Road to Championships: D1 Preview

The 2016 International WFTDA Championship tournament is taking place in Portland, Oregon and is hosted by reigning champions the rose City Rollers. 12 Division 1 teams will be participating with competitors coming from Europe, Canada, Australia,and the United States. Montréal Roller Derby makes their debut trip to Championships, marking the first time a Canadian team has done so, but the rest of the bracket is familiar from last season.

The weekend starts with semifinal games for Division 2, which we highlighted previously, and then the first four games of Division 1 play out on Friday to see who advances to the quarterfinal round. Each of the #1 seeds get a bye on the first day, so the Friday match ups will be between #2 and #3 seeds to see who moves on and who gets eliminated from the tournament. Here’s a quick look at how each team looks heading into the weekend.

Game 1: #7 Denver Roller Derby vs #8 Arch Rival Roller Derby

This season the Denver Mile High Club avenged the loss they took to Jacksonville last year at Playoffs and reversed the seeding to take 2nd place in Columbia. With a bit of roster turnover in 2016, Denver’s top scorers at Playoffs were Wilhelm and Gypin who are part of six different jammers they used this season. The ability of Denver’s jammers to pull out large scoring jams helped them stay in the game with many opponents this year.

The Mile High defensive pack is a recycling machine, with blockers such as S.H. Long or Davidson constantly finding their way back in front, whether together or singularly, making it an exhaustive effort for opposing jammers. They are equally committed to providing offense for their own jammers, a job often done by Akers who can sweep a pack or take a star pass. Their ability to use their whole body to block keeps them glued to jammers, but their rotating triangular formations don’t always have full coverage of the line.

The Arch Rival All-Stars kept a perfect regular season this year with eight wins, but at Playoffs, they failed to replicate a second victory against Minnesota. A strong, flat wall made up of K. Woodward and Shimmy Hoffa while Smarty McFly or Salty broke off for offense helped them take down Tampa for 3rd place and earn their second consecutive trip to Championships. Arch Rival isn’t as consistent with offense however, and it will be something they’ll need against Denver.

During the regular season Bricktator claimed the spot as their high scorer with an average of 87 points per game, but in Madison, Swanson took that title with 195 points total, and only two penalties in three games, all of which contributed to her earning Tournament MVP. Their deep jammer bench was pruned between seasons but still maintain the nimble Harmony Killerbruise and they have utilized Cupquake for a few jams as their fourth.

Denver and Arch Rival met earlier this year at Sibling Rivalry, and despite a last jam push by Denver, ARCH took the game by three points on their home turf. This first D1 game will likely help start the weekend with close, competitive play, and the winner will advance to a match up with the London Rollergirls on Saturday at 10am PDT.

Game 2: #4 Angel City Derby Girls vs #19 Montréal Roller Derby

The Angel City Hollywood Scarlets have shown marked progress this season after losing to Victoria at the Big O by 89 points and then nearly taking down the Australian juggernaut at Playoffs, but lost by 3 points in the last jam. Taking 2nd place, a strong defense, especially in pairs, helped Angel City keep Rat City’s scoring low, and a consistent offense by Tui Lyon or Hunnie Brasco helped ACDG get 63.2% lead status in their first half against VRDL. Soledad and Rachel Rotten helped hold down defense in braced formations with Laci Knight picking up tournament MVP in Vancouver.

Satan’s Little Helper has had an impressive year by taking top scorer in the regular season for Angel City by over 100 points, earning a 90.3 lead status percentage for all three games at Playoffs, and scored 76 points against Victoria. Darby Dagger has become the second highest scorer for them this season, followed by Ghetto Fabu-lez and Micki Krimmel, none of which got less than 60% lead status at Playoffs and all had positive differentials over 100 points for the whole weekend.

The Montréal New Skids on the Block had the luxury of their home crowd cheering them on at Playoffs as they beat Bay Area by 12 points in the 3rd Place game to earn their first trip to WFTDA Champs. With an average of 22.1 blocker penalties in the regular season, their clean game carried into Playoffs and first helped them beat Dallas by 49 points. They have mastered the braced quad this season, forcing many jammers to fight hard for points, while also being able to let a blocker break off for offense at the jam start.

Miracle Whips and Falcon Punch contend for top jammer of Montréal, although in their toughest game at Playoffs against London, Whips was able to earn lead status five times and put up 34 points. The Honey Badger and TerminateHer help fill out their main rotation, with Ptite Pouliche taking on five jams in their game against Dallas. They had a harder time scoring against London, and took a bigger loss to them than they did in May. Ranked #19, Montréal takes the 12th spot in D1 at Champs, making it an exciting first for the New Skids, but they have a tough battle ahead of them.

These two teams are the only D1 teams on Friday to have never played each other before, and while Angel City has shown improvement in games against the same opponents this year, Montréal hasn’t been as consistent. The winner will take on Gotham the next day at 12pm PDT, a team the New Skids have already lost to this season 418-37, and Angel City last played Gotham at Playoffs in 2015 where Gotham won 205-83.

Game 3: #9 Minnesota RollerGirls vs #10 Jacksonville Rollergirls

The Minnesota RollerGirls head to Champs as the #2 seed, the highest they’ve placed at Playoffs since 2012, and do so with many skaters who have been on the track together for awhile now. Their braced formations hold strong in the pack which helped lock down Arch Rival jammers and avenge the loss they took against them earlier this year. With some tough blocking by Hurtrude Stein and Crust Almighty, some of their other staple blockers such as Diamond Rough and Second Hand Smoke ran into a bit of penalty trouble at Playoffs.

This season Brickyard moved to Minnesota from Arch Rival, and she averaged the most points per game in their regular season, but was outdone by Jacked Pipes in Madison. Pipes has worn out her rookie status, having finished her second full year of playing, and has seemed to have gotten a stronger grip of the game. Yekaterina Lapitsky and Fargo transfer Sarin Dipity have helped score points, but MNRG has been without a solid third for their jammer rotation.

Jacksonville has become a top ten contender over the past few seasons and return to Champs as a #3 seed after making their debut last season. Erin Jackson was scheduled to attend speed skating Championships at the same time as Playoffs, so they were forced mixed things up during the season in preparation for it. Jamsterella has been a consistent jamming force for them, and since Snot Rocket Science joined Jacksonville from Steel City this year, she’s been able to take on blocking or jamming.

New Jax City’s games are often a tale of two halves, with powerful blockers who can recycle quickly and work well in pairs or a whole group, but if distracted can quickly lose momentum. Stephanie Gentz, Eirinn Go Brawl, and Legs R Us are warriors in the pack and as a whole, they are more than willing to offer up offense for their jammers. They had a strong 8-2 season, but haven’t been able to take Denver down again since Playoffs last year.

Minnesota proved in Madison that they can rebound from losses they took against teams earlier in the year, and one of their other losses was to Jacksonville by 23 points. Both teams will need to clean up parts of their game and work on blocker penalties for this high stakes rematch, but either way it should make for another close Division 1 match up. The winner will move on to play the Victorian Roller Derby League at 2pm PDT on Saturday.

Game 4: #6 Texas Rollergirls vs #11 Rat City Rollergirls

The Texecutioners showed up strong at Playoffs in Montréal with a six-jammer deep bench, which helped them nearly beat London in the final game, but left in 2nd place. Constant recycling efforts of the pack locked down opposing jammers and great leadership and defense from Peacewar earned her tournament MVP. Texas was also more apt to provide offense at Playoffs, which speedy jammers such as Hauss the Boss or Freight Train only needed a small opening to take advantage of, and they picked up lead status an average of 68.5% over all three of their Playoff games.

Freight Train’s fast and forceful jamming style helped her dance to 221 points at Playoffs and was also a name many threw around for Tournament MVP. Bloody Mary has been their most consistently used jammer this year, and she got lead status 100% of her six jams against Bay Area. FiFi Nomenon returned to the Texas charter strong after taking part of the year off, and with Nicki Ticki Timebomb, Hauss the Boss, and Olivia Shootin John available to take the star, Texas has an extensive library of jammers to choose from if they move on at Championships.

Rat City is another that has been putting more emphasis on offense this season, a job taken care of by either H. Botts or Carmen Getsome. Cassie Beck held down strong defense at Playoffs, whether one on one or being the brace of their triangle, alongside the wrecking ball efforts of CeeCee or Chantilly Cream. They’ve used a tighter rotation of blockers this season, and they pulled off a 6-point upset against Angel City earlier in the year, but ACDG came back strong and took them down at Playoffs 256-64.

With Kayla Gaska hanging up her skates after the Big O, Rat City has had to amend their jammer rotation a bit. Luna Negra returns at the top, followed by Scratcher in the Eye (aka Genevieve Moore), and then new to the team this season is Renegade Ruthie, Eva Derci, and Jex. Xena was a consistent jamming force in the regular season but was missing from their lineup at Playoffs. A little penalty prone at times, they did pick up 14 jammer penalties against Philly, but was still able to pull out the win for 3rd place.

Texas and Rat City already faced off this year at the Big O where the Texans came away with a 165-122 victory. With a strengthened Texas jammer rotation, they are looking to be a strong contender to move on this weekend, but Rat City has proven in the past that they shouldn’t be underestimated. The winner faces 2015 WFTDA Champions and host league Rose City the next day at 4pm PDT, and both teams have already lost to them this year; Rat City by 106 points and Texas by 44 points.

Game 5: #5 London vs Denver/Arch

London Brawling played a short season staying in Europe this season, and with an average win margin of 275 points over lower ranked teams, it wasn’t until they hosted Gotham in June that we saw them against a higher ranked opponent. They lost to Gotham by just 31 points, and then came to Playoffs with a tightly defended pack that forced eight cuts on Texas. Brawling had a close final game against the Texans, but while their defense was able to corner Hauss and work on keeping their pivot away from her, they aided Rogue Runner in a 33-point jam to push them into a padded lead.

London also has a long list of jammers that they can use, and during the regular season Rogue Runner was a constant for the rotation followed by Carley McAdam who we did not see at Playoffs. Lexi Lightspeed, Trisha Smackanawa, and Stef Mainey have been mainstays in the past, but at Playoffs AnDracula had an impressive weekend and they relied heavily on Master Blaster who joined their team from Bear City this year. Hoping to go far in the tournament again this year, they can tailor their rotation to their opponent and save some jamming ammunition for later games.

London’s first game will be against the winner of Denver and Arch Rival, and the last time Brawling took on the Mile High Club, it was at Playoffs in 2013 and Denver beat them by 24 points. Each team has changed a bit since then, and London has never taken on Arch Rival, but either should make a strong competitor for London if they keep up on offense, but they will have to hold down London’s speedy jammers at the same time. The winner of Game 5 will advance to the semifinal round against the winner of Game 6: Gotham versus either Angel City or Montréal.

Game 6: #1 Gotham vs Angel/Montréal

Despite losing Championships last year, Gotham still remains at the top of the WFTDA rankings and will most likely want to reclaim the Hydra this season. This year they gained VanEssa “V-Diva” Sites from Philly, as well as Ana Bollocks, Donna Matrix, and Bonita Apple Bomb from chartered retirement. With a braced three wall or triangle, Gotham’s pack averaged only 14 blocker penalties a game at Playoffs, which means the hive mind spent a lot of time on the track together and kept Minnesota to just nine lead statuses in the final game in Madison.

In the regular season, Bonnie Thunders averaged 112 points per game but nearly doubled that in their first Playoff game against Windy City. Vicious van GoGo, ShortStop, and Miss Tea Maven fill out the rest of the rotation, and V-Diva’s history as a pivot makes her a great blocker to have in the pivot stripe. During the regular season, Gotham’s jammers averaged 2.8 penalties per game, and at Playoffs they went from zero jammer errors against Windy City to five in their game versus Tampa.

First up for Gotham will either be Angel City or Montréal, and with ACDG entering the top five of WFTDA ranked teams, they would make a good first competitor for the Gotham giant. The winner of this game will take on the winner of Game 5: London against either Denver or Arch Rival. Gotham has made it to the final game of Champs for the last five years, four of which have gotten them the Hydra trophy. The last team to take them out before then was Rocky Mountain in the semifinal round of Championships in 2010.

Game 7: #2 Victoria vs Minnesota/Jacksonville

Victoria made it through the regular season undefeated, four wins at the Big O, before tacking on three more wins at Playoffs, all with little use of last year’s top jammer Christy Demons. They’ve been a team to watch for a few years now, but got fans revved up last year at Champs when they led Gotham for a majority of their semifinal game, but lost to them in the final minutes by two points. VRDL got to see the other side of that at Playoffs this year when Angel City held the lead over them for 77% of the final game until Victoria’s defense held strong in the final jam and ten points gave them the lead and gold medal.

With Demons recovering from an injury this season, Giles emerged as top scorer for Victoria, followed by Mary Fagdalene and Ivy Knivey. Recent Pirate City transfer Lady Trample got her debut at Playoffs with a lead percentage of 72.7 of her 22 jams. Super Maria also joined the Australian squad from Helsinki this year, and got some time in at Playoffs as well. Victoria rostered their five-jammer arsenal for each game, which left just nine blockers to rotate through in the pack. Christy Demons played just one game and four jams, so as of Playoffs she had still not made a solid return to the track.

Part of Victoria’s struggle against Angel City at Playoffs was the 16 jammer penalties they accrued, but was balanced out by a cleaner pack and soul crushing defense. Their first competitor this weekend will be either Minnesota or Jacksonville. The last time VRDL took on Minnesota was at Championships in 2014 where VRDL won by 47 points, and they’ve never played Jacksonville. Advancing will pit them against the winner of Game 8: Rose City versus Texas or Rat City.

Game 8: #3 Rose City vs Texas/Rat City

Hosting Championships this weekend, The Rose City All-Stars will have the Legion of Justice cheering them on as well as last year’s Championship title to inspire them. Although they lost to Victoria at the Big O this season, they were also the only #1 seed last year at Champs who had an imperfect season record and went on to take it all. With a focus on blocking pairs and offense, Rose City can easily go from a braced quad or triangle and filter through the pack quickly to catch jammers.

Like Victoria, Rose City had a main jammer out this season, Loren Mutch, but she made a strong return and scored 207 points in Columbia. Scald Eagle is still perched at the top of their scorers, and put up 105 points against Denver in the final game. With her leggy footwork and impressive jukes, it seems the main thing to stop her this season were penalties, which took her out of their game against Victoria at the Big O. Licker*N*Split took the most points in their first Playoff game against Columbia, and filling out their rotation this year has been Frisky Biscuits and a few jams by Starta Ruckus.

Rose City’s first game will be against the winner of Texas and Rat City, and Texas came within 44 points of them in July of this year while Rose City took down Rat City at Hometown Throwdown by 217-111. The winner of this game will advance to the semifinals in a game against the winner of Game 7: Victoria versus Minnesota or Jacksonville.

Catch all these games on throughout the weekend and then if you live within the United States, you can watch the final day on ESPN3.