CRG Finishes 8th At Playoffs

The Cincinnati Rollergirls finished their 2013 season with an eighth-place finish at the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Division 1 Playoffs in Fort Wayne, with a thrilling comeback victory in the first game followed by three crushing losses. Tank has a recap.

All things must come to an end. (Except for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Seriously I stood up three times in the theater thinking it was over and it just. Kept. Going.) The curtain has finally dropped on the Cincinnati Rollergirls’ 2013 season. While it was an improvement over the 2012 campaign, the WFTDA D1 Playoffs revealed some issues that the team is going to need to solve to be a contender in 2014 and not slip down from the Top 40 into the Division 2 level.
The Sheep ended the season with an 11-6 record while the Violent Lambs went 6-4. Both teams finishing above .500 is a major plus for both squads and a positive accomplishment to build upon for next year. The flipside to this, though, is the fact that the Black Sheep went 1-3 in the Playoffs, finishing eighth, and it easily could have been 0-4. Is Cincinnati on the rise? Yes. Do they still have a ways to go to get back to being a legitimate WFTDA Championships contender? Yes.
The WFTDA D1 Playoffs kicked off in dramatic fashion as the No. 32 Black Sheep took on the No. 35 Bleeding Heartland Roller Girls Flatliners. This was the rubber match between these two geographically close rivals, as BHRG won the first game of the season by just three points and Cincinnati dominated the second game at home. Bleeding Heartland was in control and up early as the Sheep were plagued with penalties. I seriously haven’t seen an epidemic spread this fast since the Black Plague.
As the derby gods giveth and taketh away, CRG would surge back into the game multiple times only to see the score go back out of reach due to pack and jammer penalties. With the jammer corps running hot and cold, Cincinnati’s coaches put their money on the race horse known as K. Lethal who jammed for 12 of the final 13 jams, including the final nine in a row. How hard is that to do, you ask? Imagine going downtown for Oktoberfest and trying to sprint through the crowd for two minutes straight. Now imagine doing that on skates for 12 minutes.
In the next to last jam, Sadistic Sadie forced a track cut on Bleeding Heartland jammer Terror d’Bits. That left K. Lethal on the jammer line alone with a pack of Sadistic Sadie, Ruff’n the Passer, and Hannah Barbaric (as well as Buckhead Betty who came out of the penalty box mid-jam). The scoreboard read 214-193 in Bleeding Heartland’s favor.
What happened next was nothing short of a Disney sports movie miracle minus slow motion camera shots and a soaring soundtrack. CRG’s defense came alive and K. went all Kitty Pryde, straight up walking through BHRG’s walls or seemingly teleporting around them like Nightcrawler.
Cincinnati’s defense held Terror d’Bits scoreless after she left the penalty box, K. racked up 24 points and the Sheep ending up winning by three points, 217-214, which was the first time they led on the score board all game long. Thanks to WFTDA and YouTube, you can relive this game again and again. Thankfully, though when I watch it now I know the Sheep are going to win, and thus my stomach isn’t a warehouse filled with ulcers like it was when I watched it live.

The next two games saw the Sheep go up against two of the West Coast’s powerhouse teams in Denver (the No. 1 seed at the playoffs and No. 2 in the WFTDA) and Rose City (No. 5 seed at the playoffs and No. 19 in the WFTDA).
Denver’s trademark tough defense held Cincinnati to just 50 points, while their own strong jammer rotation racked up 419 points. Although against Rose City, the Sheep could not find an answer for the question, how do you stop Scald Eagle? Rose’s star jammer helped her team soar to 414 points, thanks in part to 45-0, 35-0 and 33-0-point power jams. Rose City gave up a few power jams of their own in the second half and lost two skaters to injuries, but Cincinnati managed just 116 points in the game.
Finally, the Sheep ended the season in a game against Salt Lake City’s Wasatch Roller Derby (No. 7 seed at the playoffs and No. 27 in the WFTDA) that saw them have moments of brilliance, but again penalties raised their ugly head and thus led to a 180-point loss. Penalties have been a back-breaker for many teams in the WFTDA Playoffs, and CRG was definitely a team that was sucked under by them.
As CRG moves into the 2014, things are getting better but there are some major chinks still in the Sheep’s armor. It’s imperative that CRG finds AT LEAST a third jammer for 2014. The way the game is being played today, teams need strong jammers that literally push through walls or drive them 20 feet away from the rest of the pack.
CRG is also going to need to learn when to use their heavy hitters and when to play a less aggressive defense that focuses on walls and blocking, instead of going for monster takeouts. The fact is, ref crews are going to call the game different from game to game, and CRG has to learn when its time to dial things back and try to force the other team into making over-aggressive mistakes.
On the upside, Cincinnati is really starting to develop a nice pool of younger talent to pull from in Kitten Kicker, Big Ugly, La Bruja, Sista Shovechild, and Ruthless Chris as, they have all seen time on the Sheep and look to be major cogs in the 2014 CRG machine. As these ladies get more playing time, I think you are going to see the Sheep move up the rankings ladder. With this kind of talent, CRG could be a team that has a legit shot of making the Championships next year.