26 August 2012

Bout Recap: HARD vs Strong Island

It's such a thrill bringing newcomers to their very first roller derby bouts and seeing what happens. After a few months of persistence, Flocci finally managed to get four of her friends to come to HARD's game last night, and the results were exciting: two with mild interest, one with moderate interest, and one superfan. Watching the superfan's transition over the course of the game was a trip -- he wasn't quite sure what was going on for the first few jams, but with some explanations and a few more jams worth of viewing experience, he got the hang of it in no time, and was cheering himself hoarse in every single jam. It was beautiful.

It helped, of course, that the bout was a good one. And not just average good, really good. We've said it before, but HARD really has their act together, so the logistics were smooth, and they invited a team that's very similar in skill level, so the bout was a nail-biter (which was super-exciting for the fresh meat fans). HARD and Strong Island first met two months ago, and HARD walked away from that bout with a very close win, so Strong Island probably had visions of getting their own win this time around. HARD, of course, had other ideas.

The first half was close, and a lot of fun to watch. Both teams use power jams extremely well, there were no slow-start jams, and both teams skate fairly clean, so there weren't a ton of penalties. Hartford's Wailers started things off with 20 points in the first two jams, and then Strong Island started nibbling away at that lead and took it for their own in jam 9. The Wailers snatched it back in the next jam, and it bounced back and forth every other jam for a little while. The next-to-last jam, which ended with about a minute left on the clock, saw the score tied at 64, and despite Strong Island getting lead jammer in the final jam, the Wailers took a tenuous 67-66 lead to wrap up the half.

The halftime pep talk clearly energized HARD, and they came screaming into the second half with a 28-point power jam. At one point during that power jam, there was only one Strong Island blocker left in the pack, and there wasn't much she could do but watch Hartford's jammer sail past again and again. By jam 2, the Wailers had hit the century mark and established a comfortable 32-point lead that only got bigger as the period progressed. Strong Island was relying on one or two jammers, who, by this point in the game, were exhausted, while the Wailers had three or four to choose from, and it really made a difference in who got lead jammer and how well power jams were used. The Wailers ended up with a decisive 203-118 win over Strong Island, giving the girls from New York one more reason to train hard and come back with some new moves next time.

We'd like to give a huge shout-out to the reffing crew for this bout, all of whom were very clear with their calls, making it easier for both seasoned veterans and derby virgins to follow along. There were fewer disputed calls, fewer and shorter official time outs, and it was a more enjoyable game as a whole. Thank you, zebras!

Name of the Bout: Ann T. Virus #24pt (SIDR)

19 August 2012

A8otF Games 10-11 (3rd place and Championship bouts)

Game 10: Maine vs. Shoreline [photos from this bout]

The battle for third place was the fourth bout in two days for both teams (holy numbers, Batman!), so fatigue was irrelevant and everything came down to skill and experience. Things looked pretty well-matched for the first few jams -- Shoreline scored first, Maine answered with more points, Shoreline took back the lead, Maine took a few jams to get it again. By halfway through the first period, though, Maine's extra years of bouting gave them the edge, and they took off. By the end of the first half, they led 56-11.

Maine only allowed Shoreline to get lead jammer in four jams in the second half, which rather limited Shorelines' ability to score and let Maine walk away with an easy 105-30 win. In a display of derby sisterhood, the final jam saw Maine's jammer slow up, take Shoreline's jammer's hand, and do a sort of joint victory lap before calling off the jam. It was beautiful, and I wish we'd been able to get a picture of it.

With that, Shoreline finished fourth overall, and Maine claimed bronze. Next up: the championship bout!

Game 11: Rock Coast vs. Pioneer Valley [photos from this bout]

The buzz in the arena before this bout seemed to be one of surprise that Rock Coast had advanced as far as they had, and the conviction that Pioneer Valley, a more experienced league, would probably win.

Rock Coast ignored all of that, and just did what they do best... which is, apparently, leaving other teams in their dust. The scores were never so far apart that a solid, well-utilized power jam couldn't have caused a lead change, but Rock Coast never gave Pioneer Valley the chance. Between teamwork, backwards blocking, and pack control, Rock Coast held the lead for the entire bout.

After the 4-0 first jam, Rock Coast never let Pioneer Valley get fewer than ten points behind, and by halftime their lead was a stable 61-33. Pioneer Valley had a brief rally in the middle of the second half, advancing their score by 29 points over several jams while holding Rock Coast steady, but they were still 22 points short of a tie game by the time Rock Coast scored again, and by then it was too late. The best Pioneer Valley could do was keep Rock Coast from scoring in the last two jams, but the price was not being able to score any points for themselves, either. At the final whistle, the score was 94-71, and Rock Coast skated their victory lap as the first Champions of the All 8 On The Floor Tournament, with Pioneer Valley taking silver.

Congratulations to all of the teams who participated, another huge thank you to Worcester Roller Derby for hosting the tournament, and we hope to see everyone again next year!

18 August 2012

A8otF Games 7-9

Game 7: Granite State vs. Shoreline [photos from this bout]

Sunday started off with a bout that Flocci was excited about. Shoreline and Granite State had never met before, and Granite State hadn't been around for the previous day's bouts, so nobody knew what to expect. Shoreline got things started with a 5-0 first jam and held the lead for a few minutes, and then Granite State tied the score in jam 5. Shoreline wasn't having it, though, and they took the lead back a few jams later and held on tight. As the first half wrapped up, it looked like anybody's game, with Shoreline leading 37-25.

Shoreline spent the second half poking holes in Granite State's armor. The girls from New Hampshire have a lot of speed and good jammers, but their defense just couldn't stand up to Shoreline's strategic blocking. A 12-point lead turned into about 40 points by the middle of the half, and despite a power jam, Granite State couldn't close that gap enough to turn the tables. Shoreline took the win 86-56 and advanced to the semi-finals.

Game 8: Rock Coast vs. Maine [photos from this bout]

This semi-final was one of the best bouts we've seen in a while. These two leagues from Maine are familiar friends, and they're at similar skill levels, but instead of either getting nasty or going easy on each other, they stay classy and still fight for each and every point. Watching this bout reminded us why we love WFTDA-style roller derby -- heart, skill, and respect were consistent and obvious from the first whistle to the last.

Maine Roller Derby's Calamity Janes took first blood with four points in jam 2, Rock Coast outdid them by a point in the following jam, annd it took the Janes another few jams to tie things up at 10-10. Rock Coast shifted into a new gear at that point, and that was the last time the Janes saw the lead in the first half. They were poised for a strike by the halftime whistle, though, only trailing Rock Coast 35-36.

The Janes followed through on that strike in the first jam of the second half, but Rock Coast shot them down in the next jam and held the lead for the remainder of the game. Maine got lead jammer in more than half of the jams in the second half, but Rock Coast's blockers used superior strategy to keep the Janes from improving their score by more than a few points here and there. Rock Coast likes backwards blocking, and they use it extremely well to intimidate opposing jammers. Coming up on a blocker's booty is one thing, but having her staring you in the face while she slams into you is something else. Between that and two solid power jams in the second half, Rock Coast took the 84-58 win and moved on to the finals.

Game 9: Pioneer Valley vs Shoreline [photos from this bout]

Pioneer Valley had been hanging around the arena since their scrubbed bout with Upper Valley the previous morning, so they'd been watching Shoreline move up the brackets and knew what to expect. Shoreline, on the other hand, came in blind, and ended up blindsided.

[EDIT: We got it wrong! Pioneer Valley actually went home to play a bout Saturday night, so not only were they not around to watch the tournament action, they were also not as well-rested as we'd thought. Our apologies, and a big thank you to PVRD's Chewbecca for setting us straight!]

This was Shoreline's third bout in two days, while Pioneer Valley got to come in fresh and well-rested, so that probably influenced the score considerably. It took Shoreline six jams just to get points on the board, and once they did, they took a tiny lead and struggled to hold it. A few jams later, though, it was back in the hands of Pioneer Valley, who not only refused to relinquish it, they also didn't let Shoreline score again for the rest of the half. They held a solid 54-13 lead at the halftime whistle.

Shoreline managed to score in about half of the jams in the second half, but those points weren't enough to make up for Pioneer Valley's lead coming in, never mind all the points they scored in the second half. This bout came with an extra break in the middle of the second half while an ambulance was summoned to take ref Saturday Night Beaver to the hospital for a dislocated shoulder (ouch!), and Shoreline scored more points after that break than they did in the rest of the bout, so with some R&R they could probably have a well-matched game against Pioneer Valley. But that's the chance you take with tournaments, and Pioneer Valley took advantage of Shoreline's fatigue to sweep a 116-43 win, moving up to the finals against Rock Coast.

15 August 2012

A8otF Games 4-6

Game 4: Hartford vs. Shoreline [photos from this bout]

These two teams have a friendly rivalry going -- they trade wins back and forth and are very well-matched. Hartford has more cohesion and strategy while Shoreline has more strength and defense, so the outcome of a bout comes down to who's on the roster and what sort of day they're having.

For this bout, Shoreline was having a good day. They took a decisive lead with a 15-0 first jam and never let go. Hartford did their best to keep up, and proved to be excellent at getting a jammer though the initial pass in no time flat, but Shoreline made better use of power jams and held onto Hartford's jammers through scoring passes. The halftime whistle blew with Shoreline leading 50-24.

Shoreline kept up the strong defense thorough the second half, holding Hartford's score steady for six consecutive jams despite Hartford having lead jammer for two of them. The final two-minute jam sums up the game as a whole: even with a star pass, Hartford only picked up 3 points while Shoreline scored 14. On another day, Hartford might've turned the tables, but on this day, at this tournament, Shoreline took the win 97-53 and advanced to the next round.

Game 5: Worcester vs. Rock Coast [photos from this bout]

The hometown crowd was, naturally, excited about this bout. Worcester used their home track advantage to full effect for most of the first half, taking the lead in jam 2 and holding it until the last jam. Somewhere in the middle of the half, though, Rock Coast figured out Worcester's game and started chipping away at their lead, finally taking over in the last jam to end the half at 46-39.

Once they were in Worcester's heads, Rock Coast took control of the second half. With more lead jammers and more power jams, they turned a modest lead into a solid one, finishing up the game with a 100-55 win. At this point, it was clear that Rock Coast was the team to beat in this tournament, and we eagerly awaited their next bout.

Game 6: Maine vs. New Hampshire [photos from this bout]

There were two lead changes early in this bout, but once Maine got their groove on, there was no stopping them. They used lead jammer status and power jams more effectively and restricted New Hampshire's scoring to a mere three jams in the first half, holding a comfortable 45-18 lead at the whistle.

New Hampshire improved in the second half, nearly matching Maine's number of scoring jams, but falling short on points. With a faster learning curve, New Hampshire might have been able to keep the score closer, but Maine kept the pressure on and won the bout 94-51, wrapping up Day 1 of the tournament.

14 August 2012

A8otF Games 1-3

Game 1: Pioneer Valley vs. Upper Valley

Upper Valley forfeits, Pioneer Valley advances.

Game 2: Bay State vs. Rock Coast  [photos from this bout]

This was the first bout actually played at the tournament, and it was a little bit like watching Team USA play Team Canada at the World Cup. The girls from Maine brought superior speed, agility, and strategy, and just took over the track. They started off with an easy 9 points in the first jam and kept building up that lead. Each team had one power jam in the first half, but Rock Coast racked up points in almost every jam while holding Bay State steady in more than half of them. Rock Coast wrapped up the first half with a 101-20 lead over Bay State.

Despite coming into the second half with new energy, Bay State wasn't able to close the gap. They had a 20-point jam about halfway through, but then couldn't score again until there were less than three minutes on the clock, letting Rock Coast pick up more points along the way. Not even a 19-point jam for Bay State at the very end of the bout could get them within spitting distance, so Rock Coast walked away with a 170-78 win and advanced to the next round.

Game 3: Black Ice Brawlers vs. Maine Calamity Janes  [photos from this bout]

This was another somewhat unbalanced bout. The Brawlers had a few skaters who were bouting for the very first time, while the Janes brought more seasoned players, and that experience showed on the track. The Brawlers got first blood with a single point in the first jam, but Maine answered with 24 in the next jam, and that set the point gap trend for the rest of the bout. Maine only let the Brawlers pick up points in the first, second, third, and final jams of the first half, wrapping it up with an 88-21 lead at halftime.

Second verse, same as the first. Jam 4 was a good power jam for the Brawlers, but they got stuck shortly after that and could only watch as the Janes racked up points in almost every jam. The Brawlers had a last gasp 12-point jam at the very end, but it wasn't nearly enough. Maine finished up the bout with a 139-55 win and moved up to the next bracket.

06 August 2012

All 8 On The Floor Tournament Overview

What a weekend! All 8 On The Floor was a great tournament, both for the fans (so! many! teams!) and for the leagues who aren't WFTDA members or whose B-teams don't get much exposure. Flocci is busy processing pictures and writing recaps, but we'll give you the non-bout rundown in the meantime.

First off, a HUGE thank you to Bronco and Worcester Roller Derby for putting the tournament together. It went very smoothly, and we'd love to see it get even bigger and become an annual event. The venue is great for an event like this, since it's easy to locate and has plenty of parking and seating, and not even the minor issues of climate control and sound system wonkiness could detract from the weekend's fun.

There were supposed to be six games on Saturday, but one of the teams had to withdraw. The Upper Valley Vixens suffered several injuries in the week leading up to the tournament and couldn't field a full roster, so they forfeited their bout with Pioneer Valley, who advanced to the next level. To fill the empty time slot Saturday morning, the zebras had a mini clinic that included an outside pack ref practice session. You wouldn't think such an activity would be fun to watch, but Flocci enjoyed it -- anything that makes reffing better makes her happy.

There was not a boring bout all weekend. Every team played their hearts out, every point was fought for, and there were some impressive displays of skill, agility, and strategy. Even the bouts with big point gaps were fun to watch, because the trailing teams put so much effort into trying to even the scores.

The one scary moment of the tournament happened on Sunday. Ref Saturday Night Beaver took a bad fall and dislocated his shoulder, requiring a pause in the game while the ambulance made its way to the arena. We've seen games stalled for player injuries, but this was the first major ref injury we've seen, and it was a nasty one. Big hugs to Beev and Mo, and speedy recovery!

We'd like to thank all of the organizers, refs, NSOs, announcers, volunteers, and skaters who brought this event together and made it so much fun. If anyone thought that it was "just" a B-team tournament, they weren't paying attention. Congratulations to all the teams for skating so well, and especially to Rock Coast, the triumphant victors!

Stay tuned for bout recaps over the next few days!

01 August 2012

Upcoming Event: All 8 On The Floor Tournament

Pack Is Here will be at New England's "All 8 on The Floor" Roller Derby Tournament this weekend! If you see Flocci in the crowd, come say hi!