2016 WFTDA Champs: D2 Preview – Calgary vs Blue Ridge

2016 WFTDA Champs: D2 Preview – Calgary vs Blue Ridge Photo credit: Joe Mac.

This will be the fourth year that the Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association has used Divisions for tournament play, giving teams ranked lower in the spectrum a chance to play for medals. The top seed from each Division 2 Playoff will take on the second seed from the opposite Playoff bracket on Friday morning, and the winners will play for 1st and 2nd place on Sunday, with the remaining two teams battling for 3rd place.

Calgary Roller Derby Association and the Blue Ridge Rollergirls will help kick off the 2016 Championships in Portland, Oregon. This is the first season that Calgary has qualified for WFTDA tournaments at all, while Blue Ridge has participated at Playoffs for both Divisions, and so far will be the only team to make a second trip to Championships for D2. These teams have a similar style on the track, so depending on how they’ve spent the months between Playoffs and Champs will make all the difference.

Calgary Roller Derby Association WFTDA #48, FTS #32
Entered Lansing Playoffs #5, finished #1

From Calgary, Alberta, the Calgary Roller Derby Association has only been playing sanctioned games since 2014, but have spent much of the time since then playing at events outside of Canada to up their ranking. Their regular season ended with a split 5-5 record after playing a competitive and busy schedule, and at Playoffs they tacked on three more wins against #4 seed Cincinnati, #1 seed Charm City, and #7 seed Charlottesville. Check out more of their history with our in-depth article on Calgary.

The first game for the CRDA All-Stars at WFTDA Playoffs was against Cincinnati, a match up that Calgary already won this season at Midwest BrewHaHa 212-161, but this time they beat the Black Sheep by 135 points. Calgary more than doubled their win margin, but giving into a messy game, they also nearly tripled their jammer penalty count with 14. It was blocker penalties, however, in their game against Charm City that nearly did them in, by picking up numerous forearms and multiplayer blocks in their braced formations, but it wasn’t until about ten minutes into their final game against Charlottesville that they earned any penalties at all. Shark Bait and Knox Hersoxoff were some of their biggest offenders, but their only foul out came from anNa molly in their game against Charm City.

Calgary’s blocking force showed great cohesion in Lansing with coordinated power jam offense and an innate sense of finding each other on the track when things got chaotic. As their war cry states, they are “Stronger Together”, with opposing jammers more likely to slip by when their numbers were down in the pack. The opposition was stalled effectively by a full, rotating quad formation and If sin-e-star or Knox Hersoxoff caught the jammer, they were likely getting pushed out and recycled by Kiki Tiki Bang Bang or Preacher’s Slaughter. TAZ proved to be an excellent pivot at Playoffs, after jamming for most of the regular season, leading many rotating defensive formations and taking the star pass when necessary.

Photo credit: Danforth Johnson.

Photo credit: Danforth Johnson.

Calgary utilized up to five main jammers at Playoffs, with Easy Break Oven topping their rotation by gettinng lead status at 73.3%, picking up 187 points across their three games, and earning Tournament MVP. Compared to Easy’s big jumps and leggy footwork, Kris Myass used explosive movements in the pack and focused on a quick, jukey style to slide by opponents. The bottom end of their rotation is often a bit more penalty prone, but Hilary Boswell showed up strong at Playoffs, and Jenni Gunns cleaned up her penalties as the weekend went on. Calgary also fielded rookie Roc-A-Felon, who didn’t play during the regular season but was able to relieve some of the pressure at Playoffs.

Calgary showed a preference for setting up shop at the front of the pack, often with a braced three-wall, but used little offense off the start of the jam. Help for their jammers did kick in effectively mid-jam however, often springing them quickly if the opposing team got theirs out first. CRDA’s coordinated, sweeping offense did well during their own power jams, but sometimes they got overwhelmed with their own jammer in the box. While things seemed to break down in the pack late in the game, their time management skills kept them in control.

Blue Ridge Rollergirls WFTDA #43, FTS #48
Entered Wichita Playoffs #7, finished #2

Making the trip from Asheville, North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Rollergirls are no stranger to WFTDA tournaments, but they have had an up and down journey to find their way back to Division 2 Champs. They made it all the way in 2013 and placed 3rd after beating Sac City by 27 points, but then found themselves in a bittersweet position the following year as a #10 seed at D1 Playoffs. They tumbled down the rankings a for awhile after that, but found their cohesion again, and completely changed up their strategy mid-season and made a statement in Wichita as the #7 seed in August.

Photo credit: Danforth Johnson.

Photo credit: Danforth Johnson.

Coming in at the lower end of the bracket, the Blue Ridge All-Stars had to fight through four games to earn their silver medal. Their first match up was against some familiar faces, beating #10 Carolina 309-94 after only taking them by 61 points a year ago, and advancing to play against the #2 seed, Houston. Blue Ridge jammers only averaged a 56.8 lead jammer percentage against Houston, and picked up five penalties in each half, but a strong finish with six straight lead statuses took them to a 182-137 victory. Another 45-point after that against Nashville set them up against Brandywine for the final game, and Blue Ridge started the game in the lead, but a lack of offense combined with penalty problems as the game went on hurt them and they lost 146-123.

This game will be a battle of tournament MVPs as Dr. Octopushy earned the title in Wichita after picking up lead status 61.5% of her 52 jams and scoring 288 points. Worn out skates seem to get in her way now and then, but with technical difficulties aside, her feet seem to rarely touch the ground with big jumps on the apex and deft toe work along the line. Lady Rider rivaled her as top scorer for Blue Ridge however, and did so in fewer jams and by running along the line or pushing her way up the center.

Hurrycane Jackie rounded out their main three jammers, moving with a bit more urgency in the pack as her name might reflect, and earning lead status about half the time. Tractor Taylor often showed up after three rotations of their regular lineup, and although she had a rocky start to the weekend by picking up penalties half the time she was on the track, she came through multiple times with points for Blue Ridge in their final game.

After taking three losses at the end of their regular season, Blue Ridge moved to a braced cube style of blocking with the guidance of Skull Candi from Wasatch after ECDX. From North Carolina, Candi recently moved back and has joined their charter ahead of Champs. At Playoffs, they proved their defensive effectiveness with the cube, with strong leadership from Brutal and Pocahotmess shutting down the line while Ashevillain and Boot Scootin Bully followed up with strong positional blocking and run backs. With such a solid, slow moving defensive formation, it often worked as incidental offense when their jammers pushed the opposing wall past it to open up an exit lane.

Where Blue Ridge didn’t earn their full potential of points was in power jams. They would lay some quick hits to try and get the pack moving but usually opted for passive offense which forced their jammers to push their way through. A focus on a front wall defensive formation from the start of jams also meant that they didn’t always offer offense right away for their jammers either. While their defense held on to opposing jammers tightly, it often led to slow, grinding jams at times when Blue Ridge needed to lay on points. They did adjust late in the game against Brandywine and tried to help their jammer more often at the start of jams, but Blue Ridge couldn’t pull out of their deficit in the final stretch of jams in the 1st place game.

Friday 12pm PDT: #1 Calgary vs #2 Blue Ridge

It will be interesting to see how things play out for this D2 match up, with both Calgary and Blue Ridge preferring the front starting position, both using braced triangles and cubes, and both boasting a tournament MVP jammer in their lineups. Both teams have also shown excellent time management and know how to use timeouts effectively.

If the same two teams show up that we saw at Playoffs, Calgary could the favorite to win as they are on Flat Track Stats with a probability of 74%. Calgary averaged more jammer penalties per game at Playoffs, but their own patient, well-timed offense in power jams could be the thorn in Blue Ridge’s side. There is two months between Playoffs and Champs for D2 teams, so that’s plenty of time to watch footage and adjust their game.

The winner of this game will face the winner of Brandywine and Charlottesville, so a good chance they could end up playing a familiar competitor. Blue Ridge has faced Charlottesville before, with a 158-point loss, but it was over a year ago that the two met. Calgary has never taken on Brandywine, so if the two #1 seeds find each other in the final game, it will be a fresh match up.

Later this week we will review the other D2 WFTDA Champs match up between Charlottesville and Brandywine, and then stay tuned next week for Division 1 previews. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for tournament updates.

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