Gotham Girls Roller Derby (#1) vs. Texas Rollergirls (#2)
Fans of Gotham Girls Roller Derby of New York, New York, U.S. (Seed #1, WFTDA #3) and Texas Rollergirls of Austin, Texas, U.S. (Seed #2, WFTDA #6) spent most of Saturday’s first game of the 2017 International WFTDA Championships Philadelphia on the very edge of their seats, as the two titans battled for the full 60 minutes. In a back-and-forth affair, Gotham seesawed back into the lead with two minutes left and held onto it just long enough to keep Texas from overcoming their deficit it in a wild final jam. When the last whistle blew, and all points were counted (and re-counted), Gotham had secured the win, 148–145.
While each team would eventually put up a number of multi-pass jams, from the very beginning the name of this game was defense. The first jam saw Gotham’s Miss Tea Maven take the jam line against Texas’ Olivia Shootin’ John. Texas set up a triangular defense in back and sent one blocker to the front to help OJ navigate Gotham’s four-wall. For a full minute, the jammers struggled to escape their respective packs to no avail. Finally, Miss Tea Maven found a lane and shot out of the pack for lead jammer. With the help of some dedicated offense from Caf Fiend, Maven earned five points to Texas’ zero.
A track-cut call to Texas’ pivot-turned-jammer Aja Gair at the end of the first jam put Gotham on a power start, and ShortStop took full advantage, bursting out of the pack for lead with the aid of some quick and decisive Gotham offense. Texas blocker Stone Her helped mitigate the damage by knocking ShortStop to the outfield and forcing the Gotham jammer to reset at the back of the pack, but at the end of the jam Gotham had added nine points for a 14–0 advantage.
Texas put up their first points in the next jam courtesy of Freight Train, who took lead jammer status over Space Invader and received a power jam when Space’s attempted star pass to pivot V-Diva went awry. Upon return from the penalty box, Space and Diva connected for a successful star pass,and Diva earned four points on a late call-off from Freight Train.
Gotham held on to a slim lead for the first 10 minutes of the half, but the first lead change of many was on the horizon as Gravy, Baby took advantage of some penalty trouble to the Gotham blocking crew, bringing the score to 33–26 in Texas’ favor. Gotham’s Space Invader then put up four quick points, and next Miss Tea Maven took another Gotham lead jammer status and capitalized on a Freight Train penalty to get the better of a 10–4 jam, bringing the score to Gotham 40–Texas 46 with 14 minutes remaining in the opening half.
A strange sequence of events began when Space Invader and Hauss the Boss faced off at the jam line. With Polly Gone bottling up Space, Texas pivot Smarty Pants took a star pass from Hauss and snuck through the inside for five points. Space, who was not lead jammer, attempted to call off the jam and received a penalty for skating out of bounds. Freight Train took lead jammer status on the ensuing power start and Texas snatched the lead back, 51–50. During that jam, Freight Train was called for a back block but immediately sent back to the track; however, an official review after the jam determined that the back block call was correct, forcing Freight Train to start the next jam in the penalty box. Unsurprisingly given the tenor of this game, this led to yet another lead change, as Miss Tea Maven picked up lead jammer and scored nine points to Texas’ zero. The score stood 59–51 and Gotham would extend this lead as the game edged toward halftime, taking four of the next five lead jammer statuses. At the half, Gotham was ahead 79–65.
The second half began much like the first, with Miss Tea Maven taking lead jammer status and adding two points to Gotham’s total. But then Texas began to mount their comeback with Olivia Shootin’ John earning points as ShortStop was boxed on a track cut. Despite Brazilian Nut’s strong one-one-one blocking to draw OJ back into the pack, Texas scored 13 to creep within 6 points of Gotham’s total. A few minutes later, a big 11–0 jam from Freight Train propelled Texas back into the lead at 93–88.
A series of grueling jams followed, in which Gotham’s stifling defense kept the Texas jammers at bay for a full two minutes while the Gotham jammers had only marginally more success with Texas’ blockers. Space Invader earned lead for Gotham but could only pick up four points before the two-minute jam ended; the next jam was similar, with ShortStop earning lead after battling the Texas wall for a full minute and only able to take one point from the stingy Texas defense. That one point, though, was good enough for a tie score at 93–all.
One of Gotham’s newest members, transfer Sarah Giles (formerly of VRDL), came up huge for them in this game. Giles donned the star and broke the 93-point tie by smoothly navigating a Texas pack suffering from some unfortunately-timed blocker penalties and dropped a huge 15–0 score, bringing the tally to Gotham 109–Texas 93 halfway through the second period. With more points from Miss Tea Maven, Gotham stretched their lead to 25, the largest of the game, as Texas blockers continued to cycle in and out of the penalty box.
Gotham’s momentum was short-lived, as Freight Train soon followed up with a 15–0 jam for Texas. Next, pivot-turned-jammer Polly Gone stole points from Gotham’s Short Stop, taking five to Short Stop’s three. A few jams later, Miss Tea Maven earned a penalty while Hauss the Boss was lead, allowing Hauss to earn five points and call off the jam with Maven in the box, setting Freight Train up for a power start and — you guessed it — another lead change. Freight Train’s five points put Texas back in the lead at 132–128 with just under five minutes remaining in the game.
Showing their Playoff experience and acumen at this pivotal moment, Gotham sent Giles, who had been effective all game but especially in the second half, to jam against Gravy, Baby. Giles picked up yet another critical lead jammer status and calmly added twelve points, putting Gotham back in the lead at 140–132 with just two minutes remaining. In the penultimate jam, ShortStop earned another crucial lead jammer status, but Freight Train successfully passed the star to PeaceWar to limit the damage to 4–0 and force the call-off from Gotham.
With Gotham down a blocker to the penalty box, Miss Tea Maven fought the Texas pack to gain lead jammer status. Texas’ Olivia Shootin’ John, initially bottled up by the Gotham defense, escaped and started matching Maven’s points. Texas’ defense came up strong, holding Maven to only four points as the Gotham jammer eyed the scoreboard, waiting for time to expire and end the jam without giving Texas the opportunity to take a time out and force another. While OJ and the Texas blockers put forth a determined offensive effort as time ran out, the additional Texas points earned (13) were not enough to surmount the Gotham lead. Gotham escaped with the narrow victory, 148–145.
Gotham moves on to a showdown later today with a familiar rival, the Rose City Rollers, in the semi-final game at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The Texas Rollergirls move to the consolation bracket and will play their next game against the Minnesota RollerGirls on Sunday at noon EST.
Gotham Girls Roller Derby (Seed #1, WFTDA #3) 148
Texas Rollergirls (Seed #2, WFTDA #3) 145