Tanner to retirement (and fighting fires, we’ll just call it refirement), and gaining Brickyard from ARCH, their scoring power should look fairly similar this year. Rookie jammer Jacked Pipes showed off her skills last year, and hopefully learned to keep those forearms to herself, and they still have utility skater and Team USA member, Second Hand Smoke. Bringing the Winter to the Northwest, Minnesota will face #4 Rose City first on Friday at 2:30pm PDT.

#13 Rat City Rollergirls (FTS #13)

Rat City missed out on WFTDA Championships in 2014, but they returned last year when they beat out Philly at Playoffs in Dallas by 24 points. That set them up with an explosive match up with Angel City at Champs, which also featured a sisterly rivalry. Missing from last year’s lineup is K. Beezy, Sami Automatic, Leanne Evans, and jammer Sintripetal Force. Transferring from Chicago Outfit, Rat City did pick up Lady K, a powerful blocker who should fit right in, and Eva Derci, a jammer from Jet City.

Rat City starts the weekend against #5 Texas with a 2pm PDT game on Friday, and they haven’t seen Texas since 2012, where Rat won 207-154. Then they will play both their other two games on Saturday, first taking on #10 Arch Rival, and then they will meet up with #29 Helsinki again, after playing them twice last year before the Finnish team attended the Big O.

Check out Part 2 of our WFTDA Preview with 8 more teams, and Muckety Muck will have a review of the 9 MRDA teams that will be attending. On top of that there will be some B-teams and Junior teams playing throughout the weekend. With three tracks and 53 games, check back to our Big O Central (coming soon) for scores and updates.

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