Season 10 Preview: Rat City Rollergirls leave it on the track
by Jim Almy
They like each other during practice bouts and off the rink. But when the whistle blows and skaters start the new season next Saturday for the teams in the Rat City Rollergirls, well, “It’s not very friendly out there for the sixty minutes of the bout,” Coach Dan Barnett explained.
In fact, the competition gets strongly physical as players push to open and close scoring lanes, all on skates and all at full speed on a narrow, flat track. The Socket Wenches and Throttle Rockets will kick off the league’s tenth season in the opening bout.
Last year’s league leader, Grave Danger, and Barnett’s Derby Liberation Front will square off in the second bout of the night. Grave Danger is defending a three year run but the Front’s coach says his team is ready and able to take them on.
“I’m looking for a really good game,” Barnett said. “Last week’s scrimmage between these two teams was like a heavy weight bout, two really good teams throwing their all at each other.”
Grave Danger coach Vito Ramon’s view of his defending champions is that they’ve just gotten better over the season break. “I always think positive of my team,” he said. “We won’t go undefeated this year, but I think we can take the championship.”
The addition of some new and exciting players reinforces Ramon’s view. Cat-a-Ma-Ram is a transfer to Danger from the Rodeo City League in Wenatchee and Aalto Ego was drafted after showing great promise in tryouts the coach said.
Both show the athleticism so critical to the game. Roller derby is one of those sports where each team is playing offense and defense at the same time. The four blockers strive to help their scorer, the jammer, get past the four blockers from the other team. Simultaneously those same four blockers are trying to keep the other teams jammer behind them. Blocking and defending involves liberal use of hip checks and shoulder blocks. When you’re doing it all on skates the law of gravity usually prevails.
Strategy plays a big part in each two minute jam. What looks like a pack of skaters treating each other rudely on the oval track is really a multi-layered game plan being carried out to end the jam with more points than the other team.
For the Derby Liberation Front that strategy is action over inaction, Barnett said. “We’d rather have people attacking, being really aggressive,” he added. Barnett has been coaching with the Front for eight years, joining the team as a strategy coach.
Grave Danger’s success comes from a game approach that begins with not underestimating any opponent. “We try not to focus on the target that’s on our backs,” Ramon said. “We don’t underestimate anyone and play every team with the same consistency.”
Ramon explained that Grave Danger will enter play trying to force other teams to play their game. If that doesn’t work the Danger can adopt quickly to the moment, he added. This year’s team features a strong defensive core and the coach said that they have also strengthened their offensive play.
Returning veterans feature last years Defensive Player of the Year, Shorty Ounce and three other stalwarts of the championship run, Carmen Getsome, who has been selected to be a member of the USA Roller Derby Team and will compete in the Roller Derby World Series, Jerica Kallio, and Tempura Tantrum.
Beatin’ Bam!!b may be the part of Derby Liberation Front’s team that helps turn the tide this year on the Danger. Bam!!B was picked up by the Front after she turned eighteen this year, making her eligible to join the adult league. As a jammer she has shown throughout training practices the quickness and agility so much a part of that position. Barnett said he also welcomes the return of two veterans, Ophelia Melons and Bill F. Murray, who are coming back after injuries that required surgery and lengthy rehabs. “They are both doing great,” he said.
Other veteran anchors for the Front include Kamikaze Kim (one of the smartest players I’ve coached is Barnett’s observation), Rumble Fist and Full Nelson.
Doors open at 4:30 at Key Arena with opening ceremonies beginning at 5:30. The Throttle Rockets and Socket Wenches will then tussle mightily to see who scores the first points of the new season and who plant the first bouncing body.
As part of the tenth year celebration girls ten years old this year won’t have to pay for a ticket. Otherwise adults are $15, those 15 and under are $8. Chief Marketing Officer Scarlet Leather said to expect over 4,000 in attendance for the opening day bout. “We always expect an additional large walk-up crowd,” she said. Tickets are available at the KeyArena box office or online at Ticketmaster.com
The Seattle league set three national attendance records in 2010, drawing 4,800 fans, then 5,900, then 6,800 in order.