The second semifinal of the 2016 International WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs Madison paired the number two seed, Arch Rival Roller Derby from St. Louis, MO, USA, against the number three seed, Minnesota RollerGirls from St. Paul, MN, USA. The number one seed of the tournament, Gotham Girls Roller Derby of New York, NY, USA, had already clinched their spot at WFTDA Champs in Portland, OR, USA with a huge 320-49 win against the number four seed, Tampa Roller Derby of Tampa, FL, USA, in the first semifinal of the tournament. Game 12 would determine who would punch their ticket with Gotham, and who would have to battle Tampa on Sunday for another chance in the third place game. After a tightly-fought battle, Minnesota moved up in the bracket with a 174-155 win over Arch Rival.
“This game was about emotional containment for us,” said Minnesota’s Madrad. “We have a very friendly rivalry with Arch, especially with the Harmony and Brickyard switch.”
Arch Rival’s K Woodward seemed to agree. “We are so closely matched with Minnesota,” she said. “We had a lot of emotional stakes in this game. They are one of the teams we play similar to defensive wise.”
Minnesota came out strong with an early 31-0 lead. Brickyard and Jacked Pipes each put four points on the board for Minnesota before a track cut on Arch Rival’s Bricktator allowed them to quickly expand their advantage with 23 unanswered points from Brickyard in jam 3. Arch Rival responded with a 4-0 jam by Harmony Killerbruise, which put the first points on the board for the Missourians. Swanson would add to that total for Arch Rival with a 3-0 jam, but Minnesota would maintain a solid margin through the next few low-scoring runs.
Swanson was able to narrow the gap in jam 8 with five grand-slam scoring passes totaling 25 points as Yekaterina Lapitsky was held for almost the entire jam by a tightly-sealed wall of Arch Rival blockers. This brought the score to 43-32, still in favor of Minnesota. Though narrowed, Minnesota would maintain their lead for the next few jams, until a 14-0 run by former Minnesota skater Harmony Killerbruise flipped the scoreboard to 78-71 in favor of Arch Rival, delivering a lead change with 12 minutes left in the half.
Within five minutes, Minnesota would regain the lead as pivot-turned-jammer Shiver Me Kimbers scored 10 points on a grinding jam in which both jammers were held on their initial for a whole minute. Minnesota and Arch Rival traded points for the rest of the half and the score remained tight, with Minnesota holding a slim 109-102 lead going into halftime.
“We felt more comfortable in this game than at The Big O,” explained Madrad. “We had the entire season to gel and a floor that we like. We knew that no lead was safe, but also, all we needed was one more point than Arch Rival.”
The second half started with a powerful kick from Minnesota. Five minutes into the period, Jacked Pipes and Brickyard opened up their lead to 132-107 with strong jamming while defensive blocking from Secondhand Smoke and Madrad kept Arch Rival scoreless.
“We know the incredible machine that is the Brickyard,” said K Woodward. “She is arguably the best jammer I’ve gone against because she’s so unpredictable.”
Arch Rival began a steady uphill climb with Swanson, Harmony Killerbruise, and Bricktator outscoring the Minnesotans 18-3 over the next five jams. The game continued with quick jams—but both teams would exchange successful streaks of multiple scoring passes—and Minnesota was able to maintain a double digit lead throughout. But a 12-0 jam by Swanson with four minutes left in the game closed the gap to just 14 points, bringing the crowd to the edge of their seats as a momentum shift appeared to be in Arch Rival’s favor. While the game clock ticked down, every tense jam seemed to have the possibility of a lead change, but Minnesota held on and called off the final jam with a 174-155 win, securing a spot at the 2016 International WFTDA Championships.
Minnesota goes on to face Gotham Girls Roller Derby Sunday at 6 p.m. Central Time for a first round bye at WFTDA Champs. Arch Rival will battle Tampa Roller Derby for third—along with a spot at champs—Sunday at 4 p.m. (CT).
Arch Rival Roller Derby (#2) 155
Minnesota RollerGirls (#3) 174