Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Coach's notebook - Spanksgiving

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Besides an undying passion for journalism and roller derby, I also referee and coach for the Quad-City Rollers based in Davenport, Iowa.)

On Saturday, the Quad-City Rollers headed up to Dubuque, Iowa, to play a relatively new team, the Eastern Iowa Outlaws. We knew some EIO faces would look familiar as many of the skaters migrated from Cedar Rapids to build a new and fresh team.

The Rollers had played CR a couple of times before and had seen EIO play a few times.

We knew they wanted to come out hard and fast with their hitting game. It's a by-product of their system. Many of their skaters are taller and bigger, and they mostly all gravitate toward a hitting game. A team with a good hitting game can be down right intimidating and can take the focus out of any opponent with solid hits and crowd pleasing action.

EIO's B-team had beaten our B-team last month, and the victors proved that EIO had taken Cedar Rapid's hitting game and made it their own. With only 9 skaters on our team, we knew it would be a tough go-around with short rotations and several skaters pulling back-to-back duty. Thanks to some awesome efforts from our main B-team jammers -- Pissy Missy, Iron Rub'r and Mondo KO -- our Rock Island Line kept the game closer than their previous contest with EIO's second-team.

Even though our B-team was relatively new to playing with each other, they still managed to communicate and execute their defense/offfense when called upon. In the end EIO kept their lead and took the B-bout win.

For the main event, I knew we had to do a few things right:
1. We needed to keep an eye on the clock and manage our timeouts appropriately.
2. We wanted to minimize the things we couldn't control, while maximizing the things that we could.
3. In order to have a solid chance, we had to keep our jammers available to jam in big scenerios.
4. Defense, defense, defense.

In roller derby, the jammers are the only players that can score points. In order to use them effectively we had to stay true to goals 2 and 3. The game is fairly simple when both jammers are on the track, but when one or the other is penalized for an offense, it gives a key advantage to the lone jammer - she becomes the sole point scorer on the track. Power jams can make dramatic swings in the point totals. We were lucky that we kept our jammer penalties to a minimum, but when we had a star in the box, our pack made sure to prevent the opposing jammer from making too many scoring passes.

Likewise if our jammer is the only one on the track, we want to maximize the amount of time she can score while minimizing the amount of time it takes her to make a scoring pass. This gives us more points in less time. In one jam of the first half, Eastern Iowa failed to field a jammer by the time the jam started. This effectively gave us a 2-minute power jam as long as our jammer didn't go to the box. The pack went to work right away -- giving our jammer a quick start and keeping the pack controlled and slow to help our jammer earn several scoring passes.

By half time, we had a decent margin lead. Eastern Iowa would come out with a vengeance looking to make some major hits. I wanted our jammers to do their best to earn lead and score a point or two before calling the jam off - similar to "small ball" in baseball or basketball. By doing this a team can build a small lead and maintain solid clock control.

We were also falling into penalty trouble as several girls had two or three minors, so once they hit their fourth minor they would be spending time in the box. Notably two of our jammers were at 3 minors, so we couldn't risk jamming them and possibly losing the opportunity to score.

With Sassy Smalls starting the second half in the box, we had a tough decision: If we tried to give an intentional fourth minor to an eligible jammer we would be down to two blockers in the pack -- and our jammer was less likely to get many points out of it. We opted to set Lady Gotcha up for her intentional fourth minor right away, with Suzie Spew to get poodled at the next available opportunity.

Luckily Taco was clean on minors, and we opted to put our two strongest and fastest blockers (Sugar N' Slice and Mexican Monster) on the track -- with the orders to stay in front and keep the pack moving fast, to kill off the minute of penalty time.

It worked great other than Few Screws Lucy of Eastern Iowa made a couple of scoring passes, with a big point differential between her and Taco. Unfortunately, it was a mental error on EIO.

With Gotcha and Smalls released from their penalties, EIO called the jam off.

I immediately called for a challenge. Lucy was supposed to start the jam in the box to serve out the rest of her first-half penalty and therefore an ineligible jammer and negating any points she earned in the first jam of the second half.

It was a strategic move on my part -- negating a big first jam for EIO and springing one of my top blockers and a top jammer out of the box. Any momentum EIO had hoped to gain coming out of the locker room was gone. It was also a gamble -- since a team only gets one challenge a half, I was using mine incredibly early in the second half. It paid off. Lucy was sent to the box to serve her remaining time plus an additional minute for a major illegal procedure.

We would continue to control when our jammers were going to the box and keep a clean rotation, allowing a few other skaters to fill in if our main point scorers needed a break.

Frustrated, Eastern Iowa started losing blockers to the box -- at one point with a full box and one skater waiting to go in -- EIO tried to call a timeout with both of their captains in the box (which was actually something we opted to not fall victim to). They got a successful timeout, but it was no good, the captains were still unable to talk with the refs -- one of the afflictions of serving time in the box -- all the while I still had all three of the Rollers' timeouts available to me.

I knew the longer the clock kept running, the harder it would be for EIO to mount any sort of comeback. With that in mind, I wanted to keep our own timeouts to mininum, forcing EIO to call the TOs to stop the clock. I burned one when we realized we had fielded a jammer with three minor penalties, stopping the clock to switch out some players and set Taco up to intentionally earn her fourth minor by an illegal procedure/poodle -- so that she could begin jamming again with zero minors.

EIO would fail to field a jammer for a second time in the game, giving us another 2-minute opportunity for maximum point scoring. In both instances, we had Lady Gotcha on the track to give us the best advantage as the lone jammer.

Two other mistakes that we gratefully captialized on were: EIO at one point had earned lead-jammer, giving her the right to end the jam by repeatedly hitting her hips with her hands, but failed to call the jam off, instead opting to play defense as a jammer -- thus unintentionally running the very clock out that they needed.

Another mistake was the opposing jammer did not have lead, but upon getting through the pack waited there outside of the engagement zone looking to block our jammer when she came through. With lead fully secured, I coached Taco into just slowing down and hanging out behind the pack. Had the opposing jammer hurried and attempted a scoring pass we would have called the jam. But she didn't and we were able to burn about 1 1/2 minutes off the game clock.

The home crowd was pretty upset at some of our tactics, sometimes being confused on why we employed certain strategy. I kept my composer.

Our pack work was stronger than we had in the past two games. The Rollers worked hard at keeping the front cleared and their options open. The endurance training definitely helped, as the team was skating hard and fast to keep the opposing jammer at the back of the pack. As she struggled our jammers were at ease sweeping around and ahead. Our blockers stayed clean for the most part, in comparison with our last game. When we played Iowa City last, we lost at last three skaters to foul outs or expulsions.

This time around, Mexican Monster only had four trips to the box, and even some of our skaters that seemed penalty-prone stayed relatively clean. Eastern Iowa, possibly out of frustration, started stepping up their hitting and taking a few more risks, picking up penalty minutes in the process.

With 3 minutes left in the game, the bout was out of reach for Eastern Iowa. Taco volunteered to jam in both the remaining jams, a testament to her confidence and her endurance. She earned lead, got a few points and waited before she called off the penultimate jam with about 45 seconds remaining in the game, assuring one more jam would unfold. As the clock started ticking down and the time keepers hand raised (a 10-second warning that the jam was to begin), I called my second timeout, to go over some last minute coaching.

If Taco got lead jammer, I wanted her to keep an eye on the clock only calling the jam once it ran to zero. If she did not get lead, the pack was instructed to skate as fast as possible minimizing any more points being scored by EIO (and as a side effect, minimizing the amount of points we could score). I also wanted to make sure she didn't pick up a third minor in the jam prior and we wouldn't endanger a fourth minor and a power jam for EIO.

Taco wouldn't be designated lead, but the pack new the plan and took off, keeping the jammer in the back for a long time. The game was over. We had secured our first win of the season and our first road win as a league.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Uproar on the Lakeshore - 3 stars (Unedited)

Fivepointgrandslam.com gives its three stars for each day of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association's championship tournament in Chicago, Ill., on Nov. 5-7. 

For the third day, we'll actually give three stars for both the third-place and first-place game. We'll add the names of the third-day stars on Nov. 17, so check back for updates.

Day 1
Third Star - Rosie the Rioter
 Charm City's No. 100, along with Joy Collision, led a much of Baltimore's defense, delegating pack duties to her charges while working in tandem with Mistress May Eye to help shut down the opposing jammers. The pair stifled Lex'i Cuter, No. 187 for Minnesota, keeping her from making multiple scoring passes in Jam 10 of the first half. Rioter, an integral part of Charm's D-team, stalled most of the Minnesota blockers, preventing them from making multiple passes -- Minnesota had only 5 multiple scoring passes in 34 jams -- and blanking MNRG 11 jams in the bout.

Second Star - Femme Fatal
No. 18 for Oly stood out in the three jams she wore the star cover. She earned lead in two of those jams, but she had a 4-5-5-5 multiple pass in Jam 10 of the bout. The jam would go to two minutes after neither jammer secured lead, and Fatal would help extend a 50-8 Oly lead to 69-14 over Nashville. With Rambo Sambo in the box, Fatal would rack up four more grand slams in Jam 10 of the second half, putting up 20 more points to make the spread 100-plus points, 170-50. She ended the bout with a 43-6 jammer differential. 

First Star - Bloody Mary
Texas jammer Mary would pick up 2-0, 6-0, 10-0, 5-point jams, in the closest game of the tournment next to the Rocky-Oly final. The lead change would swing back and forth before 
Astronauty's mental error of calling off the jam with 27 seconds left on the game clock and no timeouts left, would be forced to give the game to Texas, 72-59.

Day 2
Third Star - Hoosier Mama

Windy City's defense would get its best test of the tournament against Oly, who's run-and-gun offense simply wears down their opponents. After a successful star pass from Athena DeCrime to Jackie Daniels in the second jam of the second half, WCR's defense would slowly get to work, trying everying they could to cut into the deficit. In Jam 7 of the second, Hoosier Mama, Deb Autry and Sargentina stacked the front of the pack holding back Oly's jammer, Harmony Killerbruise, and keeping her from getting much more than a grand slam, while Kola Loka exited and returned to the box in the same jam. In Jam 9 Mama would tease Oly jammer Scara 2 Death the A-line gap, only to shut the door on her. Death would earn lead that jam, but get boxed for a low-block major, to allow Varla Vendetta to score a 5-5 scoring pass in the last 37 seconds of the jam. Unfortunately Oly would still manage to beat the championship tournament hostesses 178-76.

Second Star - Rocky Mountain Defense

For a team known for its pack control, this was no where near as evident as their bout against Gotham City. Rocky's Frida Beater and Psycho Babble established a front wall with 15 minutes remaining in the second half to hold Bonnie Thunders to a 4 point jam, as Urrk'n Jerk'n finished serving time in the penalty box. Urrk'n managed to serve her time with 59 seconds left in the jam and complete her initial pass with 37 seconds remaining - forcing Thunders to call the jam to prevent the Rocky jammer from scoring any points. Gotham would be forced to call a timeout after only managing 8 points in 6 minutes and 11 seconds of the first half. Assaultin' Pepa (Rocky #86) had a good assist in Jam 19 to spring her jammer, Frida Beater, No. 202. With a significant lead, Rocky would settle for running out clock, thanks to Jam 6 in the second half going the full two minutes after lead Gotham jammer Swede Hurt would get boxed for a major back block. DeRanged would earn lead, completing her intial pass a mere 2 seconds before Thunders could complete hers, opting to just eat time before calling the jam, prompting boos from the crowd but giving the Rocky jammer a bit of a rest. With Frida Beater in the box with less than 4 minutes remaining in game, Rocky would offset a 4-2 pack disadvantage during a Gotham powerjam -- Amanda Jamitinya would hold Gotham jammer Suzy Hotrod in the back, trying to force a cut, meanwhile eating time on her two penalized blockers. Rocky would end Gotham's undefeated play 109-74 advancing to the first-place game on Sunday.

First Star - Bonnie Thunder
After a less than stellar first-half performance against Texas in the first bout of the Day 2, Thunder (340) for Gotham City, would earn lead in all 8 jams in the second half. Thunder would also successfully call each of her lead jams, avoiding the box and mental mistakes. Thunder scored 24 points, four grand slams and earned lead in only 2 of her six jams in the first half. In the second half Thunder warmed up, playing Texas' small-ball philosophy against them, settling for five points in her first five jams of the second frame. She would go on to finish her turns with the star by earning a five-point grand slam in one jam, and 4-4 scoring passes in her last two jams of the game, finishing her second half point total with 29 points, for a game total of 53 points. All of her grand slams would would come against a scoreless opponent, adding to her jammer differential 25-0.

Day 3: 
Gotham versus Philly

Third Star - Suzie Hotrod 
With the exception of a few mental errors, Hotrod (55) put on a show for the Gotham fans at the UIC Pavilion on Sunday, Nov. 7. Fans cheered on one of Gotham's most recognizable stars in what was rumored to be her last WFTDA game with the New York City team. The Gotham and Philly blockers were out to prove they knew about positioning and pack control, demonstrating the tactics that earned them first and second place respectively in the East Region tournament. In the fifth jam of the game, the pack killed off 1 minute, 5 seconds of the jam before releasing jammers Hotrod and Shenita Stretcher (Philly). Hotrod would earn lead within 17 seconds of the jammer whistle and manage a full grand slam before Stretcher could complete her initial pass. The Gotham pack would maintain control in the ninth jam releasing the jammers at the 1:47 mark of the jam clock. Hotrod would take 30 seconds to break through the pack without earning lead and make a 5-4 (committing a forearm minor preventing an extra point) scoring pass before accidently trying to call the jam off, earning her fourth minor and being directed to the box. In an almost comical fashion, Hotrod touched her hips twice and pleading with her jam ref that she didn't mean it. Gotham's defense would take the jammer penalty kill cue and shut down Philly jammer Elle Viento (22). With Bonnie Thunder (340) doing most of the heavy lifting in the first half, Hotrod managed earning lead only twice in five jams, and getting boxed at least twice while wearing the star cover. In those five jams though she did manage to score optimum points, earning grand slams in three jams, while earning 4 points in her last jam of the half. In the second half, Hotrod would earn lead 100 percent in five jams, with 18 points (one grand slam), to help carry her team into a third-place finish for the 2010 WFTDA season.

Second Star - Teflon Donna
Donna (85) was the paramount work horse of Philly's Liberty Belles. The all-around player for Philly was often seen in all three positions: blocking and pivoting in the pack while occassionally wearing the star as her team's jammer. Gotham may have held her scoreless, but her presence on the jammer line dictated how New York's defense played, trying to trap her and keep her out of scoring range as much as possible. I don't remember seeing her sit out more than one jam, constantly taking playing time on the track in the Gotham-Philly grudge match for second-place.

First Star - Bonnie Thunder
If Thunder (340) put up great numbers against Texas, her efforts in the third-place game versus Philly were astronomical. Much like Texas' second-round matchup, Thunder would take much of the first half to warm up, scoring 8 points in the first five jams and only earning lead twice. Something inside Thunder woke up, only going scoreless in one more jam in the last 10 jams of the bout, and managing multiples scoring passes in seven of those 10. Thunders would amass 15 grand slams throughout the game, to bring her total points up to 108, achieving her personal best record. Thunders would improve upon her 50 percent lead jammer average in the first half with a nearly perfect average in the second, not earning lead in one of seven jams, and only dropping 3 points in that jam. Her last two jams, she faced off against Persephone (15) of the Liberty Belles, managing a 5-5-5-5 and 5-5-5-4 scoring passes after Persephone was boxed in both jams for major track cuts.

Day 3 - Rocky Mountain versus Oly

Third Star - Deranged
Deranged (27, Rocky) started picking up more and more playing time as Urrk'n Jerk'n and Pscyho Babble fouled out in the course of the game. Her defense as a jammer more than made up for Deranged's mediocre jam numbers, twice stalling the opposing Oly jammer to kill penalty minutes for her boxed teammates. Deranged started the bout with a 5-5-2 jam earning lead and calling it before 2 Ton Heffer could score any points, mostly because the pack held her to her intial pass for 1 minute, 2 seconds. It would be that pack support and mental aptitude that helped carry Rocky over Oly, proving that the first time the team from Denver beat the 2009 WFTDA champions was no fluke. In the thirteenth jam, Rocky's defense would have to step up when Deranged was boxed for a major track cut, while Oly's jammer 2 Ton Heffer tried for a power jam, only to be boxed herself for incurring her fourth minor, and releasing Deranged. The jam would end scoreless as both teams would lock down their defense, reventing any points from going on the board. Deranged jammed seven times in the first half, eight times in the second, but only earned lead in five of those attempts. Her 46 points for the team was definitely a huge help against Rocky's win over Rocky.

Second Star - Atomatrix
Oly's Atomatrix (003) put up several multi-scoring passes and capitalized on earn lead by calling the jam a majority of the times she had the privelage. Atomatrxi put up two 8-point jams in her first three attempts before falling pray to the penalty box. The Oly jammer would round out her first half with a 5-5-5 jam after earning lead and a 4-5-5-5-5 after committing a no pass-no penalty on her initial pass. Rocky keyed in on her during the second half, holding her to 11 points, compared with her 39 points from the first half. Unfortunately for Atomatrix she would get boxed four different times while wearing the star, giving Rocky opportunities to score power jams and keep the points close. I can only speculate that either Atomatrix was tired, or Oly was worried she'd get boxed again when the game clock fell near the two minute mark, as it's here that Oly opted to put Lector (9) in. And while she did make a 23-point jam, if she had called the jam before getting boxed, Oly stood a better chance at holding on to their lead going into what seemed like the last jam of the game.

First star - Frida Beater
Rocky co-captain Frida Beater (202) got to shine on roller derby's biggest platforms, the WFTDA championship game. Her never say day attitude shined through adversity in the Rocky-Oly penultimate jam. After an official timeout with 2:25 left on the game clock, Rocky had a small seven-point lead, 130-123. Beater lined up against Oly's Tannibal Lector (9), who would earn lead within 12 seconds of the jammer whistle and go on a tear through the pack. Lector picked up five scoring passes, 5-5-4-4-5, as Beater was stuck in the pack and then disaster struck for Oly as Lector was called on a major block to the back with less than 30 seconds left in the jam. Seizing on a power jam opportunity, Beater was able to complete her first scoring pass with 12 seconds remaining, artfully pulling out a second 4 point scoring pass before jam time would run out. Rocky would take a timeout with 16 seconds remaining on the game clock and Lector still sitting in the penalty box with approximately 30 seconds remaining on her penalty time. Rocky would take a knee at the start of the jam, to start Beater instantly after the pack whistle, optimizing how much time the Rocky jammer could score. Beater would earn lead within 10 seconds of the jammer whistle and complete 5-4 scoring passes within 43 seconds before calling the jam with no game clock and little chance for an unboxed Lector to complete her initial and scoring pass, giving Rocky the one-point margin of victory to win the WFTDA championships.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Unedited: Oly-Nashville 11/05/2010

Defending champions Oly would be a difficult matchup for Nashville, who were bit of an underdog in the South Central regional tournament just to play at Uproar on the Lakeshore. Plagued by mental errors, Nashville suffered at the hands of Oly, who capitalized on every opportunity the Music City Allstars gave them.

Oly's fast pack, evidence of a heavy speed skating background, would hold Nasville to five points to their 50 in just 3 minutes and 26 seconds of the first whistle. Rambo Sambo mustered 4 points, while Maulin' Monroe earned just 1 point, with 16:34 in the first half.

Sambo would go on the defensive with the jammer star in the sixth jam, earning lead before slowing down Oly's Licker N Split, No. 523, enough to suck her back into the pack and then earning three points before calling the jam.

Nasvhille's Showstopper dropped Scara 2 Death hard in the center track to force her to call the jam with a 9-0 point swing in Oly's favor.

A phantom whistle in Jam 12 would confuse everyone on the track when skaters thought they heard four whistles and some returned to their bench. Sambo was albe to pick up five more points than Split, before the jam would officially end and the referees would call an official timeout to sort out the source of the whistle with 8:47 to go in the first half.

Tannibal Lector, No. 9 for Oly, would jump a fallen skater in Jam 13 to earn lead and a 4-2 score pass versus Monroe's 3 points.

Lector would intentionally pick up her fourth minor in Jam 18, in which Sambo and Harmony Killerbruise would jam. Killerbruise would get boxed for a track cut major, and Nashville's defense force Oly's lead blockers out of play to spring Rambo for lead and earning 7 points, before Oly's jammer exited the box, completed her intial pass, and could begin her scoring pass.

In Jam 19, Clitty Clitty Bang Bang, No. 9mm and rail-thin jammer for Oly, was boxed for a major track cut, but Monroe was unable to earn lead jammer for Nashville because of a minor track cut. With the jam going two minutes, Nashville failed to recoginze opposing skaters coming out of the box for a possible trap on two different occasions to optimize the power jam opportunity. Instead they chased after the front Oly blockers, and neither team was able to score any points to end the half 94-40 for Oly.

Oly's control in the second half would contain Nashville's jammers to a paltry 13 points: Sambo, 8 points in three jams; and Lady Fury (No. 5ft3), 5 points in two jams, the lone scorers for Music City.

Mental errors plagued Nashville's jammers, too. Maulin Monroe earned lead in Jam 12 of the second half, but doesn't call the jam despite Automatric initiating her scoring pass, giving up 5 points to Oly and burning precious time off the game clock.\

Oly's defense and offense gelled in the last 8 jams of the game: Their jammers scoring 64 points (10 grand slams at 5 points apiece) while holding Nashville to 3 points, as another Cinderella story gets knocked out of the national tournament.

Oly's win earned them a shot at the North Central region tournament champions, the Windy City Rollers, on Day 2 of the WFTDA championships.

Unedited: Charm City versus Minnesota 11/05/2010

Friday's second game of Uproar on the Lakeshore pitted North Central darlings, the Minnesota  Roller Girls, against the third seed from the  east, Charm City, in a game where Charm started  establishing their dominance at the start-stop  pack control early on.

Charm's Joy Collision, No. 747 lined up on the jammer line against MNRG's No. 91, Suzie Smashbox. Neither jammer would earn lead, but the Charm City defense held Smashbox to just three scoring passes, while Joy picked up four with a 10-16 point spread.

Minnesota would fail to earn lead in the next four jams, but kept the point spread close, keeping it within six points, 21-27, with 20:49 left in the first half.

L'exi Cuter, Scarmen Hellectra and Psycho Novia would pick up the heavy lifting to pull Minnesota back in the lead, earning lead in the next three jams, picking up 5, 4-1, and 4 scoring passes respectively.

However Hellectra would be sent to the box for a block to the back and Charm's Just Carol capitalized on the power jam, earning lead and scoring 19 points, 1 point short of four grand slams because of a no pass, no penalty call.

With that effort Charm City pulled back into the lead, 35-52 with 14:17 left in the game. 

L'exi Cuter would earn lead again, this time against Alli B. Back, No. T2, but Charm's Mistress May Eye, No. 10, and Rosie the Rioter, No. 100, practically stop L'exi cold on the track, stuffing any chance at multiple scoring passes, forcing L'exi to settle for four points and calling it off.

Killaman Jaro, No. 9, jamming for MNRG would make it through the pack first against No. 1618 I.M. Pain, but get boxed for a fourth minor. Declared "not lead," Pain would pick up three scoring passes for maximum points, earning 15 points for Charm to extend their lead 44-60 with 10:04 remaining in the half.

Minnesota would call a timeout, but unable to make up much of the difference, found themselves trying to claw out of an increasing hole. Minnesota's Smashbox would get boxed in two different jams, one for a major track cut and for picking up her fourth minor. Hellectra would be the only jammer to finish the first half with a multiple scoring passes in the last 10 jams.

Meanwhile Charm picked up five jams with multiple scoring passes in those same jams to end the half with a 58-109 lead.

Penalties and lack of Lead Jammer calls in their favor spelled Minnesota's demise in the first half. Smashbox started in the box wearing the jammer star, exit, and get called back for her fourth minor, and Pain would capitalize, earning lead and picking up a 5-5-5-5 scoring pass.

Minnesota would earn lead three times in eight jams, as Charm picked up the lead and racked up more points or cut into Minnesota's scoring opportunities. With more than 24 minutes remaining in the second half, Charm lead 148-72. 

I.M. Pain would pick up lead and 10 points in Jam 12, and Lady Quebaum would add to Charm's score earning lead and 12 points in a 5-4-3 jam, missing two points for a minor cut and a no pass-no penalty.

Charm's defense would continue to execute when called upon, speeding up to keep Minnesota's jammer, declared lead, from earning any points against their Just Carol, who earned 4. Pain would go on to two more multi-scoring passes with lead jammer extending the margin with a 37-3 point differential against her opposing jammer. Holden Grudges jammmed to give Pain a rest between her 37 point run, earning lead and putting up 19 points of her own, helping Charm put the game out of reach for MNRG 237-100 with less than 10 minutes left to play.

Joy Collision blocked L'exi Cuter at the top of the pack, holding her to just 17 points in the last jam of the game. Collision would get boxed for a clockwise block, joining Grudges in Charm City's penalty box, but Minnesota didn't have much of a chance.

Charm won 249-119, advancing to play Rocky Mountain on Day 2 of the championship tournament.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Unedited: Gotham-Texas, 11/06/201

The No. 1 team in the East, Gotham, solved Texas' defense on Nov. 6, 2010, which looked so strong at South Central regionals, taking away the Texecutioners ability to control the pace of the pack at Uproar on the Lakeshore, the 2010 championship tournament for the Women's Flat Track Derby Association.

The Texecutioners, ranked 2nd in the South Central region tournament, had to play Gotham, who had a first round bye and were ranked No. 2 in the world by Derby News Network's post-regional power rankings, after taking on Bay Area Derby in the first day of championship tournament play.

TXRG's No. 76 Curvette was boxed for a major cut in the second jam of the first half, spelling a trend that would continue as the Texecutioners would struggle for control with lighter packs, whereas Gotham controlled the packs easier with just two or three blockers on the floor.

At 20:22, Gotham earned lead and got out of the sixth jam with a one-point advantage despite having two blockers in the box.

Texas called a timeout at 18:30 trying to curb Gotham's point run, but Sarah only gets 1 point after securing lad.

Suzie Hotrod and Bonnie Thunders earned lead jammer three times back-to-back-to-back, with a 24-point run and four grand slams. Gotham's defense would step up, holding the jammer back on her initial pass and denying their pack exit in Jam 11 and Jam 12 for over 3 minutes. Luce Bandit would finally break free from the pack on her initial pass with only 24 seconds remaining in the jam clock, while Sarah Hipel got stuck on her initial pass in Jam 12 for 1 minute, 26 seconds.

Gotham's game plan would be pretty clear: Secure lead jammer for the girls from New York City, and minimize the time that Texas could score.

Gotham’s Kandy Kakes played some solid defense at the top of the pack, before Lucille Brawl drops her with a big hit in Jam 15, but again Gotham held the Texas jammer, Olivia Shootin' John to her initial pass for 1 minute, 30 seconds. Meanwhile Bonnie Thunder had exited the pack, earned lead and began her scoring pass within 24 seconds of the jam start, scoring four points and calling it off.

The first big blow to Gotham's offense came when the jam ref boxed Suzy Hotrod for a gross misconduct for leaving her feet while making contact with an opposing skater. Known for her fancy and quick footwork, Hotrod was jumping the apex as often as possible, but this time she made contact with a Texas player and made her first trip to the penalty box.

Texas' Bloody Mary would earn lead 20 seconds into the jam, but remained scoreless.

The Texecutioners would regroup in the last three jams of the first half, earning lead in all of them and putting 13 points on the board, with two grand slams at 5 points apiece — as Texas trapped Gotham's Swede Hurt No. 46 in the back — to make it 65-39 and edge into Gotham's lead.

After the break, Gotham's defense would hold Texas to 3 points for 6 minutes, 30 seconds to begin the half with New York's jammers scoring a combined 51 points, partial thanks to a second-jam power jam opportunity from Hotrod. Suzy picked up lead with 1:45 left in the jam and a 4-5-5-5-4 run (as Texas' Curvette and Crackerjack sat in the penalty box), before a boxed Bloody Mary was released with nine seconds remaining in the jam.

In jam 10 of the second half, Suzie picked up lead with 1:28 to go on the jam clock, as Sarah Hiple was called on a major block to the back. Hotrod would earn a grand slam and four points as Hiple would be released from the box and exit her initial pass with 27 seconds left on the jam clock, before Hotrod successfully called off the jam. Olivia Shootin' John would earn lead in Jam 11, with just under a minute left in the jam, but a major forearm call would negate her ability to call off the jam, meanwhile Bonnie Thunder completed her initial pass with 36 seconds left and pick up a grand slam to make the score 116-42 in Gotham's favor with 12:30 remaining in the game.

Belle Star, Texas' derby libero, would make a big hit on Suzie Hotrod at the top of the pack to hold the Gotham jammer to a single grand slam, but was called for a major forearm in the process. With lead and five points, Suzie called the jam after OSJ re-entered the track from the box and made her initial pass with 41 seconds left in the jam.

The pack would go into clock control in the 13th jam, delaying the jammer start by seven seconds. Hyper Lynx rocketed through the pack to earn lead within 10 seconds of the jammer start, as Gotham held Bloody Mary back before releasing her with 1:19 left. Lynx would score four points before calling it off in Gotham's favor 125-42 with 9:27 left in the bout.

Texas would try everything they could to get back on the board, but Gotham shut down the Texecutioner's ability to earn lead, only giving it up once in the remaining six jams. Gotham's 26-8 point swing and two multiple scoring passes for Bonnie Thunder at the end kept the game out of reach for Texas.

Quick hits: Derby's Black Widow

I bumped into the Texecutioners' coach Kelli "Black Widow" Page during the halftime of the Rocky Mountain-Charm City bout on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010, at the Women's Flat Track Derby Association's championship tournament called Uproar on the Lakeshore in Chicago, Illinois.

(I'll probably work some of these quotes into a future blog, so don't be surprised if you see them again.)

On the Rocky-Charm matchup ...
"I think (Rocky-Charm) it's an interesting matchup. Even though their styles are different, they're both very physical teams. Rocky relies a lot on their speed and taking advantage of power jam situations. I think that's also true of Charm City. I think they're both looking for those opportunities to really put a hurt on you, and that's where the point swings heavily come into play."

"They're both headsy teams and they don't let the other team change their style of play. They really stick to it. "

"It's obvious that Rocky is very comfortable working together. You'll see a lot of their recycling and they play in really close proximity of each other. They're always looking for that pair matchup out there. "

"When Dolly is out there, or Joy, they (Charm) are dictating and telling the rest of the pack what that play is and they respond to wherever they're directing them to go."

About avoiding penalties and skating clean ... 
"At this level it's huge. If you give a team an opportunity the way the style of play is now where they have the back wall and they stop and they trap one of your players, thats it, it's over. You really have to make sure that you're as clean as possible and don't give them as many opportunities to do that because it will hurt you."

Friday, November 5, 2010

Uproar on the Lakeshore: Championship Week

Five Point Grand Slam is on its way to Chicago to cover the Women's Flat Track Derby Association's championship tournament dubbed, Uproar on the Lakeshore.

I'm hoping to get a couple of interviews and take in the sights and sounds of the culmination of a long season.

I'm also hoping to pick up a new pair of skates, consider my Rocks finally gave up the ghost.

The Outfit is hosting an open scrimmage, which I hope to go watch. We'll see what comes out of that.

Best of luck to all the ladies and teams participating in this great event.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Uproar on the Lakeshore: Post-region power rankings

The Nashille Rollergirls, who went 8-5 in 2009 and is 11-4 in 2010 through October, first made their debut on Derby News Network's power rankings at No. 18 in April 2010 after beating Atlanta. 

Nashville managed to rise from the South Central Region's mid-ranks at Amber Waves of Pain, vaulting from fifth place in the region to playing and beating Atlanta for third place Oct. 10, 2010, at the tournament in Lincoln, Nebraska.

"Our frame of mind was to capitalize on how we seemed to be perceived -- as faltering and failing," Nashville co-captain Jennifer Smith said. "We focused on learning our strategies better and tried to cut down our penalties as much as possible. We wanted to surprise people."

The Music City Allstars again cracked the Top 25 in October 2010 when DNN released its post-regional rankings after beating Atlanta in WFTDA's 2010 South Central Region tornament, this time earning a spot in the championship tournament in Chicago, and becoming No. 18 according to DNN. 

"I think (the No. 18 ranking) it's justified and I think it was justified that we spent several months off the Top 25," said Smith, No. 11, who skates under her real name. "Next move is to crack to Top 10!"  

Minnesota, too, was an underdog heading into their regional tournament, the WFTDA North Central region, at Thunda on the Tundra in Green Bay, Wisconsin. 

The Minnesota Roller Girls All Stars improved upon their 2009 record of 7-3, by going 9-2 in 2010 and jumping from No. 7 in the North Central region to No. 2 when Chicago ended their Cinderella-like run in the final game of the 2010 regional tournament.

Minnesota upset Detroit and Madison to play Chicago's Windy City Rollers for a chance at first-place in the region and a first-round bye in the championship tournament.

"We played very well and surprised a few people, even ourselves a little," said Dantigravity, coach of the Minnesota Rollergirls All Stars. "We just wanted to come into Regionals and have a great showing, win or lose."

After clawing their way past ranked rivals, Minnesota earned a spot to play the No. 1 team, the Windy City Rollers, in the North Central region final.

"We have a lot of respect for Windy," Dantigravity said. "Our previous games against them weren't all that great, compared to those games we improved a lot. We knew it would be a tough game. I think we were just happy to have made it as far as we did and anything beyond that was icing on the cake."

Playing against the North Central region's No. 1 team gave MNRG a chance to work on things for the championship tournament, having earned at a second-place finish and an automatic bid for Chicago.

"Playing Windy this time gave us a chance to really see what we need to work on. What to improve upon and what we can do well.

Minnesota's efforts earned them a spot on DNN's post-region power rankings at No. 14, knocking Madison out of their spot and down the rankings.

"It feels great to have been able to show what our potential is and to have played to that level," Dantigravity said.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Uproar on the Lakeshore: What's in a name?

Jennifer Smith, Kelley Young and Rachel Bockheim are perfectly ordinary names in a sport where double-entendre nomenclatures and non-serious nicknames are the majority -- Flash Gloria, Missile Toes, Estro Jen, Queefer Sutherland, etc.

Smith and Young represent a small number of players who will skate under their real names during the Women's Flat Track Derby Association's annual championship tournament, which this year will be held Nov. 5-7 in Chicago at WFTDA's Uproar on the Lakeshore.

Bockheim, who plays for the tournament hostesses, Windy City Rollers, under the name Jackie Daniels, also skates for Team Legit, a team comprised of skaters using their real names.

"I think everyone comes up with their’s (derby name) in their own way," said Bockheim, who played for Grand Raggidy, the Grand Rapids, Mich., team for four seasons before transferring to Chicago. "Some do all kinds of research, some know it instantly before they show up. I started so early in terms of the derby movement, there were maybe 300 names. Now, there are thousands." 

Bockheim originally chose the name Jackie O'Nasty, but it had already been taken, and so she stumbled on Jackie Daniels.

"I hear some skaters say everything is taken, but I still hear new great names, and still have great ideas hit me once in a while. Call me. Once selected, your league rep submits them to small group of ridiculously amazing volunteers who run the list at twoevils.org. I believe each league has their own policy of when they allow you to register your name." 

The International Rollergirls' Master Roster website catalogues and registers derby names from all over the world at www.twoevils.org/rollergirls. The registration tries to ensure that no two roller girls share the same name or that their names aren't too similar.

The idea for derby names is largely borrowed from the theatrical performance art of burlesque and is a widely accepted practice to assume an alias for roller derby.

Skaters sometimes choose their new alias. Sometime their alias chooses them.

"I came up with the name Snot Rocket the first year I started skating, in 2005," said Young, who skates for the Kansas City Roller Warriors. "My team and I were skating in a St. Patrick's day parade, and March in Kansas City is chilly." 

"I kept blowing snot rockets since I didn't have a tissue, and we all thought at the time it would be funny if my name was "snot rocket" because I was kind of fast for the derby community at the time."

Smith, who is co-captain of Nashille's Music City Allstars, cautions new Nashville skaters to take some time when trying to determine their new name.

"They need to realize this is what your friends will call you, what will be on our website, what could be on DNN (Derby News Network), what will be the first thing to inform the impression of someone you are meeting for the first time, etc.," Smith said. "You just want to make sure you convey what you really want to convey."

To skate under your legal name is a dramatic departure from the sport that began its rebirth in 2001.

Enough kindred skaters got together to form their own team, Team Legit, which played one of its first games at Battle of the Bank II in Austin, Texas, in 2009. Bockheim was a last-minute add, and despite the team never playing or practicing together before, managed a third-place finish.

Team Legit currently plays two to three games together a year. But Bockheim doesn't mind people calling her Jackie, even when she plays for Legit.

"I just want to play roller derby really, I’ll skate under anything," Bockheim said. "But, I can say I had proud moments and texted my dad a picture of my BOCKHEIM jersey." 

"Everyone already knew me so well/long as Jackie Daniels, that no one was calling me by my real name anyway, even the announcers were calling me JD."

Smith's reason for skating under her name was more personal.

"I actually started bouting under my real name about a year and a half ago," Smith said. "I can't think of any circumstances that contributed to it. It was just something I gravitated toward as I got more and more serious about derby."

She wasn't always Jennifer Smith, though. When she first started skating, she took on the name Smith N. Wesson. She also took the number .357, a popular gun model for the company.

Switching to her real name, Smith changed her number, too.

"When I switched to my real name I used 11, which was the number I used in sports growing up," she said.

Young made the switch from derby alias to using her real name after returning from retirement.

"I decided to shed the name after I came back to skating following a year hiatus, which I thought at the time was a permanent retirement," Young said. "Snot Rocket as a derby personality had generated so much hype, and I didn't want to feel the pressure of coming back into that after a year off, having to live up to the same expectations that were hovering over me at the time that I retired."

"I wanted a clean slate. I just wanted to come back and skate with my girls, with my team, without all the hype and personal attention. I'm just me, Kelley, on and off the track. Snot Rocket was old news."

The name occassionally hangs in the air.

"As far as nicknames, people have called me 'snotty,' 'snot' and other shortened versions," Young said. "Some of my teammates still call me these nicknames, and I don't mind it as a friend thing. ... These girls have been close to me with that alias for a long time. I just want my jersey to say my real name."

During Amber Waves of Pain, WFTDA's South Central regional tournament, one fan wore a Kansas City Roller Warriors shirt with the name Snot Rocket and the number 4 screen printed on the back, cheering on Young as she blazed through the pack as one of KC's star jammers.

"My dad still wears a Snot Rocket jacket and shirt," Young said. "He's proud of my past accomplishments."

Young's father and mother were part of a larger contingent of Kansas City fans, including other skaters' parents.

"My folks are my biggest fans," Young said. "My siblings are more mildly interested and supportive, but my parents are derby fanatics. Honestly, I think my dad would prefer for me to skate under Snot Rocket. He's proud of my past and talks about it all the time. My mom, she's just happy with whatever. They're both really happy I'm skating again."

When Young retired, Princess Slay-ya took the number 4 for the year her teammate was on hiatus, returning it upon her return. Princess Slay-ya eventually retired, too.

"My number has always been 4."

Neither Young nor Smith place too much emphasis on playing under their real name.

"I don't consider skating under my real name as an honor per se," Young said. "It's just something I want to do."

Within their respective league, Young and Smith often find support from their teammates. The casual fans are usually the people with the biggest reaction.

"Outside of the league, when I meet people who are just learning of derby they of course ask what my name is and I explain that I use my real name," Smith said. "Probably 50% of the time people are kind of confused about it and 50% of the time they think it's cool."

As the sport continues to grow and roller derby gains more of an audience, Smith thinks more skaters will choose to use their real name, the "trade off between the quirkiness of derby and derby becoming more mainstream."

Young agrees.

"Every skater should do what she wants to do," Young said. "But I do think that perhaps at the national level, decreasing the antics increases the legitimacy of our sport."

TOP: Team Legit takes a moment to strategize.

BOTTOM: Team Legit's Karolina "Swede Hurt" Berglof (46), Laura “Amanda Jamitinya“ Mann (9) and Rachel "Jackie Daniels" Bockheim (7) corral Trish the Dish of the San Diego Derby Dolls.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Uproar on the Lakeshore: By The Numbers

The number of teams participating (Gotham Girls, Philly, Charm City, Windy City, Minnesota, Madison, Rocky, Oly, Bay Area Derby, Texas, Kansas City and Nashville). Coincendently, 12 different states are also being represented (New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, Washington, California, Texas, Missouri and Tennessee).

The combined 2010 win-loss record of all 12 teams playing. The best record belongs to Gotham (see below), while the worst record belongs to Madison at 3-8.

The number of times Gotham has lost in 2010 action, both regular season and post-season region play. Their impressive 10-0 run bests Oly who was the only other team to go undefeated in regular season, but Rocky ended an impressive win streak at West Region playoffs. Oly and Rock Mountain both have a 11-1 record for 2010.


Approximate tournament seating capacity.

Hydra Trophy, the Women's Flat Track Derby Association's championship trophy. The award is named for Hydra, one of the founding WFTDA members and the association's first president. It was first awarded to Gotham in 2008 at the Northwest Knockdown.
Teams that are competing in the tournament also won the WFTDA championship previously. Only Gotham and Oly have been awarded the Hydra since its inception.

feet of tape used to tape down the track and rope.

of the 12 teams competing are ranked No. 10 or higher on Derby News Networks' post -regional power rankings for October 2010: Rocky Mountain (No.1), Gotham (No. 2), Oly (No. 3), Philly (No. 4), Bay Area (No. 5), Charm City (No. 9) and Windy City (No. 10).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Uproar on the Lakeshore: Championship Week

We're down to the wire for those of us in the roller derby community awaiting the culmination of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association's season.

This weekend 12 teams will play for the Hydra Trophy, awarded to the WFTDA's top team each year.

Fivepointgrandlslam.com will be in Chicago live-Tweeting and covering the tournament, as will numerous other journalists and roller derby enthusiasts.

In preparation, I'll have a blog for each day of the week until the opening day's game (Monday-Friday).

Tuesday: By the numbers

Wednesday: What's in a name?
Thursday: The post-regional power rankings
Friday: Hail, Hydra!

We've been in contact with a few skaters and coaches about some things to watch for at the tournament, and hope you'll enjoy each new entry. And stay tuned. We're hoping to have our Wi-Fi connection up and going to stay connected with everyone.