For the Arch Rival Roller Girls this weekend, it’s a 1,300-mile westward journey in order to compete at a high-caliber, flat-track derby tournament.
The long trek scheduled is enough to make any athlete surly. For the local rollers, the adjective that more succinctly defines them is “salty.”
The St. Louis-based league, ranked #27 internationally by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), competes at the Salt Lake City, Utah round of the International 2014 WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs, set to launch this Friday.
The three-day, 10-league bracketed tournament finds seventh-seeded Arch Rival (6-6) facing tenth-seeded Tri-City Thunder (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada) in a quarterfinal play-in game Friday at 10 AM MDT (11 AM Central.)
The top three finishers at the Salt Lake City playoff, the third of four separate 10-team tourneys held in the WFTDA post-season, advance to the governing body’s International Championships held in Nashville, Tennessee later this year.
In preparation, Arch Rival has adopted a “salty” attitude, one that is characterized as being tough and aggressive.
“This team has never looked better,” said Arch Rival co-captain Mayor Francis Slayer. “We are ready to play this tournament, both physically and mentally. And we are excited to go to Salt Lake City and attack this challenge together.”
Pre-playoff planning, both on and off-track, has been performed at aggressive levels since Arch Rival’s 160-153 rankings upset over WFTDA #20 Ohio at home last month, which provided a late regular-season spark and a push of momentum heading into the post-season.
“We have been putting in a lot of time practicing and watching footage,” said Slayer. “We have identified our weaknesses and have been working hard to correct those issues.”
At the forefront of St. Louis’ offense is co-captain Brickyard, who has posted numerous triple-digit point performances at the jammer position during the regular season. Veteran Mighty Mighty Boston follows with an average of 50 points per game. Annie Swanson and Chokehold Channel are also projected for high rotations at the position this weekend.
The blocking schema traveling to Salt Lake City also contains plenty of depth. Alongside the aforementioned Slayer, Arch Rival sends to the flat-track a multitude of skaters with WFTDA post-season experience, including veterans Eli Wallop, Party Foul, Downtown Dallis, Shimmy Hoffa, Emily Rinehart, Kayla Seiber, Claire Coonrod and Girl Fawkes.
Also supplementing the St. Louis blocking battalion are Shear-Ra Powers, Cloak N’ Drag-her, The Ginger Assassin and Ninja Sass ‘Em.
Arch Rival has been working closely with the St. Louis GateKeepers, the locally-based men’s roller derby franchise, for support. Veteran skaters Debaucherous Prime and The Saint will serve as the brain trust from the benches this weekend and other members of the undefeated league have assisted at recent local scrimmages.
“We also added skaters Percy Controll and Shane Bower to our coaching staff, and they have been invaluable resources for the team,” said Slayer.
Arch Rival’s breakfast-time bout leads off the tournament’s Friday session. It’s not ideal for the sleep deprived.
“The first game of the day is not my first choice,” Slayer said. “However, we are ready to play our game any time of day, and we aren’t worried about it.”
However, there is concern about the play-in opponent, a hard-charging Canadian coalition that looks for an AM bracket buster.
Tri-City Thunder, currently ranked #40 internationally, makes its debut in the Division 1 playoffs, earmarked for the WFTDA’s Top 40 teams, after climbing two positions in the calculated rankings.
In April, the aforementioned Ohio bested Tri-City, 225-142, and one assumes that triangulation guarantees a Friday morning Arch Rival win due to its victory over Ohio last month.
Not so fast. The highly-skilled Thunder (8-7) has won five of its last six bouts, which includes two straight, triple-digit victories. After thumping WFTDA #86 Bleeding Heartland, 281-67, in June, Tri-City overpowered #73 Ithaca, 250-78, in July.
If one utilizes the “if A beats B and B beats C, then A beats C” methodology, they might regret the placement of the letters in the final arrangement, for “C just might beat A” after all.
“This is Tri-City’s first appearance at the Division 1 level, so they’ve got a lot to prove themselves,” said Ohio Bench Coach Inspector Muffin of Arch Rival’s Friday morning opponent. “They played a lot of bouts this season and they were very successful. They definitely wanted to make that jump from Division 2 to Division 1.”
Jammers Freudian Whip and Ova’Kill provide a one-two “star punch” and are paced in blocking by veterans Wylde Leigh Coyote, Preying Man Tease and Fox Smoulder.
The inaugural meeting between the pair of playoff squads also marks the first time that St. Louis has competed against a Canadian WFTDA league.
“We are excited to play a new team, and we haven’t really been able to scout Tri-City very successfully,” said Arch Rival’s Slayer. “We are ready for a tough game.”
The co-captain notes that her team’s objective is straightforward this weekend in Salt Lake City.
“Our goals are to place higher than we are entering the tournament, to play great roller derby as a team, and to have a good time,” Slayer said. “We are out to win every game we play.”
And if the Gateway City rollers remain salty in the process and nets medal placement, then the quest for the WFTDA Hydra Cup continues later this year in the Music City.
A promotional video of the Arch Rival Roller Girls’ post-season trek, entitled “Agents of ARRG,” produced by Turn 1 Productions.
Complete online coverage of the entire Salt Lake City playoff is available via wftda.tv. A live audio feed is complimentary on the website, while a video pass costs $12.
FRIDAY’ S SALT LAKE CITY PLAYOFF SCHEDULE (All times MDT)
10 AM – (7) Arch Rival vs. (10) Tri-City
Noon – (8) Oklahoma Victory vs. (9) No Coast
2 PM – (4) Charm City vs. (5) Montreal
4 PM – (2) Angel City vs. Arch Rival/Tri-City Winner
6 PM – (3) Rocky Mountain vs. (6) Wasatch
8 PM – (1) B.ay A.rea D.erby vs. Oklahoma Victory/No Coast Winner