The Mad Rollin Dolls of Madison, Wisconsin have long been a mainstay on the regional derby scene. They've been established for several years and have grown into a premier four-team league. Their Unholy Rollers were named 2010 league champions after losing a single bout all of last season, and several of their roster skaters also compete on the Mad Rollin Dolls' all-star travel team, including the venerable co-captain Twisted Halo.
So although the Old Capitol City Roller Girls finished our own 2010 season 9-2 and came into Madison on a five-game win streak, we were facing a tall order in our first bout against a WFTDA team. Coach and captain Bat R Up had run a slew of demanding and grueling practices all winter, and we were returning just one week after a comfortable victory over the Quad City Rollers. OCCRG was a team in good form but clearly entered the bout as underdog.
Having a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for a veteran WTFDA team/league, we had been thrilled just to have been asked to come and play. Like the rest of teammates, I had been telling myself going in that we would come, play hard and in the very least glean some valuable experience in the process.
Yet within the first few jams of the bout it became evident to everyone in the coliseum that OCCRG was in with a very big chance. We took a solid early lead with Gladi8Her and Ophelia Fracture racking up the points and smart and unrelenting defense from our blockers -- Bat R Up, Animal Mother, ZomB Blokr and Fannysaurus Wrex were in especially fine form.
But quickly several of our skaters ended up in the penalty box over the new few jams, affording the Unholy Rollers' jammers easy points that allowed them to cut into what had been a clear lead. OCCRG's points continued to accumulate in the jams that followed but the Unholy Rollers were tenacious and continued to draw closer, eventually taking the lead with the aid of a few power jams. It was nerve-wracking, but OCCRG's ability to secure the lead jammer title in the majority of the jams was tantamount to regaining the lead 63-62 at half-time.
"If we stay out of the box, we can win this," Bat R Up had emphasized going back into the second half, but it was easier said than done. There were a few more turns in the penalty box for OCCRG skaters though the increased aggressiveness and physicality of the blocks from the Unholy Rollers also resulted in their own fair share of penalties. The lead continued to be traded back and forth behind both teams until the final six minutes of the bout, when GladI8Her and Ophelia Fracture had bold and swift jams that pushed OCCRG's lead 141-123 with just over a minute left to play out.
With an 18-point lead, the outcome all but seemed like a foregone conclusion. The last jam started with no OCCRG skaters in the box and the crafty and reliable Left 4 Deadwards jamming. But the apparent victory seemed to slip away in an instant. From the bench I watched with a sickening feeling as Left 4 Deadwards was sent to the box for a major low block, in the process leaving the veteran Unholy Roller jammer Twisted Halo on a power jam. Still, all four of OCCRG's blockers remained on the track... for a few more seconds. Bat R Up and Ophelia Fracture soon joined Left 4 Deadwards in the penalty box, leaving Fannysaurus Wrex and ZomB Blokr to tough out the last moments of the bout alone.
Like other members of my team, I had flashbacks of our bout with the Mid Iowa Rollers last June, in which we led the entire game only to lose by three scant points when Left 4 Deadwards was sent to the box in the final jam of the night and our blockers were unable to keep the opposing jammer at bay. My fears only intensified when Fannysaurus Wrex's toe stop broke off of one of her skate's, and with her toe guard dragging on the floor was forced to the sidelines. Now ZomB Blokr was the last OCCRG skater left on the track to impede Twisted Halo, who was gaining momentum and with each pass. The crowd was on its feet now and hollering loudly for their home team.
Twisted Halo continued to skate out the jam as the clocked ticked down. I kept my eyes mostly on the floor, trying to pretend the scenario playing out in front of me wasn't happening. But out of the corner of my right eye I caught a flash of black and red shoot onto the track.
It was Left 4 Deadwards, and she wasn't going down without a fight. I watched as she made her first pass through the pack swiftly and without hassle, as the Unholy Rollers did not seem prepared for her re-entry into the jam. Left 4 Deadwards motored past the bench and around the turn to our cheers, and pushed on to lap the pack for four points just as the clock ran out.
Bat R Up called the team in for a quick huddle but I stood alone to the side, my eyes glued to the scoreboard. I watched the Unholy Rollers' point tally jump to 143, two points higher than OCCRG's 141. But I kept waiting. We'd entered the jam with 141, and Left 4 Deadwards had scored at least four points... hadn't she? The referees gathered in the center for a few seconds, and then the scoreboard changed again:
Unholy Rollers: 143, Old Capitol City Roller Girls: 145.
The rest was all a blur of screams and cheers, tears and hugs.
In the days following I find myself replaying the bout constantly in my head. Did it really happen? Did we really triumph over a talented and accomplished team like the Unholy Rollers?
But we did, and people are taking notice.
Online publication Dane101 wrote of the bout:
For Old Capitol City, the victory was a major accomplishment for a league that began bouting less than two years ago. “Mainly coming in, we were so honored to be invited by the Unholy Rollers and Mad Rollin' Dolls...we are so excited to play a team of their caliber, we were honored to just come and play,” said OCCRG's Tynamite. OCCRG relied heavily on a quartet of jammers for their points, with Gladi8her leading the team with 51 points, followed by Ophelia Fracture with 46, Triple D Zaster with 30 points and Left 4 Deadwards with 16. Blocker Animal Mother led OCCRG with a plus/minus rating of 33, followed closely by Bat R. Up with a rating of +30. Bat R. Up had a particularly strong night as a blocker, leading in both attacks (14) and assists (9) for the up-and-coming league.
Iowa Roller Derby:
On Saturday night, the Old Capitol City Roller Girls journeyed to Madison to play their first WFTDA on WFTDA bout against the Mad Rollin’ Dolls: Unholy Rollers. Surpassing all expectations, they won 145-143. Should we call this “The Miracle in Madison?” I don’t believe it would be appropriate. OCCRG is amazingly talented, endlessly creative, well coached and conditioned with a superb jammer roster and pulverizing defense. You knew they were going to be competitive. But to take home a win? No words can express what it meant to Iowa Derby, both players and fans. I’d like to think of it as OCCRG making a successful first step on the road to gaining a regional, and eventually, national reputation for Iowa as being a hothouse of derby talent.
I'm so proud of my team and honored to be a part of it that I could burst.
On a personal reflection, I myself had a complete reversal of form from the previous bout, managing to keep my nerves and emotions in check and bolstering my performance. I fought hard and succeeded in getting lead jammer status in most of my turns as jammer, kept my elbows in for the most part and made only three trips to the penalty box (a career low). I was incredibly proud of my teammates, but also greatly relieved to realize that I had never regressed in skill or ability at all; only needing to conquer my own self-doubt to fulfill my potential.
Oh, and I also rode a unicorn.