2016 WFTDA D1 Playoffs: Vancouver Preview

2016 WFTDA D1 Playoffs: Vancouver Preview Photo credit: Danny Ngan Photography. facebook.com/dannynganphotography

This coming weekend in Vancouver will be a bracket full of teams who have their eyes on the prize: the top three exit spots. Yes, that could be said of every tournament weekend, but this particular playoff has a number of teams that are particularly motivated to make it to the top.

Hosts, Terminal City, will be looking to prove themselves to their home fans. Stockholm is going to want to represent Europe in the top 12. Victoria is likely to be interested in both validating their epic travel miles by earning a bye into the Champs bracket, and prove that their WFTDA #2 ranking is no joke. Philly will be wanting to return to Champs after missing out on a trip last year for the first time in the history of WFTDA play. And #4 seed Rat City is going to want to prove that they can repeat their win earlier in the year against #2 Angel City, while ACDG is looking to show that that was a fluke game.

In fact, all of the teams involved will have fires lit under them. This should be an interesting weekend. May we live in interesting times.

Game 1: #7 Sacred City vs #10 Arizona

Sacred City is not the only Sacramento team to make it to tournament play, and at #28 on the WFTDA rankings, they are a solid notch ahead of their #40-ranked opponents, Arizona. Although Flat Track Stats‘ numbers belie this boast, this seems on the surface like it might not be the most tense of match-ups. While Arizona has only found victory over Division 2 teams, Sacred City came within 55 points of Bay Area at Pac Destruction. What that doesn’t account for however, is the propensity in previous Playoff tournaments so far this year for this particular game to involve fresh teams to jump into play with fire in their bellies, and a need for seeding upsets right off the bat.

Sacred City has just slightly more wins than losses in their 2016 sanctioned history – seven of the 10 games they played this season – but their game against the only opponents who will be present at this tournament, #5 seed Terminal City, was a significant loss, at 270-136. Sacred City got most of their play in a handful of tournaments this season, but also squeezed in a couple of local games to give the team a variety of experience this year.

Most of the tell, however, will come through this game, as they performed excellently last year – leaving D2s as Champion, but they’re likely to feel the need to prove they can make it in D1 play this year. Sacred City tends to put their focus on a flat four-wall with slow positional blocking by Lora Stabs and Annie Anklebiter, along with a brace coming from the front or side. Pink Freud, The 4closer, and Ariel-LA-Twister make up a strong jamming rotation with occasional supplements. The team can get weighed down with penalties however, so they’ll need to keep a lid on those for this tournament to keep in play.

Sacred City vs Bay Area. Photo credit: Regularman Photography.

Sacred City vs Bay Area. Photo credit: Regularman Photography.

At #40, Arizona just barely made it into D1 tournaments and will likely be looking to prove that they have every right to be there. Their journey upwards 13 places in the May rankings, plus one more spot in June, is no doubt a reflection of their tough 6-3 season, with their sanctioned games being played entirely in three tournaments – The Clover Cup, Besterns, and The Great Salt Skate.

Arizona jammers, when given the chance, like to go real big on scoring – leave that especially to key jammer Luz Chaos to make huge points grabs for the team, when given the chance. The team can occasionally fall into penalty trouble, and has a habit of taking the first half to learn, coming back strong to play their own game in the second. Whether that will be enough against Sacred City on Friday remains to be seen.

The winner of this game will move ahead to play the #2 seed Angel City later in the same day, at 4pm PDT. That doesn’t give them much time to grab a second wind against a stronger opponent, unless they can use this game as a warm-up for what is to come.

Game 2: #8 Stockholm vs #9 Queen City

WFTDA-ranked #30 Stockholm is only a few points below Sacred City this season, but they qualified for this tournament after notably getting all of this year’s sanctioned play in Europe, as local team rankings have become more significant. And although the team made it in to the tournament with the #8 seeding, their season only scored two wins for the team, seeing them drop 5 ranking spots since the May rankings release.

Stockholm vs Helsinki. Photo credit: Marko Niemelä Photography

Stockholm vs Helsinki. Photo credit: Marko Niemelä Photography.

While Helsinki’s opponent Queen City may have dropped a few rankings places themselves, the New Yorkers instead had many wins, many of which were by large margins, and suffered only one loss. That single loss came from by a mere three points against a team that didn’t even meet them in sanctioned play.

Stockholm’s Lil Slinky is an especially slippery jammer to watch for, and their defensive quad formations ought to be difficult for Queen City to resist. While Queen City’s history of play this year suggests that winning might be on their agenda, the two team’s mutual history of playing Helsinki is a distant enough memory for Queen City that Stockholm’s performance against the team, losing 152-106, could barely be considered any predictor of play on Friday.

Game 3: #3 Rat City vs #6 Naptown

Whether Rat City’s final-jam win against Angel City at Hometown Throwdown came as a surprise to you or not, their recent history of attending Championships makes this team a realistic option for a 3rd place exit from this playoff. And while their relatively narrow win (+5) and loss (-15) against Columbia’s third place combatants Atlanta and Jacksonville might give us something of a similar sense again about their play, it’s always a new tournament every weekend of this playoffs season.

Rat City vs Arch Rival. Photo credit: Regularman Photography.

Rat City vs Arch Rival. Photo credit: Regularman Photography.

#6 seed Naptown enters competitive play this weekend with less of a recent history of high level competitive play, but at a very respectable #22 WFTDA ranking spot entry into this tournament. The former 2015 D2 competitors will likely have high hopes and something to prove as part of their rise this year was a boost of 17 places in March when they took on a falling Demolition City, a story many teams have had this season. In April however, they hosted Team United, who is the #5 seed in Madison, and only lost by 90 points.

The winner of this game will earn a spot in the semi-finals against the winner of Game 4 at 6pm PDT on Saturday. The loser will enter the consolation bracket bright and early the next morning against the loser of Game 2.

Game 4: #2 Angel City vs Winner of Game 1

Angel City has maintained the #5-ranking spot for a few months now, which makes their closest rival in this tournament the Victorian Roller Derby League. With former captain of VRDL and key blocker, Tui Lyon gracing their ranks, Angel City will have plenty in store for us here – especially the athleticism they have become known for across the board.

While the team will have to work against getting into their own heads and letting the penalties climb across this tournament, their surprise loss earlier in the year to other tournament attendees, Rat City, is sure to keep them motivated. And as per usual, their endurance and strength in play will be hard for most of the rest of the teams to beat this weekend.

Angel City’s first task will be to take on the winner of Game 1, either Sacred City or Arizona, and while ACDG didn’t play Sacred City in a sanctioned game at Pac Destruction this year, they both took on the same opponent there. The Hollywood Scarlets first beat Terminal City by 183 points, and then Terminal beat Sacred by 134, making it seem like an uphill battle for the Sacrificers. But if the team to beat is Arizona, we have far fewer predictors of what that play may look like this season, but Angel City did beat Arizona last year by 256 points.

Game 5: #1 Victoria vs Winner of Game 2

Victoria is well known for pulling out all the stops – even in their relative geographical isolation. While their practices are dense, targeted, and strategic, their play across the season provides evidence of what we already know about them – that their #1 seeding entry into the tournament is by no accident, and they’ll be playing to leave in the same position they entered. Their epic win against last year’s Championships winners, Rose City, at The Big O 150-138 might be attributable to Rose missing Loren Mutch that tournament, and Scald Eagle taking herself off the track with penalties, but Victoria was out a major jammer as well, Christy Demons.

Victoria vs Bay Area at the Big O. Photo credit: Danny Ngan Photography.

Victoria vs Bay Area at the Big O. Photo credit: Danny Ngan Photography.

Either way, the winner of Game 2, Stockholm or Queen City, will not only have a previous game to take the edge off their play, but also the anticipation of real force to be reckoned with on the track in opponents, Victoria.

Anticipate Victoria’s diamond-shaped walls to be strong and relentless, and offense targeted and quickly switching, a key job for Biceptual and former Rose City blocker Serelson. Jammers to watch include the usual suspects – Giles and Christy Demons at the top of the list.

Game 6: #4 Philly vs #5 Terminal City

Philly may well be the wild card of the bunch, as key transfers from the team – V-Diva to Gotham and Tarantula to Rose City – have forced a roster shake-up from last year. The team, however, just recently stepped into their own dedicated warehouse space, and given that the team has been maintaining their high levels of play without that ‘luxury’ for so long, what that might have done for training and morale will be exciting to watch for.

Anticipate perennials Castro and Teflon Donna on the track as per usual, with Castro plausibly grabbing the star more than the audience may previously have witnessed. The return of Kilmartin after taking some time off of sanctioned play, as well as several transfers, will likely only strengthen their prior performances in which they fielded two teams out of a short lineup.

Philly vs Montréal at ECDX. Photo credit: Joe Mac.

Philly vs Montréal at ECDX. Photo credit: Joe Mac.

Tournament hosts Terminal City will be playing a fine balancing act with running a tournament full tilt, and playing in it. While obviously holding home team advantage – all their own fans will be right there for them – splitting their time between playing and all the planning and organizing that goes into running any tournament could have them exhausted by the time they hit the track. Whether that’s true remains to be seen, of course, but with usual core jammer Evada Peron out of the mix after entering retirement, the team may not be able to make the points that they need to chase Philly out of contention for this game.

#13 WFTDA-ranked Philly is actually not as close to #20-ranked Terminal City as the #4 and #5 spot seeding may suggest, but given that both the teams are in the midst of some adjustment this playoff, what the match up will look like in actuality remains to be seen. Winner gets a spot in a semi-final game against the winner of Game 5 (Victoria or Stockholm/Queen City) while the loser will hit the consolation bracket with the highest outcome being 5th place.

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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