The primary travel squads for both Arch Rival Roller Derby and GateKeepers Roller Derby compete at an internationally-recognized invitational this weekend and flat-track enthusiasts will be following the St. Louis-based leagues’ ensuing results due to their breakthrough efforts last season.
The pair launches their respective campaigns at the Big O 2016 invitational held in Eugene, Oregon Friday through Sunday. Arch Rival, currently ranked tenth internationally by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) meets #12 Minnesota, #13 Rat City and #26 Terminal City while the GateKeepers, the defending global champions of the Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA), face Puget Sound, Bridgetown and San Diego.
Arch Rival, 15-3 last season, reached a historical achievement last November with its inaugural appearance at the WFTDA Championships. Although they suffered a first-round setback, the benchmark was significant for the ten-year old franchise as they were one of twelve Division 1 international leagues to make the governing body’s signature event.
The league has been active with its internal three-team local campaign the past six months and now concluded, focus shifts to the 2016 travel team itinerary that launches with the Big O.
It’s been a long, patient wait for the ARCH All-Stars and they aim for a fast start this weekend.
“After last season’s success, we have set a high bar for ourselves this season,” said Arch Rival co-captain Bricktator. “We are very excited to start our season at the Big O. Not only will we get to play three competitive games, we will also get to watch other high level teams.”
Since last November, three regular starters from 2015’s travel team have retired and one made a transfer to another league due to personal relocation. It resulted in an opportunity for talented newcomers to step-up and make seamless transitions to the primary squad.
“Of course, we were sad to see some of our teammates retire and transfer,” said Bricktator “However, we have a great mix of transfers and former B-team skaters filling those spots. The enthusiasm they bring continues to energize the team. They also bring new perspectives and skill sets that make us even better as a whole.”
Joining Bricktator in the jamming rotation is co-captain Harmony Killerbruise and returning veteran Annie Swanson while CupQuake, who had a breakthrough inaugural local season, joins the fold.
A plethora of multi-season blockers that were a part of the WFTDA 2015 Champs entrant return, including Party Foul, Chewblocka, Shear-Ra Powers, Shimmy Hoffa, Jamheiser Bush, Cloak N’ Drag-Her and Kayla Woodward.
Supplementing the blocking mix is Smarty McFly, a long-tenured ARCH All-Star that returns after a two season-sabbatical with Chicago-based leagues, while new additions Molotov and Salty are projected to make an immediate impact.
Also making the Big O trip are travel-team transfers Psychokid D’Freakout and Pegasass, who competed on the WFTDA Division 2 playoff level last season with the St. Chux Derby Chix.
The locals’ Big O opponents also look to capitalize on upward trajectories obtained last season. Minneapolis-based Minnesota (1-0) has reached the WFTDA Championships the last two years and posted a 292-point win over #16 Rocky Mountain earlier this month. Seattle-based Rat City (0-0) also appeared at last November’s WFTDA Division 1 finale and Vancouver-based Terminal City has been in the Division 1 playoffs the past three years.
“We need to approach each of the games with controlled intensity,” assessed Bricktator of the opposition. “Terminal will be strategic, Rat City will be hard-hitting and Minnesota will be disciplined. Success will require sixty solid minutes of work in each game.”
Also aiming for a perfect three-game result at the Big O is GateKeepers Roller Derby, who hoisted its inaugural MRDA international championship last October.
After six seasons of being the hunter in the MRDA, the defending champs now find themselves being the hunted in every game they compete at this summer but the burden doesn’t seem to be bothering them.
“I don’t know about pressure, but I know we’re excited to keep pushing ourselves to the next level,” said GKRD co-captain Percy Controll. “Our competitors keep getting better and better, which is exciting, and it’s only going to make us work harder and learn more, which will help contribute to long term success.”
The veteran blocker feels that preparation has been executed at an all-time high in scrimmages held in private sessions.
“They’ve been great!” said Controll enthusiastically. “Everyone is working hard on continuing to improve our individual skills while maintaining a strong focus on our teamwork. We’ve learned some new tricks, and we’re excited to put them to the test.”
St. Louis has minimal changes to its line-up this season. Alongside Controll, blocking will be paced by returnees Spin Diesel, Bled Zeppelin, Wrecking Bill, Inquadable Hulk, Kyle Stark, The Saint, Uttendorf and Monster Jam. New to the mix this year will be The Doc, a transfer from Texas Men’s Roller Derby.
Jamming will be paced by co-captain Magnum P.I.M.P., Shane Bower, Screecharound, Corey Porter and David Metcalfe.
Each of the GateKeepers’ Big O opponents competed at last season’s MRDA Championships. Both Washington state-based Puget Sound Outcasts (0-0) and Portland-based Bridgetown Menace (0-0) are perennial entrants in the MRDA finale and the San Diego Aftershocks (0-0) made its inaugural appearance in a post-season tournament last October.
“I expect them to be tough!” said Controll of the GateKeepers’ three-game docket. “We love playing Puget and Bridgetown because they always play a smart, physical game that keeps us on our toes until the last whistle. We are really excited to play San Diego for the first time. They have a ton of talent and we are stoked to see how we match up against them.”
“A 3-0 weekend is absolutely possible,” said Arch Rival’s Bricktator. “It will not be easy, but it is possible. We have worked our way up in the rankings and now it’s our job to stay there.”
“(Our goal) is to play the best three games that we can play, while taking key things away from the competition to build on leading into the rest of the season…and to have a blast!” added Controll.
Free online coverage of the entire Big O weekend can be seen at WFTDA.TV. One must select one of three tracks to watch the particular games of choice
ST. LOUIS DERBY AT THE BIG O
(Game start times are converted to Central Time Zone)
NOON – ARCH RIVAL vs. Terminal City (Track 1)
8 PM – GATEKEEPERS vs. Puget Sound (Track 1)
2 PM – ARCH RIVAL vs. Rat City (Track 1)
10 PM – GATEKEEPERS vs. Bridgetown (Track 1)
2:30 PM – GATEKEEPERS vs. San Diego (Track 2)
8:30 PM – ARCH RIVAL vs. Minnesota (Track 2)
For more information on the St. Louis squads, go to archrivalrollerderby.com and stlgatekeepers.com.