The Cincinnati Rollergirls’ Black Sheep emerged victorious from the 2013 Midwest Brew Ha Ha tournament in Milwaukee, defeating both Arizona Roller Derby and Grand Raggidy Roller Girls and improving their season record to 8-1. Tank has a recap.

Sometimes in life, things we regard as “excellent” or “perfect” are not so. Take, for example, the original Star Wars trilogy, an iconic three-part arc that is beloved by millions across the planet. But even the most dedicated George Lucas disciples can’t deny some of the mistakes in the films. From altering A New Hope to make Greedo shoot first (HAN SHOT FIRST FOR LIFE!) and including Ewoks in Return of the Jedi instead of having a planet of Wookies, it’s obvious that even successful, beloved things can always be better. That same line of thinking can be used for the Black Sheep when looking at their recent road trip to Milwaukee for the annual Brew Ha Ha tournament.
First, let’s address the good. The No. 34 Black Sheep went 2-0 on the weekend, including a 204-point routing of No. 55 Arizona (331-127) and a 63-point win over No. 53 Grand Raggidy (250-187) that was an uncomfortable bout to watch (more on that later). Cincinnati went into the weekend highly favored by roller derby pundits across the web and they did not disappoint.
CRG’s coaching staff realized that these games would be a good time to bring up some of their talent from the Violent Lambs to see how they fared on the A team level. One woman who took full advantage of this opportunity was fan favorite Sista Shovechild. “Shove” has been a beloved player in the Cincinnati Rollergirls organization for a number of years, but in the past has either been on fire or just plain off in games. This season she has been skating great and really has found her fit in CRG’s new attacking defensive play style. This weekend was her big coming out party where she showed that her potent mix of jam skating skills and ability to be a team player came together on the big stage. If she keeps it up, she will definitely have my vote for “Most Improved Player” come awards season this fall.
Shiny new toys are fun to play with, but there is something to be said about the years of experience that veteran players have that you can’t duplicate. Hannah Barbaric is flourishing in her new role as a pack player. She has played more bouts then AC/DC has written songs about hell, drinking, women and rocking combined. That experience really shows in the way she knows where to be at any moment during the jam. The same can be said about Penn Tupanga, who has become opposing teams’ jammers Freddy Krueger: Every time they think they are out of the pack and safe, there she is to suck them back in. Nuk’em continues to punish opponents and really is doing an excellent job of forcing jammers out of bounds and creating jammer track cuts. The resulting power jams for CRG are what has them riding an eight-game win streak.
While the bout against Arizona was never in doubt, the Grand Raggidy game had some moments that gave my ulcers ulcers. The Black Sheep were highly favored going into this game, but apparently Bette Mangler, Shotgun Shell and the rest of the GRRG squad did not get that memo. Grand Raggidy came out the gate hot and at one point were leading against the Black Sheep. CRG did get things under control and took the lead, but GRRG was always within uncomfortable striking distance. Grand Raggidy forced a number of jammer penalties on K. Lethal and Wheezy, but luckily for Cincinnati, they were unable to exploit their power jams as much as they could have.
While Cincinnati did get the W, this game did shine a light on problems that Cincinnati is still trying to get a handle on. Grand Raggidy used a lot of slow wall play, constantly putting multiple bodies on CRG’s jammers. Ruthless Chris was rostered for this game but wasn’t played, which disappointed me because she has made her name off of breaking walls, eating big hits and still getting lead jammer. If she had a chance to play and if K. had a bodyguard in the pack, someone to open some doors for her, I think the score would be very different and an even bigger victory for CRG. Also penalty trouble reared its ugly head again for some of the CRG pack players, which saw them skating short handed, and while they can get away with that against GRRG, they won’t be able to do so against Madison and Detroit (two games that are on the Black Sheep dance card very soon).
As I stated earlier with my Star Wars example, even though there were problems, Cincinnati continue to put together an extremely strong season. The team is growing with each game and I love the fact that new players are getting a chance to play on the Black Sheep roster. That type of constant competition for playing time and roster spots is what is going to make everyone involved in the organization better. Even though there is always something for teams to work on, this CRG squad continues to impress me.
Stay tuned later this week for Tank’s preview of Cincinnati’s June 8 double-header against the Tri-City Roller Girls.
Stats not yet available for these games