Arch Rival Recap

St. Louis swept Cincinnati’s first-ever roller derby triple-header – featuring the city’s women’s and men’s teams – on Saturday, April 19 at the Cincinnati Gardens. Tank has a recap.

April 19 was one of the most depressing days in the history of the Mutton Empire, as every Cincinnati roller derby team that played that day lost. Both of the junior teams lost to Fort Wayne in the morning, followed by the triple header that night which featured the Battering Rams, the Violent Lambs and the Black Sheep all being decisively defeated by St. Louis’s Gatekeepers, St. Lunachix and Arch Rival Roller Girls All-Stars. Normally, I crank my reviews of the games out within the first week but I really had to marinate on this one, reread my notes, watch the games again on YouTube and try to make sense of what all I saw.
With the amount of losses the Sheep have racked up, it’s very obvious that this is a rebuilding year for the league as new players and strategies are being put in place, but at what point does the pendulum start to hit its upswing? This game solidified that the current team is not ready for the Division 1 playoffs this year and that making a run at the Division 2 playoffs with a number of winnable match ups is the future reality. That’s not to say that CRG wouldn’t be in this position anyway after going 1-3 in the D1 playoffs last year. Change needed to happen last year, but change still needs to happen now, as this league continues to struggle to find its identity.
The Violent Lambs started out the night in a matchup with the St. Lunachix. From the blast of the first whistle ARRG was in control, dominating the first 7 minutes 24-1. The Lambs came out uncharacteristically flat as their pack play was extremely benign. All year long, the coaching staff seems to have had the Lambs stick with the strategy of making a wall. If the other team is making a wall, make a wall. If the other team is hitting our jammer, make a wall. If the Mongols try to invade the Gardens, make a wall. (Actually, that might be the best strategy for that last one.) My point is, the Lambs are incredibly one-dimensional, and it doesn’t take to long for the opposing team to figure it out.
To compound problems, many times, the wall breaks down or the opposing jammers will keep their feet moving to propel the CRG wall forward, and force the blockers out 20 feet so that they can’t engage. While I don’t want to see the team return to the days of pointless hitting for the sake of hitting, there are times during a game when you need to change things up to confuse the other team, get some momentum on your side and change the complexion of the game. Mama Crass is one of the few players that follow her instincts and forces the other team’s jammers out of bounds when the opportunity presents itself. I also thought Chainsaw had some nice moments in the second half before she was injured. Hopefully she will be healed up by May 10.
It was a real Jekyll and Hyde game for the Lambs’ jammers, as there was a mix of bright spots and dark moments. The jammers couldn’t get anything going on the first rotation of the night, giving up lead jam again and again early on. Then as they tried to claw their way back into the game with some risky moves, and that’s when penalty trouble reared its ugly head. The Lambs gave up a number of power jams in the first half and then a big one in the second half that opened the door for the St. Lunachix to bash their way through like the giants of Attack on Titan.
During the last 10 minutes of the first half, the CRG jammers were on fire and showing what they can do. Tru D. Vicious continues to jump apexes and blaze her way through packs. She is also good at muscling her way through small spaces. I continue to be impressed by Imma Tattooher’s speed and athleticism as well. At halftime, it was a 60-81 game. During the early part of the second half, the Lambs kept the surge going getting within 4 points of the St. Lunachix, 77-81. On the next jam, Jenocide was sent to the box, the Lambs’ defense gave up a 10-point jam, and that’s when the wheels came off. Within a few jams ARRG was again up big 77-145 before CRG called a time out. By then, this one was out of reach and when it was all said and done, the St. Lunachix trumped the Lambs, 238-106.
The Sheep game was like watching the Lambs vs. St. Lunachix game on steroids. After obtaining lead jammer on the first jam with Wheezy wearing the star, the Sheep went ice cold, which allowed Arch Rival to go on a 38-0 run to open the game. The Sheep’s walls could not stop the ARRG jammers, who did an excellent jam of finding a weakness in the wall, hitting it, and then breaking through it either via lateral movement, pure strength or working angles to wedge through. Sometimes the Sheep blockers would try to hit the Arch Rival jammers, but usually it would result in their jammers rolling off the CRG checks or juking out of the way to avoid them all together. While the Sheep did more on defense then just sticking with the wall like the Lambs did, they couldn’t match ARRG’s athleticism or game plan, which forced CRG to play their game. Arch Rival cruised to a 300-118 victory.
One of the few highlights in the Sheep game was Hannah Barbaric’s offensive blocking. The former jammer did a great job of opening lanes for her teammates. Cincinnati has long subscribed to the theory of letting their jammers fend for themselves, but it’s refreshing to see some offensive blocking to help open things up and get some points for the Sheep. Hannah won the Sheep’s MVP Blocker Award for the game.
There are definitely things that both Cincinnati teams can learn from this game, as ARRG executed many of the skills and strategy that CRG is trying to master. Neither of these games will be easy to watch, but you learn more in defeat then you do in victory. I really hope both the Lambs and the Sheep watch these bouts and break them down to see where they are making mistakes and where they could eventually be if they continue to work on their skate skills and understanding of strategy. Hopefully, they can learn from this and both teams can have a positive performance on May 10.