Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Shamrocks & Shenanigans preview

It's March at the Roy and - once again - it's a great time of the year to be a fan of the Minnesota RollerGirls. With the final bouts decided for the team championship, we get to be treated to two matches that can stand alone. They don't count towards point totals or standings or anything other than team pride. For the past two years, a fluke of scheduling has put together the top two and bottom two teams to play against one another as a preview of what's to come in April. And what's to come? Well, it just looks fantastic.

First off, the Atomic Bombshells against the Dagger Dolls. The losses that have plagued both teams aside, this match is all about a little redemption for at least one of the teams. The Bombshells are concluding a rebuilding year and seem ready - to wax a little military - to be set to maximum yield. We have been seeing this young team work out its kinks. It's time for the question to be asked; can this team of disparate rookies and veterans bring a win home for the fans of the Orange this season, or will we have to wait for '09-10?

The Dolls, like the Bombshells, have lost three bouts. There's no doubt that the original team that Candi Pain and Barbie Brawl put together was formidable; however, losing five of those players from the start has been difficult. The team has struggled, but that's behind them. This game will allow them to regroup and regroove.

Here's what you might want to watch for:
- Psycho Novia and Mary Tyler Roar taking the lion's share of jams for the Dolls. Sparkle Ninja and Roxanne Rolls are very able blockers; if the Dolls are in a fix for defense, watch for the two of them in the blocker pack.
- Big question on Rebel Stella. There are always rumors about this Dolly speedster, but the word is she's been actively working out with the Dolls over the past month or so.
- Keep an eye on Sweet Justice, Sinaminn, and Wonderbroad. They train hard, and they're definitely entering the same regular rotation that Lydia Punch and Candi Pain have seen for years. Bombshell rookies need to watch for these two.
- Atomic jammer winnowing. Sounds like a nasty variant of the wedgie, but here's what I mean. The Atomic Bombshells have got jammer talent bleeding from their ears. Three of this year's rookies - Jocelyn D'Jewels, L'Exi-Cuter, and Mae Gusta all have been putting up some remarkable numbers. JJ's been the Bombshell go-to girl, and L'Exi's deft ability to cut through the pack and take the lead raised some eyebrows at the last bout. If the captains go with a more stable rotation this bout, there might be some big rewards.
- As always, look for Diamond Rough to be taking players on before they crack the pack...but don't overlook rookie teammates Tara Skatesov, Shady O'Dread, and Skullateral Damage. They've been quietly working in the pack on the fundamentals, and this may well be the night that one or two of them really shines.

And then there's the Garda Belt-Rockits game. I believe that this bout might defy conventional wisdom about the March MNRG event. There is a perception that the teams relax a bit as they work out tactics and strategies for the season championship. I don't really see these teams as that patient. Both teams have been working so damn hard to make it this far, and with the core of both teams being All-Stars, I think we've got two matches (in March and in April) that will set a new bar for home-team play here in the Twin Cities. You've followed these teams and know their stories, so let's get to what's to come:

- Question one for the Rockits: can the team stop Suzie Smashbox? #91 for the Garda Belts has been in fine form this year. She plays between one-half and two-thirds of all jams as the point-scorer, and if you cannot stop her, Rockit jammers will have to book it to the front of the pack.
- Question two for the Red Menace: can the Rockits play a team that plays dirty with the rulebook as well? All this season, we've seen the Rockits play an evil form of the sport that is completely within the bounds of the rules. They take advantage of the track-cutting regs, they use the 20-foot rule like a weapon, and they use just enough force to send unobservant players to the penalty box, or at least send them to the back of the pack. But so can the Garda Belts; many of the girls in green have also played against the nation's best and know the tricks.
- To the Garda Belts: what are you going to do about Jawbreaker? JB has gotten past 'great' this year; the platinum blonde is starting to play a strong-arm, focused game that no one else quite has the ability to do. We've seen her block blockers as a jammer, mark a jammer stride for stride while directing her team from the front, and triple-slam when given a power jam opportunity. Girl's got talent. So how do you beat her?
- Another one: The tendency of the Garda Belt defense is to attack the opposing team and let the jammers make their own way. Can the GB defense adapt to regularly shepherding their players through the pack if the traditional ways don't work?
- And finally: in a forty minute bout, a jammer being sent to the box can mean the difference between winning and losing; the eighty seconds or so of jamming unopposed generally means that the team with a jammer still on the track can rack up the points. The Garda Belt jammers have gone to the box thirteen times so far this season; the Rockits have had their jammers caught there precisely once. Can the Garda Belt jammers keep it together?

But these matches...these matches are going to be fun. The year has been building to these two showdowns. Make sure you're there for this preview of the season championship. We'll see you at the Roy.

Writing from the exact Geographic Center of roller derby,
-Garrison Killer

1 comment:

Michael McGraw Photography said...

Very insightful. Even when I go to bouts I never see the game at this level. Thanks for the breakdown.