Sunday, March 28, 2010

Preview for Hometeam Championship 2010 pt 2

Countdown to The Bone of Contention

Third-place bout preview
Garrison Killer, League reporter

We explored the ins and outs of the April 3rd MNRG season championship in the previous article.  Now our attention turns to the Garda Belts and the Dagger Dolls, who will fight it out for third place.

In 2009, I wrote that the Dagger Dolls were in the midst of a pregnant pause. That pause has now lengthened into a multi-year slump that has puzzled players, refs, and fans alike.  Candi Pain and Sweet Justice, co-captains of the Dollys, selected fast, eager jammers to fill the holes left by a swath of last year's retirees and blockers that have already proven themselves to cause some panic in the pack.  The Dolls have had fresh injections of strong, fast talent each year...but they have not yet been able to focus that energy into the team at large on bout nights.  They have lost their last ten games, and you must believe that they want to finish this season on a win.

The Garda Belts' record over the past two years has been more storied.  They strode into last year's finals off of strong performances by their captains Suzie Smashbox and Citizen Pain as well as a pack of veteran players whose skills had been honed by all-star play.  The Rockits pushed back and took the win. Since that bout, the Gardas have only scored one victory.  Considering that victory was against the Dagger Dolls (59-50), we should ask whether this match will simply be a repeat performance of that narrow win.  

Before you answer that question, there is one big problem that will play a big part in this matchup.  This season has been absolutely brutal to the Garda Belt roster.  While Angelfire may have returned to the active list, we have lost rookie AliSin Chains to Chicago.  A few Gardas are playing injured, and we just received word that Damnzelsly - a new, strong blocker with the brains to be where the action is - has been taken from the roster due to a serious leg injury.  Rita Rawkus and Savage Animal have sat out the entire season due to leg problems.  In addition, several players have had to miss bouts due to obligations outside of the derby; remember - the MNRG is a volunteer organization.  Women play for the love of the sport, but sometimes life gets in the way.  The Gardas may be playing a smallish core of vets along with rookies Stacy Wrekt and Cassie Rolle.  The women in green will probably have a very short roster.

That said, let's talk about what we hope to see in the 3rd place bout:

* Cleaner jams from the Dollys.  In January's bout between these two teams, the Dollys kept a far better head about jams without penalties than we saw against the Rockits.  As the season has progressed, two new jammers - Killamon Jaro and Patently Offensive - have begun to show ability to stay out of trouble.  As always, the problem of players in penalty trouble is that playing at the jammer line risks ceding a power jam to the opposing team.  The Dollys must score and keep on the track for them to break the losing streak.
* More jamming from the rookies on both sides.  The Dollys drafted in some of the fastest, brightest players from this season's class of new blood.  They've been playing MNRG roller derby for almost a full year, and this may be the time to let them loose.  All of them will still need a hand for their initial pass through the pack...but what jammer doesn't?  Meanwhile, keep your eye on Cassie Rolle of the Garda Belts.  Coach Seamonster and the Garda captains have slowly been opening the lid on this agile rookie all season.  She's been training as a pure jammer and the use of her as a scorer instead of Citizen Pain or Tiki Torture will keep the front of the pack strong by keeping their fast blockers chasing Dollys.  These players are the future of their respective teams; it's time for them to claim their spot.
* Suzie freakin' Smashbox.  How long have we been talking about this fluid, Green jammer?  Since season 3, Garda captain Suzie has been tearing up the track and every team that has been victorious against the Gardas has had to come up with a strategy for dealing with her.  The Bombshells played the same pack of power blockers against her almost every jam, while the Rockits boxed up her trailblazers through the pack (Tiki Torture and Hanna Belle Lector).  Suzie has consistently scored the lioness' share of Garda points; the Dollys must find ways to close down that powerful, sprinting stride.
* Smart, modern derby.  Just because these two teams have had one victory lap between them throughout the season doesn't mean they're oblivious to how the game is played.  The problem is execution.  Both teams are ready to showcase their skill for the Roy audience.  The Dolls?  They're finding ways to block out defenders and move their jammer through more quickly.  If you use strong hitters like Sparkle Ninja, Wonderbroad, Buffy, and Sinnamin, the Dollys could have walls in the back that will delay Gardas for precious seconds...or even the whole jam.  The Garda Belts' absolutely relentless recycling of the pack (particularly speed-skating heavies Citizen Pain and Tiki Torture) has been very effective - and Green players able to expand that strategy will make it that much more difficult for Dolly jammers.

This bout may also come down to a race.  The Garda Belts play a slightly faster game than the Dagger Dolls.  If the Gardas are given the ability to speed up the pack or to change up the pace, the Dolly defense could fall afoul of penalties as they try to hit, maneuver, and block at speed.  

In terms of numbers, the loss of so many Gardas over this season means more players in Green will be skating many, many jams.  Nothing kills a clean hit like exhaustion, and the refs will be watching.  Conversely, some have mentioned the large Dagger Doll roster as a point of weakness; oft-recycled players don't get as many chances to coalesce.

Two final roster notes: the Gardas have received a freshly-minted player from the derby-crazy Pacific Northwest.  Folks, please welcome BethAnne Destruction, a former Jet City Rollergirls player, to the Garda Belts.  Sadly, Dagger Doll blocker Shiv & Let Die will not be on the track on Saturday; she's been playing injured recently and will not be part of the final bout.  Shiv, get well quickly; the MNRG's 7th home season begins in October...and we want to see you in the pack.

That's it.  All he wrote.  Now, get those tickets.  There are a little over a thousand left at the time of this writing, only available now through Ticketmaster and the Roy box office.  First two hundred at the door on April 3rd will get get a free bout t-shirt, and let me tell you, folks...this one's gorgeous.  Get in line early, pick up your t-shirt, take your seat, and join us as we conclude the sixth season of the Minnesota RollerGirls.

Writing from where all the women are strong, all the men are accessories, and all the children turn left,
-Garrison Killer

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