In the first upset of the 2016 International WFTDA Division 2 Playoffs Wichita, the Blue Ridge Rollergirls of Asheville, NC, USA (seed #7, WFTDA #55) defeated Houston Roller Derby of Houston, TX, USA (seed #2, WFTDA #43), 182-137 in Game 4.
Blue Ridge is on a roll, having defeated the Carolina Rollergirls (seed #10, WFTDA #62), 309-94, earlier in the day. The team didn’t participate in WFTDA Playoffs last year, but jumped from a ranking of #78 just a few months ago to qualify this year.
Almost every time Houston got a spark in Friday’s game, Blue Ridge sucked the momentum away with a power jam kill, a punishing wall, or a bushel of points.
“We tried to play extra offense. We knew Houston would bring heavy defense, so we tried to throw extra offense at them,” Blue Ridge blocker Dixie Kicks said. “We just tried to keep it low and slow.”
In the first half the teams were evenly matched across stats — lead jammer status, jammer trips to the box, team penalty minutes — but Blue Ridge’s defense limited Houston while their jammers went on a 46-4 run midway through the first half.
Blue Ridge’s Dr. Octopushy scored 51 of her game-high 91 points in the first half. Late in the half she took a star pass from a teammate who started the jam in the penalty box, and Octopushy used it to rack up 15 points. That and a 12-point run by Hurrycane Jackie helped the North Carolina team enter halftime with a 101-74 lead.
Jam seven provided a pivotal moment for Blue Ridge’s momentum. Both team’s jammers struggled to break the pack for more than a minute, but Blue Ridge’s Lady Rider broke through just as her teammate Coma N. Ducer recycled Houston jammer Mad Cap’nCap back a quarter of a track. Lady Rider used the remaining time to score 9 points and jumpstart the blue team’s offense.
Houston had some bright spots in the first half, as jammers Payo Dues had an early 14-point jam to give Houston their only lead of the game, and Nikkity Split had a 16-point run leading into halftime. Houston blockers Betty Watchett, AcuPunchHer and Poysenberry Pie led the defense.
The second half started with the teams trading a few points, before Blue Ridge landed a 20-point punch in jam four. While Dr. Octopushy lapped the track, defense from Coma N. Ducer, and Dixie Kicks forced Houston to pass the star, but it didn’t help.
Houston did try to capitalize on Blue Ridge penalties and the jammer trio of Slayor Moon, Payo Dues, and Mad Cap’nCap put together a 34-point run over three jams.
The game had a mere 17-point spread with about nine minutes to go, but once again Blue Ridge’s blockers stepped in. They forced three penalties on Houston jammers in the last six minutes, and stellar offense by Ashevillian, Brutal, and Dixie Kicks helped maximize those power jams.
For Blue Ridge, Dr. Octopushy had 91 points, Lady Rider had 42, and Hurrycane Jackie had 39. Houston’s Slayor Moon had 48 total points, with 34 coming in the second half. Nikkity Split had 38 and Payo Dues had 37.
Next: Blue Ridge advances to play the Nashville Rollergirls (seed #3, WFTDA #46) at 8 p.m. Saturday. Houston now moves to the consolation bracket and will face Game 7’s winner, either Tucson Roller Derby (seed #6, WFTDA #51) or Chicago Outfit Roller Derby (seed #9, WFTDA #60), at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Blue Ridge Rollergirls (#7) 182
Houston Roller Derby (#2) 137