FRIDAY’S FIRST-ROUNDER FEATURES REGION BREAKOUTS!
by Muckety Muck – Photos by Bob Dunnell
This weekend in Niagara Falls, New York, St. Louis’ best on quads will compete against the premiere leagues of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s North Central region.
And in the city dubbed the “Honeymoon Capital of the World,” the Arch Rival Roller Girls’ All Stars embark on a journey that they have romanticized about all season long.
This Friday afternoon, fourth-ranked Arch Rival (10-2) faces #5 Ohio (20-1) in the opening round of “Thrill of the Spill,” the WFTDA 2012 North Central region playoff.
The match-up takes place at 6 PM Eastern (5 PM Central) at the Niagara Falls Convention Center.
(Muckety’s Memo: LIVE Real-Time Coverage of the bout will be available at WFTDA.TV by going to THIS LINK RIGHT HERE. A High Quality Stream of the playoff, which includes access to archived bouts from the entire weekend, is available for a nominal cost.)
“Thrill of the Spill” features the top ten leagues of the North Central in a three-day tournament, with the top three finishers advancing to the WFTDA Championships, set for November in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Arch Rival/Ohio battle features two squads that have set historical highs as they enter the playoff and one will achieve an even more-significant benchmark with a Friday afternoon victory.
The winner advances to the North Central semifinals for the first time in its respective league’s history, with an inaugural trip to the WFTDA Championships within reach.
By advancing to the semifinals with a first round win, a squad mathematically has two chances to gain a berth to the Championships, which features the top three finishers of each of the four WFTDA geographical regions.
Even if a league loses its semifinal match-up, it can still advance to the Championships with a win in the playoff’s third-place bout.
And a Peach Tree State trip to play for “The Hydra Cup” would be a major accomplishment considering where these two talented squads sat less than twenty months ago.
If one turns back the hands of time to December 2010, they’ll see neither of these two squads ranked within the region’s top ten. At the time, Arch Rival was eleventh and fading, Ohio thirteenth and stagnant.
Oh my, how times have changed!
The two leagues have never been ranked this high before historically, a true testament of the sweat equity invested on and off the flat-track.
Arch Rival, then-ranked sixth in the WFTDA North Central region, and feeling momentum following a solid win over Cincinnati the night prior, stumbled out of the gates in a closed-bout against Ohio, then-ranked two spots behind.
Fourteen minutes in, the St. Louis skaters were trailing 66-9. And although they made a late-period charge to close the gap to 41 points at intermission, the margin was far too out of reach against the high-octane skaters from Columbus.
After the final whistle blew, the Ohioans had extended the differential and won 168-115. Arch Rival knew full well that the setback – even behind closed doors – would have its own set of consequences.
Out of all the regular-season bouts played this year for the Arch Rival Roller Girls, perhaps the early-morning March loss was its most important…for all the right reasons.
In hindsight, it provided “the wake-up call” needed as the All-Stars approached an extremely competitive stretch of bouts over the next several months.
Victories this summer against North Central rivals Detroit, Cincinnati, Chicago Outfit and Naptown (Indianapolis) provided the fuel that propels this team into the post-season.
At the forefront would be the collective of Arch Rival blockers, paced by veterans Chewblocka, Eli Wallop, Party Foul, Science Friction, Mayor Francis Slayer, Grave Danger, The Educator, Shimmy Hoffa, May Require Stitches and a host of others.
The talented group has been able to provide the walls that have enabled the Arch Rival jammers to post points while simultaneously shutting down the opposition.
Track awareness, positional blocking and designated responsibilities have been priorities for the blocking battalion in 2012. They truly have been the collective “MVP” for the league.
The jamming quartet of Arch Rival has been arguably the most powerful one fielded, historically. Sophomore All-Star Mighty Mighty Boston paces the scoring with a 50-plus point average. Downtown Dallis, Black Market Baby and South City Shiner has also posted career numbers this season.
In short, it’s a lethal “fab four.” But once again, it’s an extension of the solid overall league effort that has netted the fourth seed.
All hands must be on deck this Friday. They face a squad that brings comparable depth.
The Ohio Rollergirls (20-1) have been of one of derby’s breakout stories this season. After finishing last year’s North Central playoff in ninth place, Ohio set a WFTDA record for most sanctioned wins within a regular season this year.
Ohio recorded its 20 wins, 17 of them against North Central teams, within the span of six months. Their one blemish to the ledger is an April setback to East Region #8 Carolina, 125-110.
Scheduling twenty-one regular season bouts completely defines the work ethic of Ohio. It didn’t matter if a team was ranked in the North Central top ten or in the region’s lower twenty, OHRG played anybody that would be willing to accept.
A majority of their bouts took place from March through early-June. The interleague load lessened as the summer progressed, but a 164-97 victory over eighth-ranked Chicago Outfit on August 18 nonetheless put the exclamation point on a successful regular season.
More importantly, it sent a message to the other North Central playoff leagues: this number five is most certainly alive.
OHRG is comparable to Arch Rival when it comes to athleticism, skill set and tenure.
In the jammer position, Ohio implements a similar “four-jammer rotation” that Arch Rival utilizes. Seven-year derby vet HellionBOI, who scored 48 in the Outfit win, brings a 50-point per bout average to the table. Multi-year starters Kitty Liquorbottom, The Smacktivist and Pippi RipYourStockings also scored 30-plus in the August victory.
Up front, Ohio’s blocking schema features top-notch veterans Loraine Acid, Phoenix Bunz, Outa My WayMan, Paige Bleed, Kill Basa, Bratislava Bruiser, Bigg Rigg and Amy Spears. What makes this contingent even more impressive is that a majority of them have also effectively “don the star” as jammer at numerous times this season, showing their versatility.
And just like Arch Rival, OHRG has posted triple-digits offensively in every 2012 bout competed.
In short, it’s two squads with similar trajectories heading into Niagara Falls.
For one team after this Friday, the “honeymoon” will be over and will finish no better than fifth place.
But for the team that escapes the battle victorious, momentum can be utilized in order to gain a first-time trip to the WFTDA Championships.
A lot on the line riding in this one? You betcha!
That bout will be one of several storylines watched closely at “Thrill of the Spill.” One can expect the drama to unfold as numerous teams will be looking to utilize post-season momentum in order to achieve success.
As mentioned before, the top three finishers this weekend will earn a berth to the 2012 WFTDA Championships, held in November in Atlanta.
A look now at the other teams competing this weekend at “Thrill of the Spill.”
(1) WINDY CITY ROLLERS (4-5-1 Overall, 4-0-1 North Central) – Like bratwurst and beer, Windy City and top seeds seem to go together naturally. The legacy franchise retained its unbeaten record within the region, but saw its North Central winning streak broken following a 155-155 stalemate against Minnesota in June. You read that right…their historical region record heading into the playoff stands at 27-0-1. And that one lone blemish in the ledger might be what propels this squad to hoisting the trophy after this weekend. Windy City didn’t like the vulnerability displayed in the Minnesota kerfuffle. You won’t see that on day one, where they’ll face either Chicago Outfit or Brewcity. I predict a Windy City steamroller on Friday, regardless of opponent, and won’t hesitate to show everyone – especially #2 Minnesota – just how relentless they can be. Whereas they might have let up off the gas pedal a bit against Arch Rival last year in the opening round, they won’t be as kind here. Expect a first-round win by 100 points, if not potentially more. They’ll face the Arch Rival/Ohio winner in the semifinals and the outlook is not quite as clear. More than likely, Windy City will be a lock as one of the three squads advancing to the WFTDA Championships. Look for jamming lynchpins Yvette Yourmaker and Varla Vendetta to pace the offense.
(2) MINNESOTA ROLLEGIRLS (6-7-1 Overall, 5-0-1 North Central) – After two straight playoffs of being Windy City’s bridesmaid, “Thrill of the Spill” could be the moment where Minnesota finally becomes the bride. Their play has been dominant in the North Central against the other top tens competing this weekend (5-0-1). They’ll face the Cincinnati/Madison winner late Friday and plan to use the similar “take no prisoners” approach that Windy City will implement. Long story short, a projected first-round quad-stomping over its opponent is likely. The WFTDA overlords determined their fate against Windy City in June. This weekend, they plan to take matters into their own hands. Jammers Harmony Killabruise and Juke Boxx are top-tier in their position. Another Hydra Cup trip is predicted and don’t be surprised if they win it all in Niagara Falls.
(3) NAPTOWN TORNADO SIRENS (8-5 Overall, 0-3 North Central) – Last year, Indianapolis utilized home-track advantage and powerful play to earn its first trip to the WFTDA Championships. That put a lot of weight on the squad’s shoulders in their 2012 campaign. A perpetual rotation of key injuries equaled tough losses against Windy City, Minnesota and Arch Rival. Heading into “the Thrill,” they still have yet to post a North Central win. The Tornado Sirens did notch a key road victory over current South Central #2 Kansas City three weeks ago to gain momentum. Naptown, paced by veterans Amooze Booche, Maiden American and Majestic, draws surly #6 Detroit – the team they upset to make the Championships last year – in round one and nothing will be a given here. If they win in the opening round, they’ll more than likely face Minnesota in the semifinals, which doesn’t look promising, considering they lost to them by 35 earlier in the year. The journey to reach the Championships will be just as challenging as it was last year.
(4) ARCH RIVAL (10-2 Overall, 9-1 North Central)
(5) OHIO ROLLERGIRLS (20-1 Overall, 20-0 North Central)
(6) DETROIT ROLLER GIRLS (4-3 Overall, 1-2 North Central) – Detroit’s June start to interleague play – and hard charges by both Arch Rival and Ohio – arguably resulted in a top ten tumble. More bluntly, Detroit’s loss to then #8 Arch Rival at June’s Midwest Brewhaha is the reason they’re ranked here. It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen the Motor City ranked this low in the hierarchy. The fresh faces in this year’s playoff rep certainly makes the future look promising, but for the “here and now” aspect of the 2012 post-season, Detroit cannot guarantee a return trip to the semifinals, considering the draw against third-ranked Naptown on Friday. On the positive side, Detroit defeated Kansas City one week ago by a similar differential that Naptown achieved over the Missouri squad earlier, so a first-round playoff upset is not out of the realm. Veterans Racer McChaseHer , Boo D. Livers and Honey Suckit can certainly provide the momentum, but the youngsters have to deliver. A solid post-season can silence the naysayers. A win on Friday over Indy starts that trend.
(7) CINCINNATI BLACK SHEEP (5-6 Overall, 4-4 North Central) –Like third-seeded Naptown, injuries kept the flock from competing at full-strength, resulting in a region and overall record that disappointed. They notched an upset win over Chicago Outfit at Midwest Brewhaha to gain momentum, but then suffered a setback against the same squad by a larger differential later in the summer. North Central wins over weaker competition helped boost the region record. Cincy suffered a pair of losses to Arch Rival, the latter with more damaging effects. Three-game losing streak heading into playoffs means that this team is hungry for a win. They draw #10 Madison in the opening round, a team not to be taken lightly themselves. Veterans K. Lethal, Sk8r Kinney, candyKICKass and Wheezy leads the charge for CIncy. A first round win is imperative, for a sheering pushes them low in the bracket.
(8) CHICAGO OUTFIT SYNDICATE (7-6 Overall, 7-3 North Central) – Last year’s North Central playoff darlings finished fifth in their inaugural trip to the post-season. The departures of 2011 playoff MVP Sweet Mary Pain and top-notch blocker Gaygan put Chicago’s other league behind the proverbial “8-ball” from the onset. Although this hard-working franchise is still relatively talented, the firepower is somewhat suspect when facing higher-ranked competition. Despite a setback to Cincinnati at Midwest Brewhaha, they avenged the loss with a 57-point win later in the year. The Syndicate comes into “Thrill of the Spill” after a solid win over #14 Grand Raggidy this past Saturday. They draw Brewcity in round one – a squad they defeated by 11 points in June. Although jammers Queefer Sutherland and Lola Blow provide consistent numbers, the key to the Outfit’s success in the playoff might rest on the quads of rookie jammer Silkk Assassin, who deservedly vaulted into full-time status. If she can post twenty-plus points against Brew City, then the Syndicate should win and then give the derby universe an inaugural cross-town match-up against top-seed Windy City later in the day…something us Illinoisans would all have curiosity in.
(9) BREWCITY BRUISERS (1-7 Overall, 1-6 North Central) – This will arguably be Brewcity’s most imperative playoff to date, for the regular season was none-too-kind. Milwaukee’s best were winless against the other North Central playoff squads this season. A two-point nail biter over current #11 Bleeding Heartland that resulted in their lone 2012 win also made some skeptical. Their one lone out-of-region bout against Nashville – a team that has drastically plummeted during the summer due to injuries and marquee vet Ramb0 Samb0’s departure – resulted in an eight-point loss, adding further frustration. They stayed within reach of their first round playoff opponent – Chicago Outfit – at Midwest Brewhaha. That might be the lone bright spot in a tough task. The deck is stacked against the keggers. Will the tapper flow freely or will the brew be flat in round one? Veteran High D. Voltage paces the Bruisers, followed by Moby Nipps and Carrie A. Hacksaw. Overall, Brew City has to record a win – even if it’s in the ninth place bout – to stay within the North Central Top 10. Other teams such as Toronto and Bleeding Heartland are looking to bust through the glass ceiling in 2013. Tenth place at “the Spill” for Brewcity could potentially create a mess that Bounty couldn’t even pick up.
(10) MAD ROLLIN’ DOLLS (4-7 Overall, 4-2 North Central) – The rollers from Madison, Wisconsin enter the playoff with a skill set that belies their double-digit classification. Last year’s 0-3 face plant in the post-season and early losses to both Arch Rival and Ohio – albeit close -kept MRD on the bubble throughout 2012.The Dairyland Dolls stayed competitive against WFTDA South Central playoff mainstays to help their cause. A pair of wins over #9 Brew City helped build confidence. Long story short, this squad is playing much significantly better than a season ago. This makes them collectively a very dangerous #10, one that is certainly comparable to the North Central playoff mid-pack. An upset win over Cincy in round one wouldn’t be that much of shock to those in the know. An upset win later that day against a fully-stocked Minnesota squad would be a bit of a stretch. Jammer Mouse paces the Dolls’ offense, followed by Thunderkitten and Magic Missle. When you’re a number ten, you have nowhere to go but up. Madison should do that this weekend.
Pound for pound, last year’s North Central playoffs provided arguably the most excitement of the four WFTDA region post-season rabble-rousers. Numerous upsets were posted as the weekend progressed and the complexion of the region inevitably changed as a result.
I would expect nothing different here. In fact, the parity is so close at so many different levels that projecting a top three order of finish is difficult. Projecting a top ten order of finish is extremely daunting.
I guess there is truth in marketing after all. There certainly will be some “thrills” in Niagara Falls.
Stay up to date on ARRG news and information from ”Thrill of the Spill” by checking in frequently this weekend at its official FACEBOOK PAGE. Or better yet, LIKE THE LEAGUE and get updates automatically.