North Central Regionals: Brawl of America
Dates: September 18-20
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
The North Central Regionals’ tagline should be “cornfed kick ass,” as the ladies of the midwest look to get it on in Minnesota. The North Central promises to be the most closely matched tournament after you get past the number 1 and number 2 seeds. Madison, Cincinnati, and Arch Rival will be battling for the 3rd spot into nationals and when the dust settles, one of them will make their first-ever nationals appearance. Minnesota, North Star, Grand Raggidy, Brew City, and Burning River promise to give us some exciting match-ups both in the first round and the losers’ bracket. I predict that once this tournament is over, the NC region is going to look very different than it did going in.
- 1. Windy City Rollers: It seems like eons ago that Windy City went 0-4 at the first ever Dust Devil. Since that time, the Second City has gone on to play for a national championship and established itself as one of the top 5 leagues in America. WCR cemented itself as the top team in the North Central in 2007 when they beat number 1 seed Madison at the East Regionals that year and have been slaying teams across the Midwest ever since. The resume includes defeating Detroit at home at the the Masonic Temple, which is akin to surviving The Temple of Doom. Windy City’s packs are second to none with standout players Eva Dead, Blossom Bruiso, Hoosier Mama, and Megan Formor. They have the point-scoring machines Varla Vendetta, Ying O’Fire, and Beth Amphetamine all revved up and ready to rock. And they have one of the most intimidating skaters in the WFTDA, Malice with Chains, captaining the team. WCR’s one weakness is starting slow out the blocks in games and allowing teams to establish early leads, something they did in recent games against Cincinnati and Philly. While they can afford to do this in the NC tournament, they will not be able to at Nationals and win. As long as Windy doesn’t overlook anybody and takes it one game at a time, they will be the NC champions.
- 2. Detroit Derby Girls: “DEEEE-TROIT DERBY GIRLS!” The unmistakable battle cry of the daughters of the Motor City will be heard at Nationals again this year. Detroit plays derby like the city they hail from: fast, violent, and scary. Sarah “Killbox” Hipel, Cookie Rumble, and Del Bomber are all weapons of mass destruction in the pack. Boo D. Livers and Sista Slitchya has given fresh legs to the D’s jammer rotation. Racer McChaser is still a superstar and the face of the franchise, but she was not the same dominating player at ECE that she was a year or two ago when she was fresh on the scene. Did she have a bad weekend or have other teams figured out how to contain her? Either way, she will be a player to watch at regionals. They will make nationals, and if they can jump on WCR early in the final game, they have a good chance of winning that game if the entire team is firing on all cylinders. If not, Windy will make them pay and pay dearly.
- 3. Mad Rollin’ Dolls: Back in 2007, all was well in the world of Madison, Wisconsin. Farmers were producing delicious cheeses, college kids were attending one of the best party schools in the country, and the Dairyland Dolls were the queens of the Midwest and one of the top programs in America. Then coach/player Crackerjack moved to Austin, Texas and MRD was upset at Heartland Havoc. The Dolls went through what is akin to a sophomore slump in the music industry in trying new things, but they were never able to reach the level they once were on. In what might possibly be the greatest comeback since John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, the Dairyland Dolls have their eyes set on going to nationals. They have the talent to do it too, as Jewels of the Denile is skating on a whole new level and Darling Nikki is almost right there with her. Back Dorris, Phoenix Envy, and Mouse have all contributed to get this team back on the right track. While they did not have the most dominant win over Tampa Bay at ECE and lost to Kansas City, they did beat Cincinnati very convincingly on the road this spring in a big match up between number 3 and number 4. If the Dolls are on their game, they can make Nationals, but they aren’t beating either Detroit or WCR at Brawl of America.
4. Cincinnati Rollergirls: The Black Sheep are vying for their first nationals appearance, but are they ready to take that big of a step? Cincinnati has been a team that plays up or down to its opponents for the past 2 years and is stuck right now between being a small fish in a big pond and the biggest fish in a small pond. They are 7-2 on the season, but both losses came to WCR and MRD, 2 teams ranked above them in the NC. However, Cincinnati has proven in the past they can beat top-ranked teams, evidenced by the fact that they defeated Carolina last year in the biggest upset in WFTDA history. Sadistic Sadie, the best player in the Tri-state, is the heart and soul of the squad. Jammer Hannah Barbaric is the Scottie Pippen of roller derby, always overshadowed but still an incredible talent and the smartest jammer I have ever seen. Pivot Sk8r-Kinney is the best-kept secret in roller derby as she keeps the front end of the pack locked down like San Quentin. Blockers Sista Sacralicious, June with a Cleaver, Killian Destroy and Sk8 Crime don’t make headlines, but know how to play their roles in the pack. Trauma and Rollergirls of Central Kentucky transfer Nuk’em are both players everyone will be talking about after Brawl of America. The first game will pit CRG against Arch Rival, which will see them trying to avenge an unsanctioned loss to them last year at Fall Brawl. If they make the second round, they would play WCR, whom they did prove they could hang with early on before Windy kicked on the afterburners at ECE. Cincinnati has a legitimate shot at going to Nationals by winning the third place game, but they will have to skate clean, not psych themselves out mentally, and learn from their mistakes from earlier this year against Madison.
5. Arch Rival Roller Girls: They’re rolling into the tournament as the true X factor. Much hype and publicity has come to Arch Rival in the past year, as they came out of nowhere in 2008, racked up some quick wins, and had pundits wondering just how good this team from The Lou really is. They have never played in a regional tournament or ECE, so it will be interesting to see how they handle themselves in a new environment. At tournaments, you’re playing a minimum of 2 high-level derby games in a weekend, which is a stark contrast to playing NC number 9 Brew City in May and then NC number 3 Madison in July. This will be my first chance to see them play, and I am looking forward to it. If they do manage to get past Cincinnati in their first round, they will presumably be playing WCR in the next round, and they will not upset them. At that point, they would still have a shot at a 3rd place shot at Nationals, and while I don’t think they would beat Cincinnati or Madison for that spot, it is the regionals and that’s when the unexpected does happen.
6. Minnesota RollerGirls: The land of 10,000 Lakes and almost as many derby fans (okay I am exaggerating a bit, but seriously, they pack the Roy Wilkins Auditorium) are trying to figure out where they factor into this tournament. Minnesota was once a dominant program, but with the departure of Desi Cration to Texas, Jawbreaker, and plethora of others, MNRG is not what it once was. However, MNRG is 3-1 on the season and beat arch rival Madison for the first time ever last November. They open up against WCR and that’s not good for anyone, but they could make some noise in the losers bracket and might be able to sneak into that third place game, might being the keyword. Win or lose, Minnesota will put on a great tournament. They are some of the best hostesses in all of the WFTDA, and their fans are great too.
7. Grand Raggidy Roller Girls: If I were a fan instead of an announcer, the Grand Raggidy Roller Girls would be my team. How can you not love a league that forms in such a small city, plays home games in a roller hockey rink with an indoor skate park attached to it, and is not afraid to play any team, no matter how over matched they are on paper? Jackie Daniels is almost impossible to knock down and bleeds roller derby. Old Number 7 would be a starter for any team in the country if she decided to move; yes she is that good. Bette Mangler does a good job of helping to keep Jackie’s jersey clean by pancaking opposing players in the pack. Quarterboy (seriously, what the hell does that name mean?), could be a large contribution to the team, if she can keep her emotions in check and stay out of the penalty box. Grand Raggidy’s main problem is they do not have a deep enough bench to get the big wins they need to make nationals. They open up against Burning River, and while I think it will be a good game, I am predicting BRRG to win it, due to less player turnover.
8. North Star Roller Girls: The other sister from the Twin Cities has made some big noise for a younger league, winning their first 3 inter-league games and then being bested by the Brew City Bruisers by just a single point. Their last game, however, saw them get rolled by the Mad Rollin’ Dolls by 87 points, and their offense was completely stifled. North Star is not going to nationals, but at this point that shouldn’t be their next goal, but rather their main goal to shoot for a few years from now. North Star will learn a lot in this tournament, and from what they have shown in the past, they will use that knowledge to continue to climb the NC rankings. They got game, but is it enough to beat Brew City?
9. Brew City Bruisers: The Bruisers are a team with a very deceiving record. While they have more wins than losses, they are almost always within striking distance of getting a win. This is a solid roller derby team that no one should be sleeping on. Danger! Danger! High D. Voltage and Hacksaw both are solid players. Servin Justice can skate with the precision of a Lotus, but she hits like a F-350. Brew City is going to do some big things in the future, and I look for them to have a breakout year in 2010, but we are still in 2009. If they can get a win or 2 at Brawl of America, that would give them some positive momentum rolling into the off season. I think they can beat North Star, but they would take on Madison in the next round and that’s just a whole different beast altogether.
10. Burning River Roller Girls: Cleveland continues to move up the ladder as they just finished up their 3rd home league season, the only team in Ohio that still has one. If you look at their 3 and 9 record on www.flattrackstats.com, this is the classic example of numbers not telling the whole story. In their past 5 games, they have either won or kept their loss within 14 points. BRRG was leading state rival Cincinnati this spring, before breaking down and enabling the Black Sheep to gut out a tough win. Ivanna Destroya is 6 feet of athlete and attitude who is ultra competitive. Eva Lucien and Stroker Ace also have proven to be great jammers and leaders. E. Gargiulo has come on strong this year and has blossomed into a scoring machine. Burning River’s bench is not nearly deep enough to compete for a bid for nationals, but at the same time, they continue to slowly but surely go up the ladder. Just like Brew City, 2010 is a going to be a big year for Burning River.
Once the dust settles from this tournament, I think seeding will determine how far the NC representatives go at nationals, but I will save that for a later column. Next time, I will be previewing the South Central, so get ready for commentary as hot as Memphis barbeque and opinions as liberal as New Orleans’ open container laws. Until then, remember to live your life two minutes at a time.