The theme of the weekend—upsets—continued in the final day of the 2019 International WFTDA Playoffs Winston-Salem, as the lower seeds toppled the higher seeds in the medal games. Seed #2 Angel City Derby defeated Seed #1 Texas Rollergirls for first place in the tournament, while Seed #4 2×4 Roller Derby secured third place and a trip to 2019 International WFTDA Championships in Montréal with a victory over Seed #3 Rainy City Roller Derby.
It was also a day of firsts: though Angel City Derby has been to Championships every year since 2013, this is the first time they won first place at Playoffs or regional tournament and will arrive at the WFTDA International Championships as the top seed from their play-in event. It also marks the first time a team from South America will participate in Champs, and of course this year’s Champs will be the first time that event is held outside of the United States.
More on the day’s action:
Going into the second half, Helsinki Roller Derby of Helsinki, Finland (Seed #6, WFTDA #15) lead Atlanta Roller Derby of Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. (Seed #9, WFTDA #22), 117-59. All seemed lost for an Atlanta team that has been in a rebuilding year with several players returning from injuries. Helsinki came out strong in the first half, knowing the way that Atlanta played on Saturday, a win would not come easily for them.
For the first eight jams, Helsinki held Atlanta scoreless, and with 23:30 left in the first half it was 18-0 in favor of Helsinki. It was then that Atlanta’s Trouble MakeHer seemed to wake up her team, earning 29 points and taking the lead with 29-24, Atlanta.
Helsinki had great track awareness, knowing when opposing jammers were standing in the penalty box and when they needed to call off the jam.
Into the half, Helsinki and Atlanta both ran a six-jammer rotation, with Atlanta’s Blaque Jac and Afro Dykee both running into some penalty trouble.
Going into the second half, Atlanta seemed to come back out with a new game plan yet had some trouble containing Helsinki’s Malou. Malou seemed to find ways both up the inside and outside lines with the help of Varpu Knuuttila, Allu, and Nöki. All skaters seemed to know when they needed to play offense and defense.
Gucci Maim was pivotal in helping Afro Dykee and Madditude Adjustment with throwing points onto the board with a quick eight points with 17:12 on the clock. And that was the precursor to Atlanta’s momentum shift. In the ninth jam the score was 144-114. Gucci Maim was awarded lead jam status but lost it to a track cut with 13:10 left on the clock. With Helsinki’s Malou able to take advantage of the power jam keeping their lead at 152-122.
— HardKore (@HardKoreLena) September 8, 2019
Atlanta kept kept chipping away at the score, but ultimately, Helsinki earned the win.
“We are happy to come out with our teams and pull things back together after our loss yesterday,” Helsinki’s MIA said after their win. MIA was one of Helsinki’s heavily relied-upon jammers, in their six jammer rotation.
— Thomas Huseby (@ThomaswithanH) September 8, 2019
When asked about Euro-derby MIA said, “We are proud to be here with other European teams. I have been playing for eight years and it has grown. It is nice to have European teams here now.”
From the first whistle to the last, Bear City Roller Derby of Berlin, Germany (Seed #10, WFTDA #24) versus the Paris Rollergirls of Paris, France (Seed #12, WFTDA #28) was an exciting match-up. For the first four jams Paris was held scoreless, and it looked like maybe Bear City had figured out how to lock them down, as the two teams have previously played five times.
Moving into Jam 8 the score was 41-22 coming off a game-high 18-point jam for Bear City’s Maya Mangleyou after she broke out of a tight scrum, with all the blockers working hard for both Maya and Paris’ Louisette Bonbon to score. Two jams later, Avocado scored 12 points, which was the highest-scoring jam for Paris at the half. But after scoring she was sent to the penalty box for a direction of game play violation.
— AleXander Slamilton (@XanderSlamilton) September 8, 2019
What really made the difference in this game were the blockers. They made sure to not only catch opposing jammers but also sweep opposing blockers aside to make sure their jammer had the space to get through. This allowed for skaters like Bison, Ta Mère, and Louisette Bonbon score for Paris. Bear City’s Master Blaster, Emmazon, and Hannah Satana made sure to hold doors open for Mia Missile and Miss Zoffi to score as well.
The final score is very much indicative of how close this game was all the way down to the last grueling second. If not for a penalty assessed to Paris jammer Te Mère, this game could have been even closer.
Master Blaster, WFTDA President and Bear City skater said, “With the seeding upset at the beginning of the weekend, we take away that hard work pays off. We trained and played a lot of hard games and reworked strategies. Also repeats are huge for us. And seventh was the highest game we’ve ever placed and fifth was the highest team that we’ve ever played. But really, prep. Prep! Prep! Prep!”
This was the last game Master Blaster will be skating for Bear City and her advice is to, “Keeping doing it (skating) as long as you love it.”
Can I just say how tickled I am that a plucky little DIY upstart sports league already has copious international representation while goliaths like the NFL, MLB, and NBA have trouble maintaining much beyond a single non-American team? #derbyTwitter #Talk2WFTDA
— Tipsy Velvet (@PurpleNinjaGrrl) September 8, 2019
Game 15 – Bronze Medal Game
It is a Cinderella story. A story as old as roller derby, of coming together to find gear, coaches, travel funds, and merch. It is a story that reminds us our sport can be one of privilege even as much as it can empower.
Out of the six teams that played on Sunday, four had to travel to the United States to compete. The winner of the Bronze Medal Game was 2×4 Roller Derby of Buenos Aires, Argentina (Seed #4, WFTDA #12), the first South American team to achieve the goal of making it to the International WFTDA Championships. They are headed to Montréal, Québec, Canada in November.
The grueling pack work of 2×4 and Rainy City Roller Derby of Manchester, England, U.K. (Seed #3, WFTDA #10) seemed to slow game but demonstrated the strength and agility of both teams. Both left their hearts out on the track. At halftime, Rainy City had been held scoreless for the previous 12 jams.
How much faster do you think 2×4 is able to remake their formations because of the extra distance/flexibility from hand bracing? Also, HOW DO THEY MANAGE TO GRAB HANDS SO ACCURATELY? #talk2wftda #wftdaplayoffs
— Scarmitage Hux (@pinkteacozy) September 8, 2019
After halftime neither team was willing to give up—a trip to Champs was on the line. The announcers and spectators alike were tense, often times willing the jammers or walls to hold, or collapse, when after two full minutes no lead jammer was declared. There were times where an entire minute would pass, and the pack would not be to turn two.
In the sport of roller derby, we toss around the idea of “the sad place” when a jammer is working so hard against an opposing wall of blockers and have dropped their head and shoulders and can only see a mass of skates and bodies. But both teams metaphorically held their heads high. 2×4 jammer Loba led all scorers with 54 points, while Rainy City’s Mia led her team with 42 points.
Tropical Mecanica and Lula Zan were equally strong jammers, along with Perséfone and Maki Lombera being strong pivots. Not enough can be said for the Buenos Aires team’s blockers. Being hit by two of those blockers would be like being caught in an elevator door.
Rainy City was led by pivots like Banshee and Lily Gaskell, as well as other jammers like Ducky, Fairy Quake, and Lauren Swaffield.
— Sprints (@DianaSprints) September 8, 2019
As the game came to its conclusion, both teams picked up speed, and with one second left on the period clock, Rainy City called for an official review to be used as a timeout. It was incredible time management on their part. However, jammer Mia received a penalty which enabled 2×4’s jammer to get lead jammer status and call off the jam to end the game.
“I can’t believe we are here. We have so many obstacles, no coaches, or money. It was difficult for us to get the donations needed to get here,” said 2×4’s Carla after the game.
2×4 captain Tropica Mecanica said in loosely translated Spanish, “With the help of God we got here, thank you!” She later added to those who could not travel with them or were watching from home, “We want you to believe that this comes from our heart, you are a part of our heart.”
This is more than a Cinderella story, it’s 2×4’s story! They made it happen. With the strength of their team and the help of others, they are taking a bronze medal home to Argentina.
Game 16 – Gold Medal Game
Texas Rollergirls of Austin, Texas, U.S. (Seed #1, WFTDA #6) and Angel City Derby of Los Angeles, California, U.S. (Seed #2, WFTDA #7) are not strangers to each other on or off the track. It is of no surprise that the first-place game between the two teams was hard fought and filled with hard hits and smart play.
— Scarmitage Hux (@pinkteacozy) September 8, 2019
For the first three jams in the first half of this game, Texas was held scoreless, and one of those jams lasted an entire two minutes. Angel City jammers Pearl Jam, Darby Dagger, and De’Coldest Winters all worked together with their blockers, Lo Betancourt, Psycho, and Soledad.
— Papap Called It 🔮 (@thederbyapex) September 8, 2019
Freight Train in Jam 6 helped Texas pull up for a tie at 15-15, but that was the last time the two teams would be particularly close, as Angel City continued to extend their lead. At halftime, the score was 64-40 in Angel City’s favor.
About 4 yrs ago, when I was still coaching juniors, we hosted a scrimmage at Comicpalooza where Pearl Jam was on my team and Kaptain Sassy was on the other… love seeing them play against each other now at the highest level of derby as adults! #derbytwitter #SupportJuniorDerby pic.twitter.com/RQr95UQSfe
— Scarlet O’Hurtya (@ScarletOHurtya) September 8, 2019
After halftime, Texas was again held scoreless for five consecutive james. In Jam 16 Freight Trained earned lead jammer status for Texas and Pearl Jam passed the star to Boo Gogi after Freigh Train scored 4 points and held Angel City scoreless with the help of her team.
When Texas gets the power jam, their jammer is the lone-star jammer. #Talk2WFTDA
— Rachel D. ❤️💜💙 (@MersenneTwisty) September 8, 2019
De’Coldest Winters was the only jammer to reach double digits in a single jam with 11 points. Clearly this speaks to how hard each team fought for each and every point. In the end, Angel City goes home with the gold medal and Texas goes home with the silver. Both teams will advance to the 2019 International WFTDA Championships Montréal in November.
— PulHitzHer Prize contributed to this report.