Opening Day. One of the most magical words in any sports fan’s vocabulary. It means that your favorite sport has returned. It means you have an excuse to drink beer in a parking lot in the middle of the day and an assortment of foods with the words cheese filled, deep fried and barbecue flavored. Cincinnati Rollergirls Opening Day on Saturday, March 23 obviously brings us a new season, but more importantly a new hope.
The past two seasons have been rough for the Cincinnati Rollergirls. This Saturday night they look to start a return to their former glory, but NEO Roller Derby is playing some of most inspired derby of its existence and is looking to derail Cincinnati’s comeback train before it can even leave the station.
So far this season both the Violent Lambs (B team) and Black Sheep (A team) are 0-2 after losing to both Naptown and Bleeding Heartland. Naptown is an upper tier team in the former North Central region and Bleeding Heartland is a rising squad that’s been playing some great derby for a while.
I went to scrimmage practice this past Sunday to see the team first hand and speak with coaches Quad Almighty and Sadistic Sadie. I wanted to see what was happening before the team made its return to the historic Cincinnati Gardens.
The morning started with the Sheep taking on the Battering Rams, Cincinnati’s men’s team. Watching the men play the women on the track is like pitting high-speed race cars against monster trucks with huge motors. Both know how to play the game but have different approaches to it. The women’s game has a lot of walls and threading the needle through incredibly small openings at high speed. The men’s game has speed but it also has very big collisions on a more frequent basis.
Both Quad and Sadie spoke of reestablishing Cincinnati’s old school aggressive defense, moving the game away from the more traditional wall game and into one of hard impact and speed. This style worked well for both teams and was fun to watch. I actually think this is a move in the right direction for Cincinnati. For years, the focus has been primarily on defense, fencing in opposing jammers and letting CRG’s jammers fend for themselves. Moving into this more aggressive style, where Cincinnati’s players are constantly hitting opposing players, should open up holes for the CRG jammers.
Speaking of the jammers, I asked both Quad and Sadie if they were moving to a two-jammer system or if they plan to field a third jammer. Sadie replied that there are many Black Sheep who can jam and that we’ll be seeing her, Hannah Barbaric, and Kitten Kicker taking turns with the star on their head.
One thing that stuck out to me on Sunday is Sadie’s quick feet against walls as she knows how to keep moving forward and not get trapped flat-footed. By having jammers with different styles of speed (Wheezy and K Lethal), brawn (Sadie) and gritty experience (Hannah), this is going to give opposing teams a lot to think about and try to counteract. Kitten was trying to find her groove on the A team level last year, so I am hoping a season of experience will help her to avoid penalties and continue to develop her promising jamming style.
A big hole that Cincinnati has been trying to fill since last season is the loss of standout pivot Sk8r-Kinney. Kinney was one of the best pivots in the entire WFTDA and she leaves some big skates to fill. When I asked Quad about who will be rocking the stripe this season, he simply replied that everyone on the team is going to have to step up. Personally I would like to see candyKICKass! at that position as her long legs allow her to cover ground quickly and she is arguably the best stall blocker on the squad.
Both Quad and Sadie agreed we are going to see a lot of movement this season with players moving back and forth between the Sheep and Lambs. At this point, there isn’t much separating the bottom tier Sheep blocker and jammers and their top tier Lamb counterparts. Veterans Mirderher, Poppy Chulo, and Cherry Choke all know how and love to play Cincinnati’s smash mouth style of roller derby.
Also keep an eye on the following Lambs, some of whom will be making their Cincinnati Gardens debuts Saturday: Big Ugly, La Bruja, Cincy Psycho, I Caramba!, and Ruthless Chris. We will also see the return of CRG veteran Juwana Hurt, and Bombtrack returns as well from a short retirement that would make Terry Funk proud. And finally look out for heavy hitters Railroad and Roxx Solid and speedsters Pistol Whippin’ Wendy (now with bad ass sports glasses) and Sista Shovechild, who has already had a 100+ point game this season. I used to say, “The Violent Lambs are where the stars of tomorrow play today.” Well, with the talent the Lambs have, tomorrow could be the next game for many of these skaters.
NEO comes into this game 1-1 on the season, including a win over the Grand Raggidy Rollergirls. NEO has added Rich Ratcliff as a coach who is a walking encyclopedia of skates and skating and I am sure his knowledge has helped to improve their team across the board. Also, Ivanna Destroya has recently transferred from the Burning River Roller Girls where she was a captain for years of the Hellbombers and a multiple time All Star for BRRG. They and the rest of the NEO squad are looking to spoil the evening for the Cincinnati faithful. A win here would shoot them up the ladder and would place Cincinnati at 0-3 on the season and officially 0-2 in the region (the first game against Naptown was unsanctioned).
Saturday night will answer a lot of questions. How will Cincinnati’s new (old school) strategy pan out? Will a clear third jammer emerge for the Sheep? Who will have a game for the Lambs that could springboard them onto the Sheep? How will NEO play in the raucous Cincinnati Gardens in front of an expected crowd of 3,000+ fans? Can NEO keep the Lambs and Sheep both from capturing their first wins of the season? There’s only one way to find out: Join us Saturday night at the historic Cincinnati Gardens.
Doors open at 6 p.m. and the action starts at 7 p.m. For complete ticket information, click here.
Cincinnati vs. NEO
Cincinnati Black Sheep: Buckhead Betty 33 // CandyKICKass 32 // Hannah Barbaric 85 // June with a Cleaver 21 // Jungle Lacy 83 // K. Lethal 18 // Karma Krash 3 // Kitten Kicker 30 // Nuk’em 86 // Penn Tupanga 77 // Ruff’n the Passer 29 // Sadistic Sadie 76 // Sailor Scary 92 // Wheezy 43
NEO Rock ‘n’ Roller Girls: 0 Taking Names // 10 Take-Out // 237 Jackie Torments // 3310 Holley Car Brader // 357 Twin Pistol // 47 Ivanna Destroya // 52 Sicilian Slicer // 7734 Wes Craven Brainz // 90 Teeny Houdini // 96 Finnish-HER // E13 Rosa Mariposa // Hi5 Truly Outrageous // M80 Amber Zerker // V8-Hummuscide // Alternates: 4H Honky-tonk Hellion // 187 Kitty Black
Cincinnati Violent Lambs: Big Ugly 72 // Bombtrack 12 // Cherry Choke 0 // Cincy Psych-O 99 // I, Caramba! 23 // Juwana Hurt // La Bruja 66 // Mirderher 44 // Pistol Whippin’ Wendy 38 // Poppy Chulo 27 // Railroad 6 // Roxx Solid 74 // Ruthless Chris 5 // Sista Shovechild 2
NEO Audio Assault: 4H Honky Tonk Hellion // 12 Riz Vicious // 25 Lita Rabbit // 64 Vera Vicious // 71 Angel X // 187 Kitty Black // 200 Mayhem n’ Legs // 237 Jackie Torments // 521 Domikatetrix // 808 Sarah Problem Officer // E13 Rosa Mariposa // K8 Vodka Voom // M80 Amber Zerker // S117 Masher Chief // Alternate: 897 Saucy Minxx