Rose City Rollers (D1 Columbia #1) vs Texas Rollergirls (D1 Montréal #2)
The current WFTDA champions and host league, Rose City Rollers from Portland, OR, USA, played their first game of 2016 WFTDA Championships against the first-ever WFTDA champions, Texas Rollergirls of Austin, TX, USA. While Rose City (WFTDA #3) has been in the first place game at Championships the past two years, Texas (WFTDA #6) has a longer history at Championships having been at every single one including the first, which they won, in 2006.
Although there were more than half a dozen lead changes and Texas led at the half, Rose City ultimately took control of the game in the last seven minutes to win, 186-172.
Texas was playing its second game of the weekend, having beaten the Rat City Rollergirls (#11 WFTDA) on Friday night, 238-50.
The first jam was a grinder with both teams feeling each other out. After one minute, neither team had made it to the second straightaway and Rose City’s Loren Mutch had just earned lead over Texas’ Fifi Nomenon. The second jam was shorter and quicker with Olivia Shootin’ John gaining four points for the Texecutioners to tie the game.
At that point, both teams looked a little more comfortable on the track and game play loosened up. Rose City jammer Licker *N* Split earned lead after great offensive blocking by Tarantula and Brawn Swanson but a track cut penalty on her scoring pass allowed pivot-turned-jammer Smarty Pants to win the jam for Texas, 14-9. A quick lead by Frisky Biscuits followed by a quick star pass to Texas’ Trauma gave Rose City three points in the following jam. Rose City retook the lead in a dire situation where only Tarantula and Gaither were on the track as Rose City blockers but managed to draw a misconduct penalty off Texas jammer Olivia Shootin’ John. The very next jam returned the game to a tie with Rose City jammer Scald Eagle picking up a track cut penalty and her only five points of the half while Texas jammer Freight Train outscored her with 14 points, leaving the score tied at 32 with ten minutes gone.
After some back-and-forth, Texas managed to break open the score when three jams in a row saw jammer penalties for Rose City. Freight Train, Bloody Mary, Olivia Shootin’ John and Smarty Pants (as pivot-turned-jammer) put up 41 points across four jams to bring the score to 79-60 with just under eight minutes left in the half. Two jams later, Rose City saw more penalty trouble and Brawn Swanson as the lone blocker on the track. Texas jammer Bloody Mary scored 20 points increasing her team’s lead, 102-68, with two and a half minutes left on the first period clock.
“Penalties have a way of making everything sort of spiral around. We had to work on resetting ourselves,” said Rose City blocker Tarantula after the game.
Texas worked on point control in the final jams of the first half by passing the star when Rose City had lead. By the end of the first half, Texas had more than doubled their average number of star passes per game. Texas pivots Jackie Daniels and Smarty Pants were able to cleanly take passes and put up points of their own, leaving their team with a halftime lead of 111-90.
The top-level WFTDA teams are known for adaptation during the game and at halftime. Rose City, defending champions, kept doing what worked well for them: dedicated offense, in contrast to Texas’ focus on defense first, offense when situational. Rose City also moved to faster pack speeds, longer jams and keeping their top jammers on the track more.
The second jam of the half saw Rose City jammer Scald Eagle earn lead after some persistent offense from Gaither and the host team ran the jam long even after Texas jammer Freight Train passed the star to Smarty Pants. The lead closed to 13 points with that 14-3 jam. Two jams later, Rose City retook the game lead again with Scald Eagle picking her way through a hectic Texas pack with offensive help from Hannah Jennings. Texas settled their defense better with Peacewar and Stone Her delivering masterful performances to keep Loren Mutch on her initial pass for 90 seconds, but Rose’s lead grew 135-123 with 20 minutes left.
Once again, Rose’s penalty issues spiralled and Gaither and Elicia Nisbet-Smith were the only two left on the track. With less than 15 minutes to play, Texas was in the lead once more 143-135 and Scald Eagle was facing off against Texas’ Freight Train on the jammer line. Despite a star pass to Smarty Pants, Rose City was able to shut down Texas’ offensive goals and Scald Eagle put up 15 points to retake the lead once more. That lead was short-lived as Rose City found themselves down to just Gaither and Elicia Nisbet-Smith again two jams later and jammer Licker *N* Split in the penalty box. Texas scored 18 points to bring the score to 161-159 in their favour.
“We practice how to handle ourselves when we’re down skaters so that we know what to do when we face that situation on the track,” said Rose City blocker Tarantula.
Loren Mutch started Rose City’s sixth and final comeback, and with the exception of a 4-0 jam by Texas’ Bloody Mary — the last jam of her 15-year roller derby career — Rose City won all the remaining jams in the half to win the game 186-172.
Rose City goes on to face the Victorian Roller Derby League (D1 Vancouver #1, WFTDA #2) in the semi-finals Saturday night.
Rose City Rollers (D1 Columbia #1, WFTDA #3) 186
Texas Rollergirls (D1 Montréal #2, WFTDA #6) 172