One year ago, the primary travel squad of St. Louis-based Arch Rival Roller Derby notched a monumental benchmark as the ten-year-old league netted its inaugural appearance at the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) Division 1 International Championships.
Twelve teams made the cut and the Gateway City rollers, as newbies, were just happy to be competing at the global tourney held last November in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Arch Rival suffered a loss in the opening round to Jacksonville, Florida but the entry to the WFTDA’s Hydra Cup finale was good enough for a newfound historical page written into the ledger.
This weekend, St. Louis returns to the governing body’s championship mix, this time held in Pacific Northwest, and seeks a first-ever victory at the premiere level.
Arch Rival, 11-1 and ranked eighth internationally, faces Denver Roller Derby in a quarterfinal play-in round at the WFTDA Division 1 showcase held in Portland, Oregon Friday at 2 p.m. Pacific (4 p.m. St. Louis time). Within the bracket, the winner advances to Saturday’s quarterfinal round to face the London (UK) Rollergirls, currently ranked fifth by the WFTDA.
St. Louis reached this weekend’s twelve-team tourney with its third-place finish at the Division 1 playoff round held in Madison, Wisconsin in late-September. ARCH’s 149-131 triumph over Tampa in the bronze medal game secured the team’s second straight Hydra Cup appearance.
“Going to Champs was the goal from the first day of our season,” said Arch Rival co-captain Brickator. “During our game against Tampa, we knew we had two choices: win and move on to Champs or lose and the season was over. We were not ready for the season to end. As the game neared the end, we locked it down to get the win. Receiving the bronze medal solidified that we continue to be one of the best teams in the world, which is an incredible feeling.”
Preparation is imperative for the high-intensity action that the locals will experience Friday in the opening-rounder against the seventh-ranked Coloradoans (7-8). As a result, Arch Rival has scrimmaged non-stop at its South St. Louis training facility.
“We’ve been incorporating more situational drills into practice to simulate Denver’s strategy,” Bricktator assessed. “This has allowed us to familiarize ourselves with our opponent and decrease the chance of surprises.”
Alongside the co-captain, whose three-game jamming output in the Madison playoff round yielded 172 points, Arch Rival scoring is powered by Madison MVP Annie Swanson (195 points) while co-captain Harmony Killerbruise (191 points) is also considered a game-changer.
St. Louis’ strength, consistent for the season, is its stellar group of blockers, paced by veterans Party Foul, Kayla Woodward, Shimmy Hoffa, Chewblocka, Cloak N’ Drag-Her, Shear-Ra Powers, Jamheiser Bush, Smarty McFly, Salty and Krista Grant. Late ARCH addition Bolt Action, a 2016 transfer from the Fargo Moorhead (ND) Roller Girls with six years of experience, adds another layer to the complexion.
According to Bricktator, Arch Rival’s overall depth, and its familiarity to the high-profile derby environment, will help propel a potential Friday triumph.
“We are no longer the new kids at Champs which allows us to have a little more swag,” she said. “Having confidence in your abilities can take you far. If you believe you can, you will own the track.”
St. Louis’ opponent, perennial Champs entrant Denver Roller Derby, punched its proverbial ticket to the WFTDA International Championships with a second place finish at the Division 1 playoffs held in Columbia, South Carolina in early September.
The Mile High Club possesses a very solid, four jammer attack, paced by veteran Stacie Wilhelm, who notched 181 points in three games at the Columbia playoff while Lindsay Gypin collected 165. Supplementing the scoring is Vanna Curtis (141) and Klein (124) to complete the dangerous quartet.
Denver blocking is led by S.H. Long, Thomes, Davidson, Anghel, Akers, Goings, Barrett and Garton, who each have multiple years of post-season derby experience that equals Arch Rival’s portfolio.
What makes this Friday’s match-up even more intriguing is the fact that both squads have already tussled in a flat-track donnybrook earlier this year. At June’s Sibling Rivalry invitational, held at ARCH’s Midwest Sport Hockey home base, Denver controlled early play but St. Louis stormed late and snagged a 163-160 come-from-behind victory.
“When you look at the stats, the two teams were nearly identical in scoring and penalties,” recalls Bricktator of the three-point win between the side-by-side ranked leagues. “The teams are very evenly matched, which is also indicated by overall WFTDA rankings. Nonetheless, we’ve beaten them once and we can do it again.”
That’s precisely the missive Friday for Arch Rival. According the Bricktator, Denver is extremely aggressive on offense, quick on jammer star passes to pivots and impressive in the blockers’ ability to re-capture opposing jammers.
The internal propellers are certainly there for St. Louis. The 2015 setback against Jacksonville last November provided the catalyst for ARCH’s 11-1 record heading into Friday. Plus, a prior victory over its opening-round competitor certainly helps.
Overall, the team craves its twelfth win and a newfound benchmark in Hydra Cup play with a duke over Denver.
“Last year at Champs, we came so close to winning our opening game (against Jacksonville),” she said. “The opportunity to play in the second round slipped away. This year, we have more high-level game experience under our belts and we know how to lock it down and play our way to Saturday. “
Live online coverage for Friday and Saturday match-ups at the WFTDA Championships can be purchased by GOING TO THIS LINK. A free audio-only feed can be heard by GOING TO THIS LINK. Sunday’s coverage of the Division 1 and Division 2 third place and championships games will be shown on ESPN 3.
Arch Rival begins its three-team, local campaign on Saturday, December 10 at Midwest Sport Hockey at Ballwin, Missouri’s Midwest Sport Hockey at Queeny Park.
Arch City Sports will post an update from Friday’s game later in the evening.