The 2016 WFTDA Championships in Portland, Oregon will kick off with the Division 2 portion of the weekend, which consists of the top two teams from both D2 Playoff brackets. The first place winners of each Playoff tournament will take on the second place finishers of the opposite bracket and the winners will advance to the Championship game on Sunday while the other two teams will play for third place.
The first D2 match up will be between Brandywine Roller Derby and the Charlottesville Derby Dames, both making their first trip to WFTDA Champs. Brandywine has been competing in Division 2 Playoffs since 2014, entering their first two seasons as a #10 seed, and then getting a #4 spot this year. Charlottesville qualified for Playoffs the first time as a #10 seed in Division 1 last year, and then as a #7 seed in Division 2 this season. This matchup will bring together a disciplined Brandywine, who sticks to a strict jammer rotation, and a more relaxed Charlottesville squad that can throw nearly anyone in the star.
Brandywine lost more games in their regular season than they won, but that must have set a fire under The Belligerents who won all three of their games at Playoffs with an aggressive style and controlled game. From Downingtown, Pennsylvania, Brandywine first took down the #5 seed Kansas City by 111 points before facing off with the #1 seed Jet City in the semifinals. The Belligerents took hold of the game with a 75% lead status in the first half, leading them to a 198-170 win. Their final game was against the #7 seed Blue Ridge, and after a close first half and four lead changes, Brandywine’s consistency kept them on top late in the game and brought them to a 146-123 1st place victory.
Brandywine continued their average of about 7 jammer penalties per game from their regular season, but their overall penalty count was cleaner than earlier this year. Their main struggle was with blocking out of play calls and running into forearm and multiplayer block troubles in their braced quad defense. Where they excelled was in making sure the other team couldn’t get comfortable in their own game, and reforming around chaos. They could come together for strong, braced packs, but skaters such as Slamshine Allie or ThumpHER became heat seeking missiles that would take out jammers who thought they were clear of the pack.
The Belligerents worked well in rotating triangular packs which allowed skaters such as Rapid ArrhythMia to break off to wreck the other wall or take a star pass. If they weren’t getting lead, they were getting their jammers out of the pack quickly. They gave up most of their points while their jammers sat in the box, although not without a fight from their blockers. With multiple star passes happening in their game against Kansas City, they stayed aware of the need to separate pivots and jammers while dealing with Jet City’s Nasty Nikki Nightstick in their second game–who made it her mission to destroy their walls.
Brandywine’s three-jammer rotation was led by Buenos D. A$$ at Playoffs, but overall she shared the success nearly evenly with Lurz Lemon and Raggedy Aneurysm. Buenos relied more on muscle to push through opposing walls and scored 215 points across their three games. Raggedy Aneursym has added a leggy, toe stop walking component to their lineup the past few seasons, while Lurz Lemon loves to skip by along the edges of the track. Raggedy came in third for scoring overall points at Playoffs, but she gave up fewer points compared to Lurz whose risks often put her in the box, totaling 13 penalties in three games.
Brandywine’s cohesion didn’t just come through in defense. They were active with their offense during power jams as well. They often attacked in twos from the edges, squeezing the pack and opening lanes for their jammers. Crash Bansheekoot often plowed a path for her jammer mid-jam as well and took the star for two jams against Kansas City. Otherwise, since The Belligerents kept their scoring rotation to just three, that left them with just seven blockers to rotate through in Wichita since they only brought 12 skaters and relied heavily on 11 of them. Playing short has been a theme for them at Playoffs in the past, but this season it didn’t show on the track.
Despite a losing regular season with a 0-9 record, Charlottesville played many higher ranked teams which helped them come into Playoffs as a bit of an underdog. From Charlottesville, Virgina, they had to fight through four games in Lansing to place 2nd and earn their trip to Portland. After they won their first game against #10 seed Grand Raggidy by 120 points, a low penalty count averaging 5.25 jammer penalties per game and 26.75 total penalties per game, propelled them through the bracket against penalty prone opponents.
Sac City racked up 50 penalties, but Charlottesville maintained composure through the mayhem and won 247-163, however they did suffer 14 out of play blocks. Against Wasatch, keeping their penalty count down to 10 total in the second half aided Charlottesville in a 233-146 victory, but with more trips to the box for their jammers in their final game against Calgary, Charlottesville came up short by 24 points. They did a good job taking advantage of mistakes by their opponents in their first three games, but it was their own errors in the last game that Calgary zeroed in on and left them with second place.
Charlottesville kept their roster completely versatile, with up to about eight people who could start on the line with the star. That also means that their pivot role is filled by skaters who won’t flinch at a star pass and can understand the jammer brain while blocking them. River Styx Phoenix stuck out as a primary point scorer for them, earning lead status 70.7 percent of the time she jammed in Lansing and used a nice combination of force and footwork to average 54 points a game. From there it depended on the game as to who else shared the star with her, but Boom! ShakeTheRoom was the second highest scorer and only earned five penalties in four games.
Each game yielded a different top jammer for Charlottesville, and in their first game against Grand Raggidy, Machete was that jammer, although she did split her time equally between that and blocking. Spank Puncherella, Big Bangarang, and Stonewallup split their time between roles, and Tippi Headlock had a few rounds jamming as well. Miller-Miller was primarily a blocker but was able to change the momentum a few times by donning the star from the start or receiving a star pass, and ended up being their lead scorer against Calgary with a 29-point jam late in the game.
In the pack, Miller-Miller was playing up to 65% of their games, giving her team great leadership and track awareness while only earning six penalties the whole weekend. She made a strong pair with Leeloo Dallas MultiSMASH, who on the other hand was rather penalty heavy. Leeloo could go from slow positional blocking to doling out soul crushing hits. The pack seemed to roll with the punches, whether it was taking whichever starting position the other team left them or wading through a chaotic pack to find the jammer. Sometimes this would hold them back, but they always seem to be able to adjust their strategy against different kinds of opponents.
Charlottesville relied on a braced three wall, as many teams have been using this season, but they stuck to more of a forward facing wall throughout the jam instead of always converting it to a braced quad. They could take on different types of defenses and could catch a jammer in just pairs with someone ready to carry out the run back. MaLuvicent came through as a strong bracing blocker in the pack after not playing much of the regular season, and playing in no games before Playoffs, B-one Bomber was a vital blocker for Charlottesville in Lansing. Their offense also varied as much as their roster, sometimes just taking on a passive role, swarming the pack, or trapping an opposing blocker.
Friday 10am PDT: #1 Brandywine vs #2 Charlottesville
Only separated by one team in the rankings, Brandywine has an edge on Charlottesville there, as well as in Flat Track Stats’ prediction of the game which favors them at 54%. Charlottesville did play an unsanctioned game against #76 DC Rollergirls last weekend, and by reportedly using their whole charter, Charlottesville beat them 243-151 after only leading by seven points at the half. Brandywine took to the track last weekend as well with a scrimmage against the Penn Jersey Hooligans, although they lost 264-168.
D2 teams will have had two full months to prepare for Champs, and this first game will be an interesting battle of two different styles of play. For Brandywine, each skater has their specific role and they come together for cohesive and disciplined play for a small team. Charlottesville boasts more depth and variance to their roster, and seem to adapt to the situation while keeping a grip on their penalties. Playing too aggressive, Brandywine could fall into a penalty trap but if Charlottesville plays too passive, they could get overrun by their opponents.
The winner of this game will play the winner of Calgary and Blue Ridge for gold on Sunday, giving them the whole day to recover and strategize for the final day. Check back next week for Division 1 previews and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for tournament updates.