Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This ain't no tea party

Saturday night at the Marriott, one week after an easy triumph over the Push-Up Brawlers. The Sioux City Roller Dames have journeyed from across the state to play us on our home turf. The feeling in the air is uneasy; save for A Few Screws Lucy none of us have played the girls from Sioux City. What we do know is that SCRD have beaten some of the teams we have also won against -- namely, the Des Moines Derby Dames, Cedar Rapids Bombshell Cartel and the LaCrosse Skating Sirens. They could be as good as us, I think. Maybe even better.

The fact that we are skating without Bat R Up for the first time doesn't help. She's not only [arguably] our strongest blocker, but as team captain invigorates and unites a team of very different women into something of a juggernaut. With Left 4 Deadwards taking the helm as captain this time around, I know we're in capable hands but my anxiety is prevailing. Instead of talking to my teammates, most of whom are already in their skates and equipment, I grab my iPod find and quiet corner in our locker room. I sit down on the floor and begin my usual pre-bout routine of crunches, push-ups and stretches.

Our warm-up goes smoothly, and a decently-sized crowd is filling the Marriott's exhibition hall. The next half an hour goes by quickly: More stretching, line-up reviews, intros, the derby demo. The crowd is energetic and loud; I'm sitting on the bench as five of my teammates line up for the first jam: Ophelia Fracture, Jane Bang, Fannysaurus Wrex, Animal Mother, A Few Screws Lucy. Some of our very best skaters. And yet when I hear four whistles some two minutes later we are scoreless.

We're scoreless in the next jam. Then we pick up four points, but go scoreless again in the next six jams. Our bench is silent; the frustration and is palpable. SCRD's walls of two are stymieing our jammers and as blockers we aren't communicating and working together enough. I'm panicking, getting sloppy and accumulating majors far too rapidly. But a few power jams from Left 4 Deadwards and Ophelia Fracture motivate us further, and we realize it is all in our heads.

By the end of the first half we are gaining steam and slowly cutting into SCRD's lead, 82-49. After rehashing strategies in the locker room we return to the track stronger and more in sync. We can win this if we play to our potential and stay out of the penalty box.

And we do. SCRD continues to accumulate points, but at a far slower rate with our stepped-up defense. They're working frantically to maintain that lead and more of them are finding their way into the box.

A steady rotation between Left 4 Deadwards, Ophelia Fracture and Gladi8Her wearing the star puts us ahead by two points with three minutes left on the clock. I am benched for the night, now in the right frame of mind but not in time to avoid accumulating six majors. All I can do is watch and wait from the edge of my seat. The bout could go either way; we have momentum but SCRD wants this as much as we do.

As the clock winds down, SCRD's jammers are unable to get around our walls. Gladi8Her and Left 4 Deadwards seal the victory with an additional 12 points to extend the final tally to 141-127.

It was the first time we had started a bout so far behind on points, and feeling the intense pressure knowing that a furious rally would be needed to come out on top. We'd been truly tested, and as a team we had risen to the occasion.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The derby don't stop

It's full swing here with OCCRG. Last Saturday was the launch of four straight weekends of bouting, with the team slated to take on -in order- the Cedar Valley Push-Up Brawlers, the Sioux City Roller Dames, the Omaha Roller Girls' AAA team and finally the Minnesota Roller Girls' B team.

It was no secret going into last weekend's bout that the team was heavily favored to route the Push-Up Brawlers, who would be skating in only their third lifetime bout. We were not only expected to win, but to dominate over a far less-experienced team. So what do you do? Skate as hard and aggressively as you always do or take it easy on the neophytes?

For me, it wasn't really even a question. Sports at its essence is about giving it your all, pushing yourself as hard and as fast as you can -- whether you are winning by 200 points or losing by 200 points. It's the only way to play and maintain the integrity of the game. And quite frankly, I don't think the Push-Up Brawlers would have had it any other way.

The emphasis going into this bout was all on defense, and this had really little to do with the past record or skating style of the Brawlers. Though OCCRG is undefeated and a winner of our last nine bouts, we don't take anything for granted and we're always examining ourselves for ways to improve. Our captain, Bat R Up, has maintained most of the season that we were letting our opponents pick up too many easy points. So in the six weeks since our last bout against the Eastern Iowa Outlaws we've been training up a defensive storm, fine-tuning plays and strategies for all of our future bouts.

Back back to the Brawlers bout. We took no prisoners from the start, with our jammers racking up grand slam after grand slam while our blockers held them scoreless until half-time; 152-0. Early on in the second half the Brawlers picked up 6 points but the scoring gap continued to widen until the timer ran out, with the final score at 298-6.

Photos by Donna Olmstead

Butting heads with a Brawlers jammer

Jane Band and Swiss Misfit put on a squeeze while Fannysaurus Wrex looks on

A Few Screws Lucy likes creating 'strategic' chaos in the pack

A Brawler takes a dive at Ophelia Fracture

It would be simpleminded and injudicious to look at the final score and conclude that the Push-Up Brawlers are a bad team. On the contrary; for a team making only its third appearance in a bout I found a tremendous amount of upside and promise. Their tenacity and grit was truly admirable -- I think there are very few teams out there that could be down by so many points and say that they would have still played with the intensity and never-say-die attitude that the Brawlers exhibited in front of their wildly supportive home crowd.

Their blockers tried hard to hit and push out our veteran jammers every go round, and their own jammers picked themselves up and fought to get through our strong walls. What they lacked in experience they made up for in moxie. And for the record, the Brawlers play hard on the track but they are an awful nice set of ladies off of it.

As for OCCRG, we'll be taking on the Sioux City Roller Dames for the first time in just a few short hours on our home turf of the Coralville Marriott. The latter represents an unknown as most of us on the team have never seen them skate, but we're always excited to take on new teams, especially an established one like Sioux City. It should be a competitive bout and I'm itching for a dog fight.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Rewind, flash forward

***I apologize for the very tardy writeup on the bout versus the Eastern Iowa Outlaws Felons from April 16th. It's been a very rough and stressful past couple of weeks for me, having to put my dog down, helping my older sister with wedding preparations and struggling to get final papers turned into professors on time. That being said...

OCCRG came into the bout heavily favored against EIO, still riding the momentum of a 4-0 season that included tallies over the WFTDA teams Kansas City Rollers' Plan B and Mad Rollin Dolls' Unholy Rollers. Still, as a team we knew better than to get cocky, especially when facing a new team for the first time (and one that had also recently been approved as a WFTDA apprentice). We were familiar with a handful of EIO skaters including veterans V Train and Dead Lee Danni, as well as frequent sub Krystallica of the Midwest Derby Divas, but weren't quite sure what to expect.

As it turns out, the bout held at the Five Flags Center in Dubuque turned into a comfortable 243-122 rout over EIO. OCCRG has made skating hard and focused from the get-go a focal point this season and jumped out to a typical early lead. Gladi8Her and Ophelia Fracture racked up their share of points quickly as jammers, but this was a nigh in which our defense really shone. Blockers like ZomB Blokr, A Few Screws Lucy and Jane Bang not only did a topflight job of holding back opposing jammers, but also luring those opposing jammers and blockers into committing major penalties like back-blocking and out of play's. Left 4 Deadwards was an asset while doing more blocking than jamming, and Animal Mother, Bat R Up and Fannysaurus Wrex had a great night stats-wise in terms of attacks and assists.

EIO jammer Krystallica back-blocks Bat R Up as Gladi8Her nears her second pack pass

EIO acquitted themselves well but were hampered by numerous trips to the penalty box that often left them skating short in most jams. It was a tough night for the Felons as they also saw their previously undefeated B team, the Misdemeanors, fall to the Peoria Push Roller Dames in the following game.

Now beyond 20 feet of the pack, EIO's V Train and Dead Lee Danni cannot engage OCCRG's Ophelia Fracture

[As for myself, it was a reversal of roles from the previous week's bout against Kansas City in which I spent the vast majority of the time blocking. I got to wear the jammer pantie quite a bit in Dubuque and enjoyed a fairly good night stats-wise (although I'm still looking to make fewer appearances in the penalty box). I even had a pretty nifty apex jump a la Left 4 Deadwards.]

For OCCRG, the win improved our 2011 record to 5-0 and was our ninth consecutive victory -- as well as being our fifth bout in six weeks. Though we're training as hard as ever we won't been seen in action again until May 21st, when we will travel to nearby Cedar Valley to take on the Push Up Brawlers -- a game that will touch off four straight weekends of bouting.