PORTLAND, OR – The last game on Saturday night of the 2016 International WFTDA Championships brought together the hosts and reigning world champions, Rose City Wheels of Justice, and The Victoria All-Stars of Melbourne, VIC for the second time this season. The two teams met at The Big O where Victoria brought home the win in a narrow 12-point game while they were both without one of their top scoring jammers; Loren Mutch for Rose City and Christy Demons for VRDL.
Both teams came into Champs with a strong season behind them. Victoria had an undefeated 4-0 season which was all played at The Big O, while Rose City had a 6-1 season with four of those wins being by more than 100 points. On Saturday, the tension continued to build until the final jam when Rose City pulled back ahead and took the win 155-152.
Coming out strong, Rose City grabbed the first two lead statuses and ran up a 13-0 spread before Victoria was able answer back. Victoria capitalized on a high block by Licker*N*Split, letting them put up a 10-0 power jam before calling it to ice the Rose jammer in the box. Victoria’s Giles couldn’t follow up on the power start however, as Licker*N*Split came out of the box with a vengeance and snapped up lead jammer status and five more points for the Wheels of Justice. They continued to push their lead and VRDL couldn’t get close enough to challenge it until the second half.
Victoria showed their depth by running a new offensive or defensive strategy every two to three jams, only to have Rose City adapt and shut it down again as fast as it started. The dynamic response of the Portland team meant that the braced three of the Australian squad, who could easily send their fourth off to play offense, was forced to mix it up constantly. The faster action clearly wasn’t in VRDL’s favor, who is used to a slow and controlled pace so there were times that they had to fully commit to defense to try and stop Roses jammers from continuing to add to their lead.
Despite being down on the scoreboard, Victoria was still putting in work as a crew and not missing their moments to shine. Screw Barrymore was able to make the fast change from offense to defense when she saw Scald Eagle hop around the three Victoria blockers on the inside and came across turn two to put Scald down hard, but not out. Barrymore, clearly thinking Scaled had gone out, ran back along the inside of the apex only to have an aware Scald Eagle pop back to her feet and take off out of the pack to keep scoring.
Both teams only managed two double digit jams in the first half but the constant adaptations of Rose City meant they were able to keep growing their margin right until the break where they led 77-59. In a repeat of the trouble Victoria had in Vancouver, they were leading in jammer penalties which was costing them dearly. There were five for Victoria in the first half as compared to Rose’s two.
Licker*N*Split ended the first half in the box for a forearm which meant that Victoria was able to begin the second half on a power start. They sent her right back to the box after she returned to the track, which allowed Victoria to start closing the score gap, and brought it to 77-76 in favor of Portland within the first two jams of the half.
With a spread out pack, each team worked well to corral jammers defensively, but when the walls came together, Rose City was able to capitalize on the tight confines and confusion to break their own jammers free. Hannah Jennings and Brawn Swanson excelled at offense while Tarantula and Jessica Chestnut constantly recycled to nab jammers. Rose City continued to add to their score in the first ten minutes of the half, but was unable to pull away to a comfortable lead.
Victoria finally took the game lead for the first time with a 13-point jam by Mary Swagdalene which brought the score to 99-88. A few jams later Christy Demons pushed it further with 19 points to nine by Scald Eagle after she lost lead status and sat in the box. Mick Swagger and Shaina Serelson did a good job forcing Rose City to scramble as their lead started slipping away from them, and a few minutes later VRDL led 133-106.
In the past, Scald Eagle soared higher with the point tally, but this game seemed to rely on each of their main three jammers’ strengths. Three jams in a row had Mutch put up four points, Scald add five more, and then Licker*N*Split turned the game around with a 17-point jam while her pack worked over Demons. Rose City was down by just five points with three minutes on the clock and they called a timeout.
The home crowd was clearly going nuts for the Wheels of Justice, but there were many Australian fans as well, and when Lady Trample emerged with lead status next, the crowd cheered loudly. She pushed the jam a bit with the score in their hands, and it went 7-4 to bring it to 144-136. VRDL called an official review with 1:54 on the clock.
In the second to last jam, Scald Eagle took to the line against Mary Swagdalene and in a chaotic pack Scald Eagle fought her way to six points but also allowed Swagdalene to pick up four as well. As the clock nearly ran out she called it off and her bench immediately called a timeout. Down by six points going into the final jam, WOJ fielded Loren Mutch next to Lady Trample for VRDL.
The final jam had the arena on their feet and everyone was stressed out no matter which team they were rooting for. Mutch was able to earn lead status and begin scoring but Lady Trample was able to escape and start gaining points as well. Brought to the edge of the track however, Trample’s toe just barely stepped out and she sat in the box with a track cut and points in her pocket that wouldn’t be added until she completed her pass or the jam ended. Mutch continued to score, and although the scoreboard showed Rose City up by three points, she needed to add a few more to guarantee victory.
Mutch continued to fight and look at her bench for confirmation, and with the period clock far gone and Lady Trample about to return to the pack, she called it off and the whole building waited for the final points to be counted. At final count, Rose City held the lead, 155-152 and again qualified for the Championship game for a third year in a row.
In a repeat of last year’s final day, Rose City will play Gotham at 6pm PST for the Hydra after Victoria takes on London for a chance at 3rd place at 4pm PST. All of Day 3 will be shown on ESPN3 for viewers in the United States, while the rest of the world can continue to watch on WFTDA.tv.