Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Minnesota takes out Carolina in season opener, 105-69

Minnesota v Carolina

In the beginning of flat-track derby, the original, 'v1.0' rules of our governing body didn't even exist.  Get a player from those days over a beer, and you'll hear about how the two teams would hash out the ruleset between them only hours before the bout was played.  Minnesota and Carolina played one of the very first interleague bouts of the modern derby era at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in November 2005.  That match is an interesting footnote in the record books (237 MNRG - 173 CRG) as the second-highest bout recorded in overall points scored ever.  More importantly, it was with great delight that it was announced that Carolina's All-Stars would kick off the MNRG season.

On paper, this looked like a bit of a mismatch.  In WFTDA's East region, Carolina is ranked fourth and came through their tournament in fifth place.  Minnesota is ranked sixth in the North Central region and won only their last match against Grand Raggidy to place ninth.  What's more, Carolina sent a strong staff to Saint Paul; eleven of the fourteen players on the track this weekend were part of Carolina's tournament crew for Eastern Regionals.  Minnesota switched out Hanna Belle Lector for Scarmen Hellectra, but kept the remainder of the MNRG-Chicago staff from the Brawl of America together.

Suzie Smashbox (co-captain of MNRG) sped through pressure from Carolina's Princess America to take the first lead against Holly Wanna Crackya.  While Holly dueled with woman-on-woman specialist Tiki Torture, Suzie scored five and called off the jam.  MNRG all-star rookie L'exi-cuter got hung up by a stretched-out Carolina pack (it's a tactic called 'bridging') while Carolina's MVP DVS took the next lead for six.  MNRG jammer Harmony Killerbruise returned the favor with a textbook grand slam-plus that went unanswered from her opponent Princess America - thanks to Minnesota's three-deep walling of the Carolina fan favorite. All of that action was packed into five minutes of play, and Minnesota had the lead 13-5.

After two scoreless jams, L'exi Cuter took the lead and scored five as she caught Kitty Crowbar trying to engage outside the pack.   Holly Wanna Crackya then crashed through a light pack and scored five as Minnesota's blocking staff's minor fouls caught up.  DVS followed up for three against Psycho Novia, but the next three jams were Minnesota's for eight points.  Minnesota's back walls and pivot (particularly Venus Thightrap) ably handled Carolina's jammers.  Deviled Leggs broke the MNRG jammer streak by forcing 20 feet on Mitzi Massacre and Misfit Maiden to score three.

The refs sent Leggs to the box for minors, only to be sent out after her opponent Suzie Smashbox was sent in - and then seconds later returned once Suzie was clear.  Minnesota started working the penalty clock.  Leggs got trapped in the box over the next two jams, then finally emerged on fire but could not score.  With L'Exi well past the pack, Leggs got caught up in the full brunt of the Minnesota defense.  L'exi scored nine on that jam, and with one other scoring run, Minnesota continued to hold an appreciable lead 39-16 with eight on the clock.

Holly then brought Carolina right back into the game; off of more MNRG foul trouble, Holly shot through a depleted pack for eight, but allowed three from Harmony Killerbruise.  Carolina's Pinkslip then scored nine, and the CRG bench - smelling blood as the MNRG continued to draw fouls - sent Holly Wanna Crackya back out and Holly put up her biggest jam of the night...a triple slam.  These jams were the first three where Carolina had taken more than a single scoring run in a jam in the entire game and gave Carolina the lead. A final lead jam for Suzie brought the game to halftime, 48-46 Carollina.

Except for Carolina's late scoring run, Minnesota appeared to have control over the game.  However, the problems with the MNRG's defense and their foul trouble mounted throughout the period.  It gave Carolina an opportunity to come out and resume control of the game.  That said, of the four jammers scoring double digits in the first half, only one - Holly Wanna Crackya - played for Carolina.

The second half began just about where the previous half ended; with two players in the penalty box, the MNRG could not stop Holly Wanna Crackya from inching up Carolina's lead for four.  L'exi Cuter got Minnesota back on the right track by passing Princess America on the lapping pass whilst Princess attempted to booty block the young MNRG all-star back into the pack.  Princess called off the jam; Harmony and MNRG Misfit Maiden - normally a blocker - followed up with two lead jams for seven points in all.  53-52 Minnesota as the home team retook the lead with twenty-five to go.

Suzie Smashbox returned to the line against Carolina's Pinkslip as Kitty Crowbar cleared her minors.  Suzie grabbed twelve points while Pinkslip got rocked in the Minnesota back by Sweet Justice and Tiki Torture.  L'exi outsped Holly Wanna Crackya to get the next lead and sat on the Carolina veteran for almost a minute before calling the jam. 65-52 Minnesota.

L'Exi's lead made it four leads in a row for Minnesota...but Carolina broke the streak and began their major run as Minnesota re-entered into a sustained case of foul trouble.  For six jams, Carolina took the lead and beseiged the home team...but despite having a two-short pack for almost all of seven minutes, Minnesota never gave up more than five points per jam.  The difference can be seen by the way that Minnesota's defense almost gave up on the opposing jammer and just helped their own get through the pack while short.  And so - despite six lead jams in a row and a lot of excellent back-wall contact from Carolina's Maddat U and Shirley Temper - Carolina came back within only two.  66-64 Minnesota with fifteen left.

From there on, it was Minnesota all the way.  The MNRG began their own six lead-jam streak as L'exi Cuter took four points while jamming against Celia Fate.  Carolina's jammers began to not take the lead as they broke the packs, and Minnesota capitalized on that by taking lead after them and denying their opponents the ability to score.  Suzie Smashbox double-slammed Carolina as Princess America went to the box, and L'exi used the remaining power jam time to score nine of her own as she bent around the Carolina pack.  Minnesota front blocker Venus Thightrap capped off a fantastic match as she continued to trouble Princess America's resurgence from the box.

Minnesota finished their lead jam streak with five minutes to go and two textbook quick jams to bring the score to 95-65.  Carolina finally pulled a lead via Kitty Crowbar as DVS tossed a player into jammer L'exi-Cuter's way.  It seemed that Holly Wanna Crackya might also get a lead in the next jam, but MC Fyte went down on the front straightaway before she could start advancing.  End of jam.  Suzie Smashbox finished out the match with a double slam, and the crowd emptied onto the track for victory laps, high-fives, and hugs everywhere.  Final score 105-69.

After a disappointing start of the '09-'10 season at the Brawl of America, the Minnesota RollerGirls appear to have worked out some of their biggest issues.  Carolina had a very strong team - Maddat U, Celia Fate, and DVS all had a good night amidst the Carolina pack, but they couldn't quite work out how to stop Suzie, L'exi, and Harmony Killerbruise.  It seemed like Minnesota's blockers created paths for their scorers, and the jammers executed through those gaps again and again. Carolina also had a scoring problem - of the six jammers they put to the line, only one - Holly Wanna Crackya - scored double-digits.

We should particularly point out MNRG's pivot Venus Thightrap. She put on the pivot cover fifteen times and averaged a points per jam of 2.60 - her packs allowed 13 points for Carolina and scored 52 for MNRG.

It's still not all roses for Minnesota; the MNRG's players are still having long stretches where many players get sent to the box; one particularly horrifying moment for Minnesota fans came in the second half when two defenders skidded into the box just as the other two were standing up.  Those seven minutes in the second half where Carolina got six lead jams could have been disastrous.  Yet somehow, the defense bided its time and kept the opponents to single-lap gains. 

Minnesota's next match on November 21st will bring Hamilton, ON's Hammer City Roller Girls for Minnesota's first international bout - with a league mixer pitting Cops vs Robbers as the first match.  We'll see you there!

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