As the Minnesota RollerGirls prepare for the April 11th season championship and fans prepare for their last taste of derby at the Roy for five months, it's time to take a look at the season to see what's brought us to this moment.
The hometeam season began, in fact, during the summer where our four teams sent their best to play other leagues from across the nation. During that period, an all-star team heavy with Rockits and Garda Belts fought the best and brought home hard-won experience to share with the MNRG teams. With that breadth of derby wisdom gained from the summer, it isn't too surprising that the Garda Belts and the Rockits have performed so well this season. They will play on Saturday night for the MNRG's championship trophy, the Golden Skate.
The Rockits - well...what can you say? The Rockits have played with one another for three seasons, and their system works. Between the mobile walls created by the front four, a vigilant sweeper in the back that breaks off and hunts when a jammer comes lapping in, and methodical jams that turn into double slams when an opposing jammer goes to the box, the Red Menace hasn't been beaten for almost two full seasons.
Their opponents, the Garda Belts, play a different game when they are at their best, and they've played that game for most of the season. Defeating their opponents in their first three games, the Gardas are far more likely to work on opponents in the middle of the pack without backup. This forces them to hit very hard and accurately. In the front, the Gardas have formed wedges of one or two in front of opposing jammers scrambling to pass as they wait for Tiki Torture or another of the blockers to send the jammer out of bounds.
And in the back? Until last month, it was Suzie Smashbox playing at least every other jam and stealing points every moment she was out there. However, as the season championship picture firmed up, it was clear that another Garda jammer was needed. With the loss of Demora Liza and Angelfire in rehab, injured Atomic Bombshell Lizzy the Axe stepped up, taking on Garda Belt green to even up the sides.
Even so, the Garda Belts must deal with the Rockits' pre-eminent jammer pair. When playing tight, the Rockits always go to Harmony Killerbruise and Jawbreaker - #1 and #2 in scoring for the entire league. Jawbreaker alone handed in three triple slams (fifteen point jams) in March. The Gardas must find a way to stop them, and they will need to put jammers up against the Rockits that can smash through the Rockit wall. Rockit fanboys and girls? Garda Belt groupies? Now's the time to cheer your team on.
Now, as to the players in the consolation bout:
The fifth season of the MNRG has been a pregnant pause for the Dagger Dolls. A hard-hitting team with some remarkable jamming talent, the Dolls lost several of their players from the very start of the season...and the team has had an inconsistent roster throughout 08-09. This particularly hurt their blocking game. They've lost every game thus far, but their match in March against the Atomic Bombshells showed those glimmers of spectacular play that Doll fans love to see. In the second half, the blocking staff suddenly gelled into a single unit of pain as Dolly veterans and rookies alike slowed, stopped, and stomped on Bombshells.
As for those Atomic Bombshells, their trajectory has been rather different than the Dolls. Just as in the third season when the ABS rebuilt themselves into a superteam of veterans, the fifth season Bombshells radically changed their lineup. They drafted in rookie after rookie to build a team whose abilities will surely start to flourish next season. The team also took on a new, egalitarian flair as many, many players got opportunities to shine on the track. However, the downside of trying out so much that's new against other, more established teams and tactics meant that it wasn't until their March bout - against the Dolls - that the Bombshells finally won a game with the new lineup. Using a wide assortment of competent scorers, the Bombshells built a significant lead in the first half that they were able to hold onto throughout the last twenty minutes.
And so in this final game for these two teams, will the Atomic Bombshells find a coherent strategy against the Dagger Dolls, or will they just throw the kitchen sink at them? Can the Dolls press their blocking advantage and up their jamming threat with a full complement of scorers, or will their pack melt away as Cleo, Venus, Mae, Mitzi, Jocelyn, and L'Exi all take their turns at the jammer line? This match could go either way and will almost certainly come down to the final few jams.
MNRG fans, you've been with us throughout this season, and we want to thank you for your dedication to our teams. We will see you at the Roy this Saturday as we crown this year's champions!