TEAM LOOKS TO BUILD AFTER SIXTH-PLACE FINISH IN ’11
by the Grand Poobah, ARRG Bout Co-Announcer – Photos by Bob Dunnell
Yesterday, we looked in-depth at the Arch Rival Roller Girls‘ 2011-12 intraleague season in anticipation of its signature event, the 2012 ARRG Local Championship, to be held at Chaifetz Arena on Saturday, April 28.
Even though the last event featuring the four local ARRG squads was held in early February, the league has been anything but quiet the last two months.
In addition to the battles fought on the flat track internally, three travel squads consisting of skaters from within ARRG compete against other Midwestern-based flat track roller derby leagues.
The next three days, we’ll look at the teams that represent ARRG on a regional and national level.
Specifically today, we look at the ARRG All-Stars, the classified “A-team” of the league, which competes in bouts sanctioned by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the governing association of 147 predominately American-based roller derby leagues.
ARRG, which became WFTDA-chartered in 2007, is a member of the WFTDA North Central region, one of four geographical regions designated. The North Central – which currently has thirty sanctioned leagues – consists of mostly Midwestern states.
Within the North Central are leagues from Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and other markets that collectively cover 11 US states and one Canadian province.
Per WFTDA’s rule, a travel team’s charter consists of twenty skaters maximum, fourteen of which can play in a single bout.
To be on the ARRG All-Stars, skaters must petition with the league for inclusion on the roster and state their intentions. This occurs multiple times during the course of a calendar year. After a designated deadline, the team’s co-captains and bench coaches select the rolling charter of twenty. A skater’s skill set, knowledge, attendance and overall attitude are all components that determine whether a skater makes the final cut.
The overall complexion of the team – and its balance – is vital to its success. For example, a squad consisting solely of fast jammers does not create the perfect balance an “A-team” needs. Conversely, a squad that has nothing but blockers nets similar results. It’s all about building a line-up that addresses all needs.
The team practices weekly and prepares for upcoming bouts, where the level of play is brought up to a whole new level.
“During the off-season we’ve been working together a lot more,” said blocker Grave Danger, an All-Star veteran. ”Even our younger additions are getting a lot more seasoned by playing more. They’re really stepping up, which strengthens the whole squad.”
As one can expect, being selected to the ARRG All-Stars is a pretty big deal for a local skater – it’s the collective “face” of a league that’s being represented nationally. Others look at you more critically.
And it can be a little overwhelming sometimes. The locals are battling against opponents that are recognizable in the sport on a regional and, in some cases, a national level.
“Every once in awhile you starf**k,” said ARRG All-Star Black Market Baby. “You’re like ‘Oh my god, I’m skating against this skater!’ I’m sure that will be great when I stop playing derby.”
The team’s first WFTDA-sanctioned interleague bout, held on May 19, 2007, resulted in an 89-74 win over Northwest Arkansas. Since then, the A-team has a cumulative record of 28-28, which includes its 2-1 mark thus far in 2012.
During that span, the All-Stars have qualified for three consecutive post-season trips to the WFTDA North Central region playoffs. The three-day tournament features the top ten leagues currently ranked within the region, with the top three finishers advancing to the annual WFTDA National Championships.
In its three trips to the region’s post-season, ARRG finished sixth in 2009, tenth in 2010 and sixth again last year.
Maintaining its sixth spot in the current North Central rankings – the ARRG All- Stars started their 2012 campaign on March 10, hosting the tenth-ranked Dairyland Dolls of Madison, WI.
In a close bout that went down to the wire, the locals held off Madison and posted a 131-121 win.
“That was a really hard game,” said ARRG All-Star jammer Mighty Mighty Boston, who paced team scoring with 74 points. “It was really important for us to come out on top. We had to win.”
Indeed. But a loss to a lower-ranked opponent might have not been out of the realm in a region that has a lot of parity within its top ten.
“Even though a lot of people look at the North Central as not being competitive on a national level, I feel that within the region the competition is just sick,” said ARRG All-Stars co-captain Chewblocka.
“There’s no other word for it. It’s ridiculous. Everybody’s hungry, so we’re going to fight really, really hard to make things happen for us.”
ARRG then turned heads with their impressive display over North Central stalwart Cincinnati on March 17. In that bout, held in front of 3,000 at the Cincinnati Gardens, St. Louis raced out to a 46-0 lead en route to a 158-118 win over the region’s eighth-ranked team.
“We went out there with a lot of confidence and we really owned that game for the first fifteen minutes,” said ARRG All-Star blocker Party Foul.
“It was such an impressive display. I think we were a little nervous about what this season would hold. But I think we showed that all that really hard work paid off.”
About twelve hours later, the squad travelled three hours east and faced ninth-ranked Ohio in Columbus at a setting that was entirely different than the one experienced the night prior. The bout was a “closed bout,” meaning that it was not held in front of the paying public.
Yet the bout was still WFTDA-sanctioned and counted in the win/loss column, which saw Ohio strike early and post a 168-115 win that dropped ARRG’s record to 2-1.
“Ohio was interesting,” says blocker The Educator, who is skating her fifth season as an ARRG All-Star. “We saw what we could do at our best and we saw what we needed to work on, too. This biggest takeaway is that we know what our strengths are and I think we have a plan for using those strengths to compensate for what happened the day after.”
That’s three bouts against three top tens in eight days with mixed results.
“The first game (Madison), we weren’t ready for it,” said sophomore All-Star blocker/jammer May Require Stitches. “The second game (Cincinnati), everyone was ready for it and we came out wonderfully. The third game (Ohio), I don’t know what happened. I guess we were tired. It was rough.”
All of the bouts within the North Central region will be tough this season, including the upcoming home schedule at Midwest Sport Hockey in Ballwin, MO. ARRG will host North Central #13 Bleeding Heartland (Bloomington, IN) on May 5, the fifth-ranked Chicago Outfit Syndicate on July 14 and the third-ranked Naptown Tornado Sirens (Indianapolis) on August 4.
ARRG will also compete in two bouts at the two-day Midwest Brewhaha Invitational, held the weekend of June 2 in Franklin, WI. As of press time, ARRG’s opponents have not been selected, but more than likely it will be a pair North Central rivals since the region will have close to half of its 30 leagues represented there.
ARRG will also play in WFTDA-sanctioned travel bouts in Memphis, Houston and Nashville this season. These bouts will apply to ARRG’s overall win/loss record, but as the three aforementioned leagues are members of the WFTDA South Central, the bouts’ outcomes will not influence ARRG’s rankings within in the North Central.
Regardless of the opponent or the venue, the play must be solid every bout. The first three results showed the ARRG All-Stars first-handedly that they cannot rest on their laurels and assume victory.
“I think it’s put us in a really good position to know that we have to bust ass in everything we do,” said Black Market Baby. “I think everybody just has to push it every single jam and we have to make sure that we remember to do that.”
And if ARRG wishes to make its fourth consecutive region playoff in September, then the booty busting has to continue today.
“To make nationals is our ultimate goal but we know that we have a lot of work to do,” says The Educator. “After that Ohio trip, we know what we need to do to make that goal.”
The ARRG All-Stars next play in WFTDA-sanctioned action on Saturday, April 14 against the Memphis Rollin’ Hustlers in Memphis, TN. We’ll preview this bout in a future column next week.
COMING UP TOMORROW AT 8 AM FOR ARRG’s “30n30″: A look at another one of the league’s travel squads. ARRG’s “B-team” features top-notch talent that has experienced a lot of success against comparable leagues from within the region. It’s a squad that’s about development while simultaneously “having fun.” On Thursday, we feature the Saint Lunachix.
ARRG’s “30n30″ is a daily feature that examines different aspects of the Arch Rival Roller Girls – St. Louis’ first female flat-track roller derby franchise. In this section every morning at 8 AM for the entire month of April, a new feature will be presented.