The 2016 WFTDA Championship tournament is taking place in Portland, Oregon and is hosted by reigning champions the Rose City Rollers. As a #1 seed for Division 1, they get a bye on Friday which means that all of the D1 #2 and #3 seeds battle it out on the first day for a spot in the quarter final round on Saturday. After the Division 2 semi-final games, D1 will start up and the first day is looking to be a series of good match ups.
Championships are a single elimination tournament, so everything is on the line for each of these teams to move on. This is the first year that Canada has had a team in the bracket, with Montréal Roller Derby picking up 3rd place at Playoffs and making their debut at WFTDA Champs. The rest of the bracket is familiar from Champs in 2015, but with a year past, teams are looking a bit different. Here’s a quick run through of the first round of games.
Game 1: Friday 2pm PDT
This season the Denver Mile High Club avenged the loss they took to Jacksonville last year at Playoffs and reversed the seeding to place 2nd and leave Jax in 3rd this time around. With a bit of roster turnover in 2016, Denver’s top scorer at Playoffs was Wilhelm followed by Gypin (aka Phantom Menace). They mostly followed up with Curtis (aka Abeata Applebum) and Klein (aka Sharon Tacos), but have utilized Blackman, and A.P. Leasure this season as well, giving them plenty of jammer options. Despite an overall 45.2 lead status percentage against Jacksonville in Columbia, large scoring jams such as 32 points by Wilhelm and 33 by Curtis helped keep them ahead.
The Mile High defensive pack is a recycling machine, with blockers constantly finding their way back in front, whether together or singularly, making it an exhaustive effort for opposing jammers. Typically working a braced quad, they often start with a triangle to allow the fourth blocker to play offense, a role usually filled by Akers or Anghel. S.H. Long, Davidson, and Barrett are some of the blockers who make up their slow, braced defense, and the Denver pack is good at using their whole body to stick to jammers. There were times that they didn’t rotate all the way to the edges of the track or shutting walls behind their jammers, something that ARCH’s Harmony Killerbruise is good at taking advantage of.
Bob Dunnell posted this video of the various final jams that Arch Rival battled through for their three wins at Sibling Rivalry.
The Arch Rival All-Stars kept a perfect regular season this year with eight wins, but at Playoffs, they failed to replicate a second victory against Minnesota. Their strong defense and calm jammers helped them hang on late in their game against Tampa and five straight lead statuses aided them to a 149-131 victory and a spot at Champs. During the regular season Bricktator claimed the spot as their high scorer with an average of 87 points per game, but in Madison, Swanson took that title with 195 points and only two penalties in three games, all of which contributed to her earning Tournament MVP.
Filling out their jamming rotation is Harmony Killerbruise, a jammer who could probably earn half of her 191 tournament points on one foot. Cupquake has helped fill the fourth jammer role this season, and K. Woodward has occasionally donned the star but usually takes on a strong defensive role in the pack. Relying on a more of a flat, forward-facing wall, ARCH can also transform into braced formations and can easily give up a blocker for offense. Smarty McFly and Salty helped usher their jammers through the pack at Playoffs, but Arch Rival isn’t as consistent as Denver in offering that help.
Denver and Arch Rival met earlier this year at Sibling Rivalry and despite a last jam push by Denver, ARCH took the game by three points on their home turf. The Mile High Club is no stranger to Championships, making Portland the sixth time they have qualified and have a bronze medal in their history from Champs in 2009. ARCH qualified for Champs for the first time last year but were eliminated in their first game against Jacksonville. This year they’ll try and put a bird on it and see if they can go further.
Both pick up about the same amount of penalties, but Arch Rival seems to get theirs in more clumps while their jammer rotation stays a bit cleaner. This first D1 game will likely help start the weekend with close, competitive play, and the winner will advance to a match up with the London Rollergirls on Saturday at 10am PDT.
Game 2: Friday 4pm PDT
The Angel City Hollywood Scarlets have shown marked progression this season after losing to Victoria at the Big O by 89 points and then Rat City at the Hometown Throwdown in May by six points. At Playoffs, ACDG turned the game around on Rat City and beat them 256-64 before nearly taking down the Australian juggernaut, but lost by 3 points in the last jam. A strong defense, especially in pairs, helped Angel City keep Rat’s scoring low, and a consistent offense helped ACDG get 63.2% lead status in their first half against VRDL. Tui Lyon and Hunnie Brasco had their eye on offense while Soledad and Rachel Rotten helped hold down defense at Playoffs with Laci Knight picking up tournament MVP.
Satan’s Little Helper has had an impressive year by not only taking top scorer in the regular season for Angel City by over 100 points, earning a 90.3 lead status percentage for all three games at Playoffs, and scoring 76 points against Victoria, and earned a spot on the Team USA charter of 25 (along with Laci Knight). With impeccable footwork and lots of toe stop work, she only lost lead once in her 12 jam against VRDL. Darby Dagger has become the second highest scorer for them this season, followed by Ghetto Fabu-lez and Micki Krimmel. Nobody got less than 60% lead status at Playoffs and all had positive differentials over 100 points. Darby ran into more penalty trouble, but overall they kept a fairly clean rotation, so their jamming machine will be a hearty competitor at Championships.
The Montréal New Skids on the Block had the luxury of their home crowd cheering them on at Playoffs as they beat Bay Area by 12 points in the 3rd Place game to earn their first trip to WFTDA Champs. Playing games in North America and Europe this season, they only lost to London, Gotham, and Philly. Their game on the track seemed to take on each competitor individually, adjusting to their opposition. With an average of 22.1 blocker penalties in the regular season, their clean game carried into Playoffs and first helped them beat Dallas by 49 points. They seem to have mastered the braced quad this season, forcing many jammers into the “sad place”, while also being able to let a blocker break off for offense at the jam start.
Miracle Whips and Falcon Punch contend for top jammer of Montréal, although in their toughest game at Playoffs against London, Whips was able to earn lead status five times and put up 34 points. Many called for her to take home tournament MVP, especially with her cool, calm finish in their win against Bay Area where she called it and made a point to shake BAD’s April Bloodgate’s hand. The Honey Badger and TerminateHer help fill out their main rotation, with Ptite Pouliche took on five jams in their game against Dallas.
While Angel City showed improvement in games against the same opponents, Montréal went from a 130-point loss to London in May, to losing by 267 points to Brawling at Playoffs. Montréal is also the outlier of teams making it to Champs, as along with the current top 11 ranked teams, Montréal comes in ranked #19 to fill out the 12 D1 teams attending this weekend. While this will be an exciting first for the New Skids, they have a tough battle ahead of them. The winner will take on Gotham the next day at 12pm PDT, a team Montréal has already lost to this season 418-37. Angel City last played Gotham at Playoffs in 2015 where Gotham won 205-83.
Game 3: Friday 6pm PDT
The Minnesota RollerGirls head to Champs as the #2 seed, the highest they’ve placed at Playoffs since 2012 and regional tournaments. With many skaters who have been on the track together for awhile now, their braced formations hold strong in the pack which helped their jammers get lead status 73.7% of the time in the second half against Helsinki, and gave them the slight edge in their game against Arch Rival. With some tough blocking by Hurtrude Stein and Crust Almighty, some of their other staple blockers such as Diamond Rough and Second Hand Smoke ran into a bit of penalty trouble at Playoffs.
This season Minnesota inherited Brickyard from Arch Rival, and she averaged the most points per game in their regular season, but just barely trailed Jacked Pipes for that title at Playoffs. Brickyard’s speed and agility helps her slip by the tiniest spaces, while Jacked Pipes has worn out her rookie status, having finished her second full year of playing, and has seemed to have gotten a stronger grip of the game. Filling a solid third spot in their rotation has continued to be a struggle for MNRG, and this season Yekaterina Lapitsky helped out, as well as recent Fargo transfer Sarin Dipity. Second Hand Smoke has helped when needed in the past and earlier this year, but she solely blocked at Playoffs.
Jacksonville has become a top ten contender over the past few seasons and this year tested the diversity of their roster. Erin Jackson was scheduled to attend a speed skating Championships at the same time as Playoffs, so they mixed things up during the season in preparation for it. Jamsterella has been a consistent jamming force for them, averaging 75 points per game, with Krispy Kreme-Her taking a strong role in their rotation this season as well. Snot Rocket Science joined Jax from Steel City this year, providing either an excellent pivot or utilized as a backup jammer.
Jacksonville made their first trip to Champs last year after beating Denver and taking second place, but this year they lost to Denver and was resigned to third after a tough battle against Atlanta. Their games are often a tale of two halves, with powerful blockers who can recycle quickly and work well in pairs or a whole group, but if distracted can quickly lose momentum. Stephanie Gentz, Eirinn Go Brawl, and Legs R Us are warriors in the pack and as a whole, they are more than willing to offer up offense for their jammers.
Minnesota proved in Madison that they can rebound from losses they took against teams earlier in the year when they lost to Arch Rival at The Big O by three points and then beat them by 19. In June, MNRG took a tough loss to Jacksonville by 23 points, and now they get a rematch with much higher stakes. Both will need to prove consistency in parts of their game and work on blocker penalties such as direction of play for Jacksonville and out of play penalties for Minnesota. This should make for another close Division 1 match up with the winner moving on to play the Victorian Roller Derby League at 2pm PDT on Saturday.
Game 4: Friday 8pm PDT
Texas showed up strong at Playoffs in Montréal with a six-jammer deep bench, which helped them nearly beat London, and then they left the tournament with their own blocker Peacewar taking tournament MVP. The Texecutioner defense not only took on the Brawling jammers, but had to bat away their offensive blockers as well. The constant recycling and braced defensive efforts by Texas constantly moved to catch jammers and they were more apt to provide offense this year, something they weren’t always as willing to do in the past. That aided them in obtaining a higher lead jammer percentage against London, despite the loss.
With a variety of jammers to choose from, offense wasn’t always necessary. Freight Train’s fast and forceful jamming style, combined with finite footwork, helped her dance to 221 points at Playoffs and scored 57 points per game in the regular season. Bloody Mary has been their most consistently used jammer, one that we won’t see on the track after this season, and she got lead status 100% of her six jams against Bay Area. FiFi Nomenon returned to the Texas charter strong after taking part of the year off, which meant we got to see a lot of Nicki Ticki Timebomb earlier this year, especially at the Big O. Hauss the Boss and Olivia Shootin John also took time in the star, giving Texas an extensive library of jammers to choose from if they move on at Championships.
Rat City has had a few different transfers in the past year, and with Kayla Gaska hanging up her skates after the Big O, they’ve had to amend their jammer rotation a bit. Luna Negra returns at the top, followed by Scratcher in the Eye (aka Genevieve Moore), and then new to the team this season is Renegade Ruthie, Eva Derci, and Jex. Xena was a consistent jamming force in the regular season but was missing from their lineup at Playoffs. A little penalty prone at times, they did pick up 14 jammer penalties against Philly, but was still able to pull out the win for 3rd place.
Rat City is another that has been putting more emphasis on offense this season, a job taken care of by either H. Botts or Carmen Getsome. Cassie Beck held down strong defense at Playoffs, whether one on one or being the brace of their triangle, alongside the wrecking ball efforts of CeeCee or Chantilly Cream. They’ve used a tighter rotation of blockers this season, and they pulled off a 6-point upset against Angel City earlier in the season, but ACDG came back strong and took them down at Playoffs 256-64.
Texas and Rat City already faced off this year at the Big O where the Texans came away with a 165-122 victory. With a deeper jammer rotation and a pack that can boast five blockers on USA Roller Derby’s newest charter, Texas is looking strong to move on from this first round. Rat City has two USA skaters of their own, and have been underestimated in the past, but this year their roster isn’t as well rounded as we saw before. The winner faces 2015 WFTDA Champions and host league Rose City the next day at 4pm PDT, and both teams have already lost to them this season; Rat City lost by 106 points and Texas by 44 points.