Uncharted territory is on the docket this weekend for the primary travel squad of the Arch Rival Roller Girls…and they couldn’t be any more motivated.
The St. Louis-based skaters make their inaugural appearance in the yearly international championship tournament of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), whose 2015 finale takes place this weekend at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul, Minnesota. The twelve-league bracketed tourney begins Friday and the nine-year, Show-Me State franchise is in the mix for a chance to raise the governing body’s Hydra Cup.
Arch Rival, 15-2 and ranked #10 internationally by the WFTDA, meets #8 Jacksonville in a quarterfinal qualifier Friday at 6 p.m. The winner of the contest meets four-time defending WFTDA champ, top-ranked Gotham, in Saturday’s quarterfinal round.
St. Louis achieved its monumental WFTDA Champs entry with a third-place finish at the Division 1 playoff round held in Tucson, Arizona in early-September. Trailing by 30 points at halftime to #16 Rocky Mountain in the event’s bronze medal game, Arch Rival utilized a 61-0 second-period rally en route to a 224-185 victory and earned a trip to this weekend’s championship placement.
“Our final game against Rocky Mountain was very exciting,” recalls Arch Rival co-captain Bricktator. “We had to battle back from being down at the half to earn our win. We knew we couldn’t let up until the very end. When the clock hit zero, it was a huge rush release of emotions followed by cheers, hugs and tears. I couldn’t help repeating, ‘We did it.’”
And they most certainly did it as a collective unit. Arch Rival’s blocking battalion, paced by co-captain Party Foul, Mayor Francis Slayer, Emily Rinehart, Shimmy Hoffa, Jamheiser Bush, Kayla Seiber, Chewblocka, Cloak N’ Drag-Her, Shear-Ra Powers and The Ginger Assassin, was key in the Tucson push and will be a primary focus again this Friday against the New Jax City Rollers.
“The strength of our walls has improved a lot this season,” Bricktator said of her teammates. “Practices have been specifically tailored to enhance our strengths and develop our weaknesses. The blockers are a formidable bunch that has mastered controlled aggression.”
Jamming-wise alongside Bricktator, who totaled 142 points in Arch Rival’s three-game appearance at the Tucson playoff, veterans Brickyard (134 points), Annie Swanson (105 points), Harmony Killerbruise (94 points) and Mighty Mighty Boston (89 points) are set to “don the star” Friday.
Also on the Arch Rival charter of twenty skaters are jammer CupQuake and blockers Grave Danger, Ninja Sass ‘Em, Krista Grant and Party Rock-Her.
Although the trek to championships is the first in Arch Rival’s previous six cycles of WFTDA post-season appearances, Bricktator does possess some prior upper-echelon experience in past trophy tussles. Before this season’s transfer to St. Louis, the co-captain skated with San Francisco-based B.ay A.rea D.erby and has a pair of Champs’ trips under her helmet. Providing the knowledge to her sistren of what to expect under the international spotlight this Friday will be helpful.
“There is a lot of hype at Champs,” said Bricktator of the atmosphere. “Use the crowd’s energy, but also stay tuned in to your teammates. It’s important to check in and support each other throughout the game. Each jam is a new jam and we work hard for each other.”
Arch Rival knows its opening round foe very well. Jacksonville (11-2) topped St. Louis, 193-112, in early-August at New Jax’s home track. The WFTDA’s pre-Champs draw in early October resulted in the pairing for Friday’s quarterfinal play-in game and Bricktator knew that her team was both excited and amped for the ensuing re-match.
“We were very anxious when the WFTDA selected the brackets for Champs,” she said. “When we were paired with New Jax, we went straight into ‘let’s do this’ mode. After losing to them at their house earlier in this season, we are excited for a re-match. Their style of play was different from any other team we had seen this season. Now we know and are ready to battle.”
Also ready for combat is Arch Rival’s Friday opponent, who also makes its inaugural leap into the championship complexion and desires placement into this weekend’s “Elite Eight.”
Jacksonville finished second at its self-hosted WFTDA playoff round in September and although they suffered a triple-digit setback to #3 London in the gold medal tussle at the playoffs, the squad was still sky high as entry to St. Paul’s Hydra Cup bracket was guaranteed in the semifinals with a 193-163 victory over perennial post-season powerhouse #7 Denver.
“Winning the game that earned our road to WFTDA Champs was nothing short of amazing,” recalls Jacksonville captain Fancy Schmancy. “Playing an extremely competitive and challenging competitor like Denver, with such a big reward at stake, and coming out on top is hard to describe. Skating on our home turf with a crowd largely cheering us on, full of our fans, league mates, friends, and family was even more special. It was an epic derby moment for our entire team and coaches.”
Like Arch Rival, New Jax is propelled by a strong blocking schema. Alongside Schmancy, the Floridian walls are built by tenured skaters Stephanie Gentz, Legs R’ Us, Atomic Mel-Down, Noam Bombsky, Kat Von, Shady Godiva and Eirinn Go Brawl. Spice and Georgia Hope also look to get some key rotations to supplement.
“It’s been a long standing mindset of the Jacksonville RollerGirls that defense wins games,” said Schmancy of the upfront layout. “You can have the best jammers in the world, but if you can’t stop other jammers or capitalize on your good jammers, it’s going to be hard to win games or win by a significant point spread.”
Nex Jax features a top-tier, four jammer rotation, which includes veteran Krispy Kreme-Her, who accumulated 179 points in the Jacksonville playoff, as well as Jamsterella (176 points), Erin Jackson (164 points) and Patti Smithereens (62 points).
Facing a friendly foe, one that they have topped earlier this season, also makes the Champs’ debut for the Floridians a little easier to ingest. Schmancy believes that this benefits her squad, but she also realizes that a Friday victory is not guaranteed.
“It does help playing a familiar opponent,” the New Jax co-captain said. “I’m sure there will be some nerves and having a familiar team that we really like and have already played this season will help settle some nerves. We also know that Arch is going to bring it! We highly anticipate a competitive game that we will not be taking lightly.”
After a hard-fought year of practice and competitive play, both Arch Rival and Jacksonville plan on savoring new-found moments this weekend. A Friday victory would be nice, but just to be in the championship mix is rewarding enough for the pair.
“Obviously, we want to win and move on to play a second game,” said New Jax’s Schmancy. “That would give us the chance to play the reigning champs, Gotham. For most of us, this would be a derby dream come true. Champs will be a win for us, no matter what, if we play competitive games, remain composed, skate our game, and stay strong the entire game.”
“It’s a big deal that we are representing ARRG at Champs for the first time in the league’s history,” counters Arch Rival’s Bricktator. “We want to take in the whole experience, but of course, focus on our games. We have yet to play our best game as a team. I think it’s time. No matter what happens, we are one proud, strong, amazing team that made a lot of noise this season.”
One has the feeling that a lot of noise is going to take place on the flat-track this Friday.
Live coverage of the game is available online at wftda.tv. A viewing pass for the weekend is available for purchase AT THIS LINK.
For more information on the Arch Rival Roller Girls, go to its official FACEBOOK page.
Arch City Sports will be at the WFTDA Championships in St. Paul and will have a recap of the Arch Rival/New Jax game immediately following its conclusion Friday night.