(BALLWIN, MO) There is chatter within the roller derby community about the quality of play by the St. Louis-based women’s and men’s travel teams as they approach their respective regular season-ending checkpoints.
Simply put, both are competing at near-optimal levels at this stage of the year.
This became apparent after both Arch Rival Roller Derby and GateKeepers Roller Derby swept their respective three games at the inaugural “Sibling Rivalry” invitational held this past weekend at Midwest Sport Hockey.
The co-hosted event featured 18 games overall, nine sanctioned by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) and a similar amount sanctioned by the Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA).
When the weekend’s final whistle blew, St. Louis teams had recorded victories in a third of the match-ups and finished with a combined 6-0 result.
Arch Rival, currently ranked eighth internationally by the WFTDA, notched victories over #7 Jacksonville (141-138), #9 Denver (163-160) and #15 Atlanta (144-116) to remain undefeated (8-0) on the season.
“We knew that these were going to be three really tough games and we knew we had to show up,” said Arch Rival co-captain Bricktator. “We couldn’t just pretend to know what we’re doing and this gave us a lot of momentum heading into playoffs.”
Meanwhile on the men’s side, the defending MRDA champion GateKeepers collected wins over #4 New York (146-111), #8 Magic City (327-36) and #30 Denver (386-45) and maintained its spotless record (9-0).
“The team work is really our strength right now,” said GKRD co-captain Magnum P.I.M.P. “Everybody’s thinking about how to attack the track together as opposed to individualistically. When we make a mistake, we know how to recover and not let it cost too much.”
Key to the respective St. Louis sweeps at Sibling Rivalry was the solid performances by both league’s blocking personnel. For Arch Rival, solid foundations set by veterans Kayla Woodward, Party Foul, Shimmy Hoffa, Chewblocka, Smarty McFly, Shear-Ra Powers, Jamheiser Bush, Krista Grant and Molotov lured the opposing teams’ jammers into second half penalties that resulted in late-game scoreboard flips and pushes.
The GateKeepers, who collectively outscored their opponents during the weekend 859-192, was propelled by the stop-gap work of blockers Percy Controll, Spin Diesel, Bled Zeppelin, Wrecking Bill, The Doc, Inquadable Hulk, Kyle Stark, The Saint, Nate Bower, Specs, D’ Amaro, Uttendorf and Monster Jam.
These key components helped the St. Louis leagues finish their respective regular seasons on a high-note as both now await the final set of rankings that will determine seeding placement for the playoffs. Arch Rival should know its WFTDA post-season placement next week while the GateKeepers will find out its fate later in July.
ARCH RIVAL AT SIBLING RIVALRY
Arch Rival’s whirling dervish weekend began with a Friday tussle against hard-charging #15 Atlanta. Tied 20-20 seven minutes deep, St. Louis posted a 33-2 run over the next eight. Accented by Bricktator’s 16 point jam and a pair of multi-pass rotations from Annie Swanson, ARCH possessed a 53-22 lead midway through the first period. The locals continued the pressure as the period progressed a sported 40-point lead at intermission, 92-52.
To its credit, Atlanta rebounded in the second period and methodically chipped away at the differential. With 7:40 left, ARCH’s lead had been whittled down to 127-100 but jammers CupQuake and Harmony Killerbruise notched back-to-back nine-pointers that helped push the locals’ lead to 140-109 with 4:20 left. ARCH staved any further Atlanta offensive attacks and secured the 146-111 victory.
Saturday’s meeting with higher-ranked Jacksonville, who bounced Arch Rival in last year’s opening round of the WFTDA Championships, saw the Floridians capitalize on jammer penalties, resulting in New Jax’s 67-48 lead with 2:15 left in the first period. ARCH then exploded with its own power jam in the half’s final rotation as Bricktator’s 29-point strike resulted in St. Louis possessing a 77-67 lead at intermission.
Both squads battled throughout the second period and with New Jax jammer Krispy Kreme-Her’s four-pointer recorded with 11:15 left, Jacksonville tied the game 114-114. On the next rotation, Jamsterella helped New Jax break the deadlock with a nine-point strike. Arch Rival countered with a 15-1 run over the next three jams and with Killerbruise’s 7-1 jam with 6:40 left, St. Louis regained the lead 129-124.
Erin Jackson’s nine-point jam with 4:50 left flipped the scoreboard back to New Jax’s favor, 133-129. Arch Rival continued to keep pace in the game’s waning rotations and trailed by a solo point, 138-137, with five seconds left. On the game’s final jam, Bricktator escaped a stingy Jacksonville wall and picked up lead jammer status. With the game’s period clock showing a goose-egg, she collected a four-point pass that resulted in ARCH’s 141-138 come-from-behind, heart-stopping victory and the team’s second win of the event.
Sunday’s finale against #9 Denver, who had also won its two previous “Rivalry” match-ups, featured the same narrative that Arch Rival experienced the day prior. St. Louis penalties resulted in Denver points and the Mile High Club possessed 64-48 lead with 2:24 left in the first. Coincidentally, mirroring its Saturday game, Arch Rival claimed a power jam deep and with Bricktator’s 18-point strike in the period’s penultimate rotation, St. Louis flipped the scoreboard to its favor, 66-64. Swanson added two on the final jam that gave ARCH a 68-64 lead at intermission.
In the second period, St. Louis churned a 43-10 run in the opening ten minutes and with Killerbruise’s 20-point power jam with 20:00 left, Arch Rival’s lead blossomed to 111-74. Denver countered with a 45-12 rally over the next six minutes. A 24-pointer from Klein at the 18:15 mark and a dozen from Curtis two jams later were the highlights as the Mile High Club quickly slashed Arch Rival’s advantage to four points, 123-119 with 13:40 left.
ARCH knuckled down defensively and sported 163-144 lead with :51 left but found itself facing a Denver power jam situation on the game’s final rotation. Mile High Club jammer Klein quickly gained lead and scurried for scoring passes as the period clock expired. Denver was able to post 16 points on the final rotation but the differential was too deep for a late-game heroics and Arch Rival snatched a 163-160 victory that resulted in St. Louis’ topsy-turvy weekend sweep.
“Sometimes, we’ll go on a roller coaster ride throughout a game, but when we stop their momentum and regain ours, we’re unstoppable,” reflected Bricktator. “When that happens, it’s so much fun to play.”
The weekend sweep also maintained Arch Rival’s WFTDA undefeated streak at Midwest Sport Hockey. Since migrating to the Queeny Park sport court in 2010, St. Louis has accumulated 22 straight victories.
ARCH now eyes the upcoming WFTDA post-season and plans on preparing for its upcoming tournament trek.
“We can’t coast in the playoffs,” said Bricktator, who received designation as MVP Jammer for the event on the women’s side. “We have to watch footage, tweak some things for improvement and make sure we’re really prepped.”
GATEKEEPERS AT SIBLING RIVALRY
Compared to its sisters in derby, the St. Louis men’s squad didn’t experience as many heart palpitations during the weekend. Nonetheless, Friday’s game against #4 New York Shock Exchange certainly provided a solid challenge for the defending MRDA champions.
St. Louis implemented a jammer rotation of the aforementioned Magnum alongside ScreechAround and Sweet Dave while New York countered with Jonathan R and Stankus. Both teams battled hard defensively as the period progressed and the GateKeepers sported a 77-61 lead at intermission.
New York continued to put pressure on the locals in the second period as the GateKeepers found itself with the same differential, 16 points, with 12:40 to play, 107-91. ScreechAround’s seven scored on the next rotation pushed St. Louis’ lead to 114-91.
With six minutes left, and with the GateKeepers holding on to a 123-101 edge, Magnum notched a 14-pointer that widened the score to 137-101. Sweet Dave’s nine-pointer on the game’s penultimate jam helped secure St. Louis’ 146-111 weekend-opening win.
“Our resiliency against New York was really good,” reflected Magnum. “There were things that didn’t necessarily go our way, but we didn’t lose focus. We stayed fighting , we stayed focused and we took the game that we needed to take.”
Saturday’s meeting with #8 Magic City saw the GateKeepers sport additional depth at the jammer position with the combo of veteran Corey Porter and the newly-chartered Sir Nixalot added into the mix. However, defense became the focal for St. Louis in this one as they topped the Orlando-based squad 327-36, which marked the fifth time this season that the squad had a winning differential of over 200 points.
Sunday’s game against Denver yielded similar results as the GateKeepers churned a 186-19 halftime lead. Solid blocking, paced by the event’s MVP blocker, Bled Zeppelin, kept Denver grounded and with a 200-26 second half output, St. Louis collected the 386-45 duke that kept the squad’s overall record perfect.
When the bracket of October’s MRDA Championships is released later this summer, the GateKeepers are projected to claim the top seed. If St. Louis wishes for back-to-back titles, it will continue to prepare for ensuing post-season clashes.
“We still have some dialing in to do, but I like what we’re doing on the track,” said GateKeepers co-captain Magnum P.I.M.P. “If we had to play Champs right now, I think we’d do well, but there’s definitely some fine tuning that we need to do right now in our game.”
RECAP OF NON-ST. LOUIS TEAMS
On the women’s side, both #9 Denver and #12 Minnesota finished Sibling Rivalry with 2-1 finishes. The Coloradans topped Jacksonville (181-167) and edged Minnesota by a solo point, 149-148, and now possesses a record of 5-6 overall. Minnesota’s weekend wins over Rat City (191-129) and Atlanta (161-104) helped push the squad’s record to 5-4.
Jacksonville and Rat City finished the weekend with 1-2 records. New Jax (7-2) notched its lone win via a 175-160 victory over Rat City on Sunday while Rat City (3-5) collected a 135-127 Saturday triumph over Atlanta. Despite its 0-3 finish, Atlanta (3-4) potentially gained momentum heading into the final set of WFTDA calculated rankings with its close differentials against higher-ranked squads.
On the men’s side, the New York Shock Exchange gained victories over Puget Sound (246-98) and Denver (339-73) to finish the weekend 2-1 and push their overall record to 4-1. Seattle-based Puget Sound (3-3) also finished 2-1 during the weekend with dukes over Magic City (269-122) and Twin Cities (381-46).
Despite a pair of setbacks against higher-ranked squads, Denver Ground Control (6-4) notched an eye opening 265-126 victory over Twin Cities on Friday. Magic City (2-2) claimed a 361-31 victory over Twin Cities for its lone triumph of the weekend. Minnesota-based Twin Cities finished the weekend win less and dropped to 4-8 on the year.
SIBLING RIVALRY 2016 RESULTS
Minnesota 191 Rat City 129
Denver 181 Jacksonville 167
Arch Rival 144 Atlanta 116
Denver 265 Twin Cities 126
Puget Sound 269 Magic City 122
STL GateKeepers 146 New York 111
Denver 149 Minnesota 148
Rat City 135 Atlanta 127
Arch Rival 141 Jacksonville 138
New York 339 Denver 73
Puget Sound 381 Twin Cities 46
STL GateKeepers 327 Magic City 36
Jacksonville 175 Rat City 160
Minnesota 161 Atlanta 104
Arch Rival 163 Denver 160
Magic City 363 Twin Cities 31
New York 245 Puget Sound 98
STL GateKeepers 386 Denver 45
For more information on ARCH, go to archrivalrollerderby.com.
For more information on GKRD, go to stlgatekeepers.com.