Seattle, WA – Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, Angel City’s Hollywood Scarlets once again came up short in their quest for playoffs gold, falling to the finely tuned and well-oiled Rose City Rollers Wheels of Justice machine in the final game of the weekend.
All eyes have been on Rose since major shake-ups in their roster during the off-season–losing Scald Eagle and Brawn Swanson to Denver while picking up former Gotham superstar Bonnie Thunders, among other changes. While an early season loss against Victorian Roller Derby at the Big O showed some chinks in their armor, the team has shown growth and cohesion since.
Angel City, meanwhile, came into playoffs with a 2-4 record in 2017, falling to Victoria and Rose while besting Texas, London, Arch, and Denver. That crucible continued to help the already aggressive team further coalesce, but a series of jammer penalties in the first period of play, plus struggles with cohesion and offense, ultimately put the squad at a deficit from which they were never able to recover.
Loren Mutch continued to prove herself a clutch player and core of Rose’s jammer rotation, getting lead in the first jam of the game against Satan’s Little Helper, who found herself stuck behind a formidable wall of purple. That set the tone of the first half for Satan, who struggled to earn lead status and frequently had to rely on star passes to pivots Tui Lyon or Laci Knight to make headway. Bonnie Thunders got lead over Darby Dagger in the second jam, but tried to run it and suffered after Lyon took the helmet cover, the points an even 8-8.
It was jam 7 before Angel City picked up their first lead status of the game, with Pearl Jam breaking free after nearly a minute of grinding against Rose’s formidable defensive formation. Satan’s Little Helper picked up a penalty in the next jam, followed by Darby Dagger racking up two penalties in a row in the following jam, further giving Rose time to open the point spread.
Ima BlowBya firmly shut the door on an attempted Bonnie Thunders apex jump, forcing one of the few 0-0 jams of the game. A fierce offensive clear by Laci Knight helped Pearl Jam pull lead in the next jam, but Tarantula and Elicia Nisbet-Smith shut down much progress, keeping Angel City to just 2 points.
Angel City seemed to struggle to make effective transitions from offense to defense, relying more on sending a single person to help stuck jammers, and frequently being broken up and scattered by Rose’s insistent and coordinated offensive sweeps and meddling. Meanwhile, Rose continued to make deadly use of their power duos, which worked well in full four-person formations and as needed to peel off and perform near-simultaneous O/D work.
At the half, the Wheels of Justice had inflicted serious damage on the Scarlets, with the score sitting at 133-36.
Satan’s Little Helper and Angel City overall came into the second half having found new fire and focus. Satan picked up lead quickly in the first jam, looking more agile and driven than before, grabbing up a fast 4 points and keeping Rose scoreless. Bonnie Thunders and Darby Dagger squared off in the next jam, which ended without a lead being declared after an absolute masterclass demo of defensive skills from both teams.
Angel City went on a spree of four jams in a row with lead status, by the end of which they had begun to outscore Rose for the second period of the game. Pearl Jam picked up 11 before being shut down by a Sarah Gaither/Nesbit-Smith/Hannah Jennings combo. Then Angel City sent captain Laci Knight out with the star for the first of what would be four total jams in the game, and a sudden turn as the highest scoring jammer for the team (Knight ended with 35 points total).
Though the Scarlets’ jammers and defensive work became far more effective and consistent in the second half, Rose’s ability to play smart offense without losing pack cohesion – with notable work by Ms. Dr. Joseph L. Simonis – still ruled the day and kept Angel City at bay for the duration to prevent too much threat to their overall lead.
When packs were at full strength, Angel City was able to hold even Bonnie Thunders back for long stretches. Juana Teaze, Soledad, and Tokyo Drift pulled heavy duty against both Bonnie Thunders and Loren Mutch, who posed the most threat, followed by third-highest scorer and newer addition to Rose’s jammer rotation, Brute. In the end, Angel City’s aggressive play sometimes got in the way of their ability to play clean and work as a unit when giving even an inch to the current WFTDA champs meant giving a mile.
The final score of 227-120 reflected Rose’s ability to play consistently right out of the gate, though it fails to show that Angel City outperformed in the second period. Still, it was too little too late to claw back and clinch the long-sought first place standing.
Both teams will go on to compete at WFTDA Championships in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this November, giving Angel City time to collect themselves and take another stab at the top of the podium, and Rose time to watch how their other likely challengers for the Hydra fare at upcoming playoff weekends.
Don’t forget to visit Tournament Central for more recaps and scores.