2016 WFTDA D1 Playoffs: Columbia Preview

2016 WFTDA D1 Playoffs: Columbia Preview Photo credit: Regularman Photography.

The first weekend of Division 1 Playoffs in Montréal has set the bar high for the remaining D1 tournaments, and this coming weekend in Columbia looks like it will follow suit. Nearly half the games last weekend were won by an average of ten points, and five of the games were seeding upsets, which gives us a lot to look forward to.

This will be the post season debut for Rainy City and Ann Arbor, as they hit WFTDA playoffs for the first time, and the 2015 WFTDA Champs Rose City Rollers will top off the bracket. The top three finishers from this weekend will join London, Texas, and Montreal in Portland this November.

Game 1: #7 Rainy City vs #10 Steel City

The first game will be between a team new to post season play (Rainy City), and a team well experienced in WFTDA tournaments (Steel City). Rainy City’s arrival at Playoffs came after a huge jump in their rankings, while Steel City has slowly fallen to the bottom edge of Division 1.

Tournaments so far have already shown that new teams have either thrived over the weekend, or quickly revealed their weak spots while on the big stage for the first time. Whichever way it goes, the winner will take on the #2 seed Jacksonville the same day at 4pm EDT.

From Manchester, England, Rainy City’s five sanctioned games in 2016 earned them their Playoff debut this weekend. In particular, the team’s Beach Brawl trip pushed them up a record 87 WFTDA rankings spots in one month. They had three wins by an average of nearly 300 points at the invitational, and their game against Newcastle – who had a higher strength factor due to a previous Strength Factor Challenge game – gave Rainy City a side-effect SFC boost.

This past weekend they also took on the London Brawl Saints and took away a 305-65 win which put them at #3 on the Flat Track Stats European rankings, under only London and Crime City.

With strong defensive pack work and awareness, Rainy City will be a strong contender in the D1 bracket this weekend. Slow, braced packs and quick recycling by Fay Roberts, Missy Rascal and this year’s transfer from Hot Wheels, Ruthless Philly, make it easy for their jammers to get out first, claiming lead. Following up with effective offense by breaking up and sitting on the pack, Rainy City will fit in well with high level D1 play. (Read more about Rainy City’s journey right here).

Steel City vs Charm City. Photo credit: Tyler Shaw.

Steel City vs Charm City. Photo credit: Tyler Shaw.

Steel City’s Steel Hurtin’ lost ‘Snot Rocket Science – a skater for Team USA, and one of Steel’s lead scorers – last year when she transferred to Jacksonville in time for this season. Also losing Rock Hard Candy from their jammer rotation, teammates River Kyx and Snarkolepsy have had to step into the point scoring role this year.

If you’ve been following along with WFTDA Playoffs on Twitter so far this season, you know that Steel City’s Coach Dad has plenty of strategic ideas in his pocket, especially in regards to time management. Anticipate more ahead.

Three of Steel City’s 6 wins were against Division 2 teams this year, which also included a narrow 4-point victory against Charlottesville, the 2nd Place finisher from D2 Playoffs in Lansing. One of their four losses was to the 3rd place finisher from the same D2 tournament, Charm City by 137 points. This is the lowest Steel City has entered a bracket since they first qualified in 2009, so this weekend will reveal if they’re on their way down or if their ranking has just suffered a bit as their roster acclimated to a few season changes.

 

Game 2: #8 Columbia vs #9 Ann Arbor

Columbia will not only be playing this weekend, but hosting the whole D1 tournament as well. They are no stranger to multi-tasking however, and among their nine wins and two losses this season, they both hosted and played at two events this year.

At March Badness the QuadSquad was the first team Demolition City played this season since placing 3rd at the 2015 D2 Championships and suffering massive turnover, and Columbia’s 342-point win against them bumped their rank up 17 spots to #27 and a D1 spot.

The QuadSquad took 9th in D2 Cleveland last year, but spent a few seasons playing in Division 1 brackets before that. With a mostly intact roster from last season, including top jammers Poison Violet and Do U Juana, they will be looking to solidify their return to D1. Their scoring power is backed up with braced three walls in the pack, and blockers like Chucktown Bruiser, who lives up to her name.

Ann Arbor vs Tri-City. Photo credit: Joe Mac.

Ann Arbor vs Tri-City. Photo credit: Joe Mac.

The Ann Arbor Brawlstars are the second team in this bracket who is new to Playoffs this year (read more about their journey here), and they made it all the way to Division 1 after just missing out on a spot at Division 2 last year. The one game they lost this season was to Ohio early in the year, by 104 points, but they have won 11 games since then, including three at Skate to Thrill.

The team’s wins over Calgary, Wasatch, and St. Chux, as well as their 288-point win over Demolition City bumped them up 14 spots in the April rankings to #46, and from there they rose into the top 40 by June 30th.

A majority of Ann Arbor’s jamming falls on duo Slamuel L. Jackson and Lezzie Arnaz, but they will unfortunately be missing jammer Fracture Mechanics this weekend, due to injury. Emma Pistol joined the Brawlstars from Killamazoo this year, and she joins Jackie O’Bashes and Michelle O’Bomb Ya in the pack who will no doubt display their braced triangular blocking skills.

Columbia and Ann Arbor have shared a few competitors this season, including Demolition City, who the QuadSquad took a greater win-margin over, while both teams took a 1-point win over Charlottesville as well. It could be a very close game.

After these #8 and #9 seeds battle it out at noon on Friday, one team will advance to take on the #1 seed Rose City that same evening at 8pm EDT.

 

Game 3: #3 Denver vs #6 Santa Cruz

At last year’s Playoffs, Denver got beat in a semi-final game against Jacksonville, by 30 points. The Mile High Club returns this year as the #3 seed, giving them real hope of making it through this time.

They’ve had a tough season with losses to four of the top ten teams, but did avenge their loss to New Jax City with a 14-point win against them in June. Denver’s rivalry with Bay Area continued at the Big O where BAD notched another win against the Mile High Club, but if Denver makes it out of the weekend in the top three, we already know that Bay Area won’t be standing in their way at Champs after not qualifying themselves.

While Denver’s roster has had many changes this season, it has retained skill with high level transfers, although seeming to have lost a little of their solid cohesion from the past. The team have a wide range of jammers to choose from, having inherited most of Rocky Mountain’s jammer rotation this season, as well as A.P. Leisure from Kansas City and Curtis (Abeata Applebum) from Big Easy. Wilhelm returns as the only main jammer from last season and the team still retain most of the blockers who make up their defensive force, like Tracy Akers. Winning this first game means that Denver would get another re-match with the Jacksonville Rollergirls to decide top placements.

Denver vs Bay Area at the Big O. Photo credit: Regularman Photography.

Denver vs Bay Area at the Big O. Photo credit: Regularman Photography.

Santa Cruz has a shorter Playoff history than Denver, but has had time in both Division 1 and Division 2 brackets, including finishing in 2nd place at the 2013 D2 Championships. The last time Santa Cruz was in a D1 bracket they entered as the 6th seed and finished 7th.

This year the Boardwalk Bombshells played all their sanctioned games at the Clover Cup, Big O, and Boardwalk Empire, and finished with a very respectable 7-3 record.

Even though Santa Cruz kept losing skaters to Rose City last season, they had a deep enough jammer bench to cover any gaps with TARAism, Roasted Pony, Skirt Vonna-Gut, and Queen Litigious are the fore of their jamming bench now.

Denver’s defense is infamously strong, but their last game against Rose City showed that they may be leaving the edges of the track a bit open, which Boardwalk jammers will need to take advantage of to push through this game. They’ve had plenty of experience playing upper level derby however, after taking on various Bay Area teams this season, and most recently losing to Team Gold by 28 points.

Even though Denver has fallen to the edge of the top ten, they still have a lot of scoring and defensive power to take up against Santa Cruz who has found themselves back above the #40 mark. The last time these two faced off was under the same circumstance in 2014, a first round D1 match up that went to the Mile High Club 260-48.

The winner of this game will get a semi-final game against the winner of Game 4; #2 seed Jacksonville against the winner of the first game.

Game 4: #2 Jacksonville vs Winner of Game 1

Jacksonville has been on a steady rise the past few years, and it all finally paid off for them last season with their first trip to WFTDA Championships. Now with a solid spot in the top ten, they enter this tournament with a #2 seed and a good chance at a return trip to Champs. With an already speedy jammer rotation in place, the team gained the high-scoring, apex jumping ‘Snot Rocket Science from Steel City, who has become a powerful pivot for New Jax City. She joins an already strong pack of blockers made up of Kat, Stephanie Gentz, and Legs R Us.

Jacksonville vs Denver at Sibling Rivalry. Photo credit: Mr. McWheely.

Jacksonville vs Denver at Sibling Rivalry. Photo credit: Mr. McWheely.

Although Jacksonville ousted Denver from the final game at Playoffs last season, Denver got back at them with a 14-point win at Sibling Rivalry, in June. Jacksonville went on to eliminate Arch Rival at Champs in St. Paul, and ARCH also avenged their loss by taking Jax down at the same invitational this year by a closer 3-point game. Just before Jacksonville went on that trip, however, they beat Minnesota, who is ranked just above them, 179-156.

Jacksonville has proved they can hang with the upper echelon of the bracket, so their final placement will likely come down to things like penalties and jam control with lead status, as so many games do.

Jacksonville’s first game opponent will either be #7 Rainy City or #10 Steel City, and a win will likely mean another face off with #3 Denver. If bracket seeding holds out, Jax could end up taking on the #1 seed, and last year’s WFTDA Champion, Rose City, who they’ve never played.

Game 5: #4 Atlanta vs #5 Crime City

Atlanta is entering Columbia as the #4 seed – a place they have gotten to know well throughout their Playoff history. They did make it to Championships in both 2012 and 2013, but have stiff competition in the top three seeded teams this year, and also have a European wild card in Crime City to face first.

Atlanta also attended Sibling Rivalry this season, and despite losing all three games, the team kept the margins small and only lost to Arch Rival by 28 points.

The Dirty South Derby Girls have retained most of their roster from last season, with notable changes being in Wild Cherri’s retirement, and gaining Blaque Jac from Tampa. Blaque Jac has helped reinforce an already tough defense of Queen Loseyateefa and the double threat that is Baller Shot Caller – who can take on blocking or jamming.

Crime City vs Stockholm at The European Smackdown. Photo credit: Marko Niemelä Photography.

Crime City vs Stockholm at The European Smackdown. Photo credit: Marko Niemelä Photography.

Crime City first made it to WFTDA Playoffs last season, when they entered 8th and finished 7th. They started the year at #25 in the WFTDA rankings but have hovered above #20 for the rest of the year with an almost perfect record.

In sanctioned play they only lost one game which was against Montreal at Mayday in Hel. At their own event, The European Smackdown, they also took an unsanctioned loss against London by by 213 points, and were the closest European team to come to Brawling this year.

This season Below Me joined Crime City, from Stockholm, and she has helped their rotating quad blocking formation stick to jammers and turn Crime City into one of the top European teams this year. They are without their top jammer from last Playoff season, Ankefar, but have retained Prince Sofia, Curly Håår, and Hanna P.

While Atlanta and Crime City have never played each other, the winner will likely get to play a semi-final game against the top seed Rose City the next day. The loser will enter the consolation bracket against the loser of Game 1.

Game 6: #1 Rose City vs Winner of Game 2

Rose City finally took down Gotham last year at Champs by only 11 points with a combination of strong jamming and strategic pack work. They still only sit at #4 in the WFTDA rankings, and with many close games this year it feels like a winning repeat is going to be another hard-fought journey.

The one blemish on their otherwise winning record this season was a loss to Victoria at The Big O, when they were without key jammer, Loren Mutch. In that game, Scald Eagle, their other top scorer, fouled out with 15 minutes of the game left. That game at the Big O revealed the true depth of their jammer rotation, however, with Luna and Frisky Biscuits proving themselves time and again against their high level opponents.

Rose City vs Denver in Portland. Photo credit: Regularman Photography.

Rose City vs Victoria at the Big O. Photo credit: Regularman Photography.

The Wheels of Justice earned seven wins this year, including victories over #3 Denver and #4 Atlanta from this bracket. 2nd Place finisher from the Montréal bracket, Texas, was the closest to come to Rose City at SweatFest with a final score of 152-108. In August they also hosted Denver for a second game against the Mile High Club this season, and Loren Mutch showed that she hasn’t skipped a beat since her time off, while defense by blockers such as Hannah Jennings and Tarantula has dominated from edge to edge of the track.

Rose City’s first game will be against either the #8 seed Columbia or #9 seed Ann Arbor. Winning will get them a game against either #4 Atlanta or #5 Crime City in a semi-final game on Saturday.

Check back to Derby Central throughout the weekend for scores and recaps and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for pictures and updates as well.

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