Cincinnati heads into the North Central Regional Tournament, Thunda on the Tundra, as the No. 4 seed for the second straight year. Last year they finished up at No. 4, just outside of the group to advance to the championships, and the stage is set for a similar outcome this year.
Cincinnati is coming off a two-game losing streak after winning eight in a row, which puts them at 9-3 on the season (8-2 in Women’s Flat Track Derby Association-sanctioned play.) The Black Sheep are far more talented than they were last year, but they’ll be playing without standout player Sadistic Sadie this time. Sadie was suspended by the WFTDA for 6 months, and due to ongoing legal issues, this suspension could very well end her derby career.
Still, the Sheep must press on, and due to the tournament seeding structure and likely matchups, they stand a very fair shot at one of the top three spots that will advance to the championship tournament in Chicago in November, Uproar on the Lakeshore. Here, I break down the likely match-ups (after Friday’s game, the exact match-ups are purely speculative; for more detailed previews of the entire tournament, see Roller Derby Inside Track and Derby News Network).
Cincinnati vs. Milwaukee (Friday, Sept. 10, 7 PM Central Time)
The Black Sheep handled the Brewcity Bruisers with relative ease back in June at the Cincinnati Gardens, in a game that notably did not feature Sadistic Sadie on the roster. They won that game by 68 points; expect more of the same here. Milwaukee’s best all-around player, Carrie A. Hacksaw, is rumored to be nursing an injury and although she may play, her team will need her at 100% and more to have a chance to win. Of course, all this hinges on the Sheep having a good game, playing as a team, and staying focused. Milwaukee will be fired up in this game, essentially in front of a home crowd.
If the Sheep lose this game, their chances of securing one of the top three spots and advancing to the championship tournament are over. They still play two other games over the weekend, but the highest they might advance is fifth place.
Cincinnati vs. Windy City (Chicago)/St. Louis/Indianapolis (Saturday, Sept. 11, 1:30 PM Central Time)
A win over Milwaukee should pit the Black Sheep against the No. 1 seed, Chicago’s Windy City Rollers. This is where things will get tough. WCR has looked vulnerable at times, especially late last season, although their only losses in the past two years have come from teams ranked higher than them. Lately, however, they seem to be firing on all cylinders, as they handled East Region powerhouse Boston back in July (albeit by a mere 6 points). At last year’s North Central Regional Tournament, they beat the Black Sheep by 127 points. If the Sheep can pull a massive upset here, they will be set for their first-ever trip to the world championship. However, it seems more likely they’ll have to crawl out of the loser’s bracket for a shot at third place after this game.
If for some reason the winner of game one between St. Louis and Indianapolis (which incidentally should be an excellent, evenly-matched game) should upset WCR, then the Black Sheep should cruise out of this game. Cincinnati has had no trouble dealing with either of those teams in recent history, and while both are talented and on the rise, they aren’t quite at the same skill level as the Black Sheep just yet.
Cincinnati vs. Detroit/Madison (Sunday, Sept. 12, 5:15 PM Central Time)
This scenario is very likely, and the Sheep will have to win this game to secure third place and advance to nationals. Whomever they play, it won’t be an easy game. I expect the opponent will be Madison, as Detroit is a better team and should be advancing to the championship bout at this point in the tournament. Madison will be tough too. They beat Cincinnati at the Gardens last season, and while the Sheep have improved since then, so have the Dairyland Dolls. I expect this to be one of the best games of the tournament. Madison has a deeper jammer rotation, but Cincinnati’s stars K. Lethal and Hannah Ouchocinco are more explosive, breakout, game-changing players. Madison probably has the edge in the pack as far as toughness and big hits, so CRG may need to focus on speed and positional blocking to overcome. CRG probably has the edge over Madison in terms of smarts, and they can take advantage of power jams and pack penalty advantages better than any team. Unless Madison plays a super clean game, Cincinnati has a legitimate shot at upsetting and moving on to the championship tournament in Chicago.
If Detroit falls to this game, it could be lights out for Cincinnati. Detroit looks very strong, despite losing talented dual threat Sarah Hipel to Texas. Cincinnati matches evenly with Detroit’s packs, but the strong speedy jammers from Michigan definitely have an edge on the Cincinnati offensive attack.
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BLACK SHEEP ROSTER: 33 Buckhead Betty // 85 Hannah Ouchocinco // 15 Dr. McDerby // 21 June with a Cleaver // 83 Jungle Lacy // 18 K. Lethal // 3 Karma Krash // 86 Nuk’em // 44 MIRDERHER // 29 Ruff’n the Passer // 69 Sk8 Crime // 11 Sk8r-Kinney // 5 Trauma // 43 Wheezy