It’s that time of year: we are less than a week away from the MRDA Championship in St. Louis: River City Rumble. I have taken on the task again of giving the derby world a look at what the can expect this weekend. With the expansion of the tournament to 10 teams, my task this year is more daunting than ever before. I will do my best to keep each article even in length. It will depend on how much I know about each team, though. You have been warned.
Your 10 seed is here by (for them) fortuitous circumstances. The Twin City Terrors are actually ranked #14, but due to a variety of reasons the #10-#13 declined the invitation to Champs. Having done a lot of research for predictions before the rankings were released, I can say that (according to math) TC is as good of an opponent as any that declined. I do not think they will be a dull team to watch.
This team is no stranger to tournaments, having played in two every year for at least the last three years. This year they had a particularly daunting tournament schedule: 3 tournaments: Midwest Brewhaha, Rolling Along the River, and River City Warm-Up. They lined up 7 times this year against top 8 teams including playing the Gatekeepers and Texas Outlaws twice, and also Bridgetown Menace, Puget Sound, and Your Mom on top of an additional 5 sanctioned games. Since TC obviously has had Champs on their mind, this highly challenging season had to be chosen by design for solidification of team work and to test nerves under pressure. They’ll need that experience for champs: they meet the Bridgetown Menace again in the first round, and the winner will play the Gatekeepers. The loser will play the loser of the Magic City/Aftershocks bout.
But who ARE the Twin City Terrors?
They are a team that has the potential to play like Shock Exchange, as long as they keep up their training and focus. Their walls can grind down jammers when the game is slow, they have far better bracing and positional blocking than I was expecting when I sat down to watch Brewhaha footage. In a sport where players love looking jammers in the eye, Twin City looked as comfortable plowing a jammer to stop as they did tossing a backwards block at them. If there is anything I have learned from watching the WFTDA playoffs this year is that the difference between a good team and a great team comes down to their ability to plow stop. If Twin City can take a note from their WFTDA counterparts and begin to really ratchet down their speed control and recycling, they’ll be in good shape.
In both their Texas and Puget games at Brewhaha, Twin City came out strong with slow walls, coordinated offense, and a protection of the lines that slowed down Scott Slamilton and Dr. Feelgood. Steve Sweat #808 and Egon Strangler #42 are impossibly fast at the top of the pack. Often they can catch jammers who have a head start, and knock them out of bounds before the end of the engagement zone. At the same time, Timchilla #3 (whether as pivot or jammer) has ridiculous fast feet, and was able to take advantage of the offense given. Derby Monster #00 and Freight Train are the bruisers of this team that also moonlight as seriously effective jammers. In the tournament I watched, jammer penalties (cuts primarily) killed the momentum of a team with many weapons in their tool belt.
If Twin City can keep calm and keep their packs together, they’ll do well this weekend. Their blockers are strong, they just have a tendency to get split up when the game gets fast. If they can use what they learned from playing Puget Sound at Brewhaha and apply a pack definition strategy to keep the game slow and at their pace, they will do well. “The Great Wall of St Paul” is what coach Betsy Wrecksie calls it: working together to remove speed from the game and control the other team’s position. Twin City has had the advantage of Wreckie’s experience this season, she was formerly Minnesota All-Star’s head coach in 2014. She knows how to help a team gel.
Baron von Bean #609, Luce Wheel #103, Jamnit Dim #31, and Sampson #66 are the guys you put out to glue the walls together. You may not always notice them, because they are quietly holding their team mates use them as the rock to form around. Recent transfer Ogden Smash #64 will only add to the solidity of walls, being a very smart strategist and very effective at getting in the opposition’s way.
Bridgetown is also a ‘jack of all trades’ kind of team, so it will be fun to watch these two trade blows in the first round. If Twin City can stay focused and engaged the Great Wall and not allow the bruisers of Bridgetown to split them apart for too long, they’ll put up an excellent fight. Where Bridgetown will have a solid jammer rotation, Twin City seems to come into games a little looser. They have a deep jammer pool and tend to throw in a variety of people ‘to see who sticks’. They may need to call on the power of Freight Train to push through the likes of Cozmo Damage, but keep an eye out for rookie N8s Gonna Nate who made a big impact at Brewhaha.
Coach says of Twin City’s attitude going into Champs:
We’re pretty sure we’re not heading home with a first place medal as we’ve already played the one and two seeds and while it was a welcome challenge – they were pretty one sided games… If we can go as far as to beat [the Aftershocks], I think it says we were supposed to be here at champs even if we weren’t the first choice. Win or lose; we are all extremely excited to be taking part in MRDA Champs and proud to be the first Terrors squad to do so.
You cannot ignore Puget Sound Outcast Derby. Mostly because their uniforms demand your attention, but also because that jersey is probably going by you at Mock 5.
The Outcasts are a team of World Class level roller sport athletes that have come together for the love of derby. Ball and cane, speed skating, hockey, artistic, aggressive inline, downhill racing – these are all the sports (and I may have missed some) that the men of Puget Sound have competed in. When you watch them play, you can’t help but notice their sheer skating talent and balance; they do not fall. They are hard to push out of bounds. They are hard to out skate.
The longest-establish West Coast men’s derby team, Puget Sound is no stranger to the Championship tournament. They have qualified for Champs each year (and even finished #2 in 2011 against New York Shock Exchange), and plan on making a rise above their #4 seeding by the end of this weekend. As host of the tournament, Puget Sound seems to be trembling with excitement to show the world that they have been focusing on their weaknesses and developing game plans for each opponent they face.
In the past, Puget has seemed to rely on their straight-up talent to win their bouts. They are so much fun to watch, but when I have seen them play (Mohawk Valley Cup in 2013 and then streaming at Champs), I have noticed a ‘superstar’ style of play. They have relied less on walls and tightly-bound defense, and more on big, driving hits, pulling cut tracks, quick bursts of speed, and out-skating the opposition in the past. To continue to dominate, Puget knows they must shift into a team-based style of play.
Scott Slamilton’s artistic background make him nearly impossible to capture. Blockers like Bonus Jonas and Dilly Dally are small and unassuming to look at, but their agility on wheels only enhances their ability to pop into larger opponents to stop or redirect an opponent’s momentum. (small blockers – watch these two this weekend. Take notes. Learn things.) With such a variety of sizes on the bench, Puget can really tailor their lines to take on individual jammers to play to strengths. Need pure power and size? Put out Big Bill and Radiallac. Need stronger walls and communication? Put out Quadzilla, Low Rider, and Thunderstruck. If you need blockers who can chase and re-capture a wiley jammer, you put out Cory Pain and Chuck Hendrick.
In the first round of play this weekend, Puget Sound gets to face their little brother, Bridgetown Menace. Bridgetown has been steadily closing the point gap between PSOD and themselves each time they play. Puget needs to focus on communication and containment against Menace if they want to continue their winning streak. Both teams are very fast and very sharp, neither waste energy in their hits or skating. No more can Puget rely on being a team of simply more talented skaters. Menace is coming in with a point to prove, and Puget Sound has an opportunity to show that they have learned from their past match-ups. Puget has a chance to finally solidify being a collective team of insanely talented skaters that know how to read each other and trust each other. Puget has a chance to show the world that they are here not just to play. They have a chance, and a desire to walk away as the host of the Championship tournament where they will leave with more gold around their neck than just what is on their uniform.
Check out Puget Sound’s Facebook for updates and awesomeness. Thank you, Eric Lyons for use of ALL the photos in the article. Tune into WFTDA.tv at 3p PST to watch Puget Sound work their fancy feet magic against Bridgetown Menace.
(Sorry for the cliché opening. I’ve been hoping for a reason to use it for years.)
Seriously though, they are. Only they come bearing red Bonts, not red coats (and if we’re lucky some Blue Coat … and limes, but that’s another issue all together). Southern Discomfort is my new favorite derby team, and with the sheer amount of talent on the roster, I’m sure no one is surprised.
Their skaters qualified to play at the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup on Team England, France, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland: Seven chartered skaters appeared at the Men’s World Cup. Several others from the So Disco league were also featured during the WC, even though they don’t appear on the SD charter. It’s very possible that they are the MRDA team with the MOST skaters on World Cup teams (just based on what I’m seeing). Thanks to Flapjack for helping me come up with some of the World Cup info!
From London, England, So Disco has been together since 2010, when players from the south of England (who would get together to play men from the north of England) decided to ban together and start the first men’s team in the UK. Like their sisters, the London Rollergirls, SD didn’t have the luxury of being able to travel to close, competitive teams.
“I think our coach Kitty sums it up best when she says that the distance can actually work in your favour. We don’t always know what other teams are up to so we have to assume that they are flat out training and playing. This means we have to work harder than that in order to compete.” – Samdroid
The first look most of MRDA had of the team was this year during the week of Spring Roll in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The lads crossed an ocean for an infamous “7 games in 9 days”, where they took on 3 of the 4 top ranked MRDA teams (Shock Exchange was the only one they didn’t get a crack at). The start of the tour was tough because of the extreme jet lag felt by the team, and they ended the adventure playing the GateKeepers. They looked like the Walking Wounded by the time the bout finished up, they had all put so much into that 9 day stretch.
“I think this was a great experience for everyone. Those tight knit situations, being on top of each other for nine days can either bond you together or split you apart. For us it was a great bonding experience, it was great to play so much derby together and really get to know our rhythms. We met a lot of really lovely people who put us up, gave us lifts and food and were so hospitable. The toughest games were the first couple in Des Moines, where we were playing at the equivalent of4am UK time. Not a lot of people can remember those two clearly and the final game at Spring Roll was tough just because we had been so beat up. That was one just to get through.”
So how did I fall in love with So Disco? By watching them play Mass Maelstrom on Friday night at Spring Roll. We all know I’ve been a Maelstrom fangirl since SR ’13, so of course I was track side (especially with this unranked international team as the first match up). After the first jam, I knew that we were in for an amazing bout – So Disco flat out muscled the Maelstrom jammers for the first half. It is a feat to keep Jurasskick Park in a pack, but combination of men like Spectral Aberwraytion, Hooks Linger, and Rolling StoneR on the floor kept all the Maelstrom jammers fighting for every inch. I loved the acrobatics of Mr. Furieux, the backwards agility of Sutton Impact, the airiness of Reaper; I loved watching Ballistic Whistle toe up against Wes Turn (two jammers with very similar styles and amazing footwork).
Right so fast forward: The game was tied at the half (TIED!), but the second half proved too much of an endurance game and Maelstrom ended up winning by 50 points. Eventually the offense/defense switched helped establish MM’s hold on the game. I was sold on Southern Discomfort at that point though. It was over.
All told, So Disco went 3-4-0 during their run in the states. They beat Twin City Terrors, Capital City Hooligans, Denton County Outlaws, and CT Death Quads, while they fell to Your Mom, the GateKeepers, Mass Maelstrom.
When rankings came out in June 2014, SD anxiously waited to see whether they had broken into the top 8 on their ranking appearance. “Disappointed” is how players described their feelings when the rankings were released with Southern Discomfort sitting at the 9th position. With unranked Denton County Outlaws slated to play the #8 Deep Valley Belligerents in August, SD still held onto hope that they would make it to champs thanks to their hard work (and their victory over DCO at Spring Roll). See my Denton County blog about why this mattered.
In the meantime, while the rankings were left up the good folks of Denton County and Deep Valley, So Disco focused in on the Men’s European Cup. With determination in their eyes (and their training), they took what they learned during their time in the states and implemented it into their gameplay. And, quite honestly, they dominated. No one else at the MEC even came close to defeating them. Then the next good news came: Denton had soundly defeated #8 Deep Valley before the final rankings for Championships were due. When the September rankings were released, So Disco found themselves at #7 in the MRDA. They had punched their tickets to Maritime Mayhem.
In the first round, So Disco gets another shot at the St Louis GateKeepers. With both teams at full strength it should be interesting to see how this shakes out. Both teams have exceptionally strong blockers and equally as wiley jammers. Both have fluid walls and communication. This could be one of the best bouts of the 2014 MRDA Championships. I doubt that Southern Discomfort walked away from their loss at Spring Roll without some lessons (or the footage on DVD to watch over and over and over).
In the fan survey I conducted, a handful of people said that they’d be rooting for Southern Discomfort during the tournament and believe that Mr. Furieux could be named the Tournament MVP because “Dude does not fall down ever.” (WildStyle, Capital City Hooligans). Casanovacaine is giving it to #666, Reaper “because he has skills and flare and is an all-round lovely chap. And has fought through injuries to be stronger and better.”
The countdown is on for the MRDA Championships, keep an eye on their webpage for info as it’s released. If you want to get more info about Southern Discomfort, visit their webpage! To support their GoFundMe and get some wicked So Disco merch, you need to visit their Fundraising Page ASAP.
When asked if there was anything else the world should know about So Disco, Samdroid simply replied:
“We’ve discovered that we’re not particularly keen on elephants as a league, which is quite interesting.”