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.

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