2017 WFTDA Championships Preview: Quarterfinal Games

2017 WFTDA Championships Preview: Quarterfinal Games Photo credit: Danforth Johnson.

In Part 1 of our 2017 WFTDA Championships preview, we looked at the teams who are battling it out in the first four games for a chance to take on the top seeds in the quarterfinal round of games. Now we will take a look at Victoria, Gotham, Rose City, and Denver who earned byes for this tournament and will play the winners of the play-in games.

The WFTDA had previously announced that the final game would air one ESPN2 but since then the schedule has changed and now the live broadcast will be on ESPN3 with a rerun the following Sunday on ESPN2. The rest of the games can be watched on WFTDA.tv, or check out WFTDA’s partnership with Twitch and their Roller Derby Watch Party.

Game 5: 6 PM EDT/10 PM GMT/9 AM (SAT) AEDT
#1 Victorian Roller Derby League (#1) vs WG1: Montréal/Crime City

Victoria is looking stronger than ever with seven wins in their pocket leading up to this weekend, and a #1 ranking to back them up. Playoffs showed what a clean game they can execute, only picking up nine total penalties against Minnesota, and didn’t commit a single cut in two of their Dallas games. Victoria’s three wins at the tournament were all by triple-digit numbers and didn’t let Philly, Minnesota, or Texas score more than 50 points.

While they lost Giles to Gotham after the Big O, Sarah Chambers moved into her spot in the rotation, picking up lead status all nine times on the track against Philly and scoring 111 points. Lady Trample was their top scorer during the Big O, picking up 67 points per game followed by Christy Demons with 46 per game. Trample’s footwork and spins around the opposition are part of what makes her so successful, but comes at a cost at times, as she contributed five penalties to their total at Playoffs. IvyKnivey completes their main rotation of four, but Anna Pave-U’Ova took a few jams in two of their Dallas games as well.

Photo credit: Michele J. Hale.

Photo credit: Michele J. Hale.

Victoria’s jamming rotation is just icing on their blocker cake, however, with impenetrable defense balanced by wrecking ball offense which helped get them lead status at an average of 85% in Dallas. Bicepsual, Bianca Sciarretta, and Bone Shaker appear to be inseparable at times, rotating and swinging braced blockers effortlessly to control jammers. The VRDL defense seems most comfortable at the front of the pack from the jam starts but seep through the pack like water as they work through opposing blockers. Serelson’s laser beam eye for offense means that she’s usually the one to destroy the opposing defense, but anyone in the VRDL squad is able to break off and help their jammer as needed.

Victoria’s first opponent will be either Montréal or Crime City, likely a game that the Australians will be able to handle Friday night. Moving on will have them play the winner of Game 6, and if #1 seeds prevail on the other side of the bracket, VRDL could meet either Rose City or Gotham in the final game on Sunday. Since the beginning of 2015, Victoria has only lost two games and both were in the semifinal round of Championships. While Gotham and Rose City have been the ones to usher them towards the third-place game in the past, VRDL has taken down the Wheels of Justice two years in a row at the Big O.

Game 6: 8 PM EDT/12 AM (SAT) GMT/11 AM (SAT) AEDT
#2 Denver Roller Derby (#5) vs WG2: Angel City/Minnesota

With only three D1 Playoff brackets this year, WFTDA ranked all the 2nd place finishers and gave the fourth bye spot to the one who had the most rankings points. Denver earned this position in Malmö with wins over Stockholm and London and a 176-85 loss to Gotham. With a split 6-6 record taking them to Philly, they will likely face the one team ranked higher than them who didn’t earn a bye, Angel City. The Mile High Club picked up momentum as the year went on, nearly taking out Gotham in one of the three times they faced off.

Last year Denver got ejected from Champs early on, losing to Arch Rival by 12 points. They had some skaters come and go that season and seemed to be lacking their usual cohesion. In 2017 they picked up some added power in both their jammer lineup and the pack with both Scald Eagle and Brawn Swanson moving to Colorado. They also gained Cotten from Boulder County, giving them five jammer options. Out of nine regular-season games, Scald averaged 74 points per game and Wilhelm added 56 points per game and traded places as top scorer in their games at Playoffs. With them are Gypin and Klein with all five getting some amount of track time at the tournament.

With a jammer bench that deep, that means that Denver had only up to nine blockers rotating through, all of which got fairly even track time. In fact, their whole charter got utilized at different points throughout the season, showing how well-rounded their 20 is and could possibly use different skaters throughout the weekend. Blackman proved to be one to watch in the pack, either sprinting up to catch runaway jammers or racing away with a star pass. Akers continues to be an excellent pivot as well, with deadly defense and killer offense. As mentioned, Brawn Swanson brings some strength to their braced packs, pinching jammers in their tripod with Garton and S.H. Long.

Denver’s first two games at Playoffs were pretty cleanly played and Denver even picked up zero jammer penalties in the first half against London. 32 total penalties against Gotham, however, probably contributed to their loss after nearly beating them at Sibling Rivalry earlier this year. Since then Giles transferred to the beehive, but Denver could possibly play them for the fourth time this season on Sunday, depending on how things play out.

Game 7: 10 AM EDT/2 PM GMT/1 AM (SUN) AEDT
#1 Gotham Girls Roller Derby (#3) vs WG4: Texas/Rat City

Like Victoria, Gotham has also had an undefeated season with seven wins and maintained their perfect regular season record despite some changes in their charter.  They attended Sibling Rivalry this year and left with wins over Denver, Arch Rival, and Minnesota despite Short Stop participating from the sidelines. She returned for Playoffs but Gotham will have to do without her next season as she has already announced her plans to move back to Australia.

In the absence of Bonnie Thunders who left with OMG WTF to Portland, Miss Tea Maven led the Gotham in points, scoring an average of 86 points per game before Playoffs. At the start of the year, they gained Space Invader from Boston and utilized V-Diva and Brazilian Nut as pivots or jammers. V-Diva proved to be their clutch backup jammer at Sibling Rivalry, erasing their 16 point deficit against Denver in the final jam and helping Gotham take the win by two points. By the time they got to Malmö, they had Giles in the rotation as well, and Short Stop earned tournament MVP and scored a whopping 150 points against Detroit in their first game.

V-Diva maintained her pivot position at Playoffs along with Brazilian Nut, with Violet Knockout and Sexy Slaydie in the pack laying out jammers. While they do employ the typical tripod defense, Gotham adds in some braced three walls, emphasizing a forward facing defense. However, Roxy Dallas or Fast & Luce can easily take a jammer on backward. The hive does seem to have an innate sense of the pack, recycling quickly together or racing the pack away to force a call off. They earned 21 total penalties in each of their first two games in Malmö, but things got a bit messier against Denver, giving up six jammer penalties and 36 total.

Gotham didn’t play anyone else in the top five this year, so their first game Saturday morning could come against Texas who they last played in June of 2016, winning 191-74. Advancing likely means another chance against Rose City only this time it comes in the semifinal round instead of the final game. This could provide an even more thrilling matchup as it will make or break their path towards the Hydra. Gotham has been in the final game of Championships for six years straight now, another record they won’t easily want to give up.

Game 8: 12 PM EDT/4 PM GMT/3 AM (SUN) AEDT
#1 Rose City Rollers (#2) vs WG3: London/Arch Rival

The Rose City Wheels of Justice have taken WFTDA Championships the past two seasons, and last year did it on their own turf. While they had one loss this season, they had nine wins at the Big O, Hometown Throwdown, and Sweatfest. They beat four teams in the top ten, including London by 123 points. The core of their charter returned this year with the addition of a few key transfers including OMG WTF who has taken on coaching duties.

With Scald Eagle taking off for Denver, it was perfect timing for Bonnie Thunders to move across the country and join their jammer rotation. Her and Loren Mutch scored nearly the same amount of points in the regular season and both averaged 75 points per game. At Playoffs Bonnie scored 130 points against 2×4 Roller Derby and averaged a lead percentage of 77%. Brute scored half as many points in the 2×4 game but earned lead jammer 100% of the time. Frisky Biscuits rounds out their main four-jammer rotation at Playoffs, but with Curtis joining then from Denver they can also add a fifth. Licker*N*Split played eight of their games earlier this year, but an injury kept her off the track at Playoffs and was still wearing a boot while coaching at MRDA Championships.

Photo credit: Regularman Photography.

Photo credit: Regularman Photography.

The camaraderie of the team is part of what keeps them so cohesive and it shows between jams when they make sure to give each other high fives. The pack naturally falls into a braced triangle defense with Hannah Jennings or Simonis breaking off for offense, but they also work efficiently in pairs. Their ability to cover zones on the track allows them to set up around the braced triangles of their opponents from the jam start. It also helps that the solo blocking of Jessica Chestnut and Gal of Fray can be just as deadly.

Rose City is the only #1 seed coming into the tournament with a loss on their schedule, losing to Victoria at the Big O by 64 points. The same thing happened last year but this time VRDL won by five times as many points and maintained the game lead for all but one jam. The Wheels of Justice will have to surpass Gotham if they want to make it to the final game for the third year in a row, a place they are likely to meet Victoria again. Last year they did avenge their Big O loss by taking VRDL down by three points in a semifinal game, showing that they can perform when the heat is on.

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