D1 Playoffs Preview

With a 10-3 record on the season, the No. 32-ranked Cincinnati Rollergirls travel to Fort Wayne, IN from September 6-8 as the No. 8 seed in the first tournament of the WFTDA D1 Playoffs. Tank has a preview.

To watch live streaming video of the tournament, visit wftda.tv.
That’s right Cincinnati Rollergirls fans, it’s the Final Countdown (of the 2013 season). While the Black Sheep won’t be headed for Venus, they will be take a short road trip to the exotic Midwestern paradise that is Fort Wayne, IN, to take part in the first-ever WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs. The Cincinnati Black Sheep are going into the big dance ranked 32nd in the world with a 10-3 record in sanctioned play, a huge rebound from the abysmal 6-9 2012 campaign.
The Sheep recently picked up a confidence-boosting win on the road in Nashville on August 17. It was a tale of two halves, however. Cincinnati blew the game open in the first half, but penalty trouble reared its ugly head again in the second half, which enabled Nashville to get back in the game and almost pull out a monster comeback. That said, the Sheep did what winners do when backed into a corner, and that is come out fighting. They held onto the lead in the later jams of the game and came out of the South with a very important win which gave them double digit victories on the season.
Cincinnati is walking into a shark tank this week as the nine other teams in this tournament are ranked in the top 41 as well (the Oly Rollers, always the lighting rod of controversy, declined their spot in the playoffs and instead are beating up teams in the USARS tournament).
CRG rolls into the tournament with 15 skaters on their roster (14 players per game, plus 1 alternate). It would have been 16 skaters, but tragedy struck at practice this past Tuesday night when Ruthless Chris cracked her lower right fibula at practice. This is extremely unfortunate as she continues to work her way into the Black Sheep line up as a third jammer to add another dimension to the Sheep’s offense and to help spell K. Lethal and Wheezy, who have been cardiovascular machines this year working a two-jammer rotation.
Minus the loss of Chris, this is hands down the best line up the Sheep have fielded all season. And since this is my last column of the season and my editor doesn’t give me a word limit, I am going to talk about all of them from the top in alphabetical order.
Buckhead Betty: Moves like a butterfly and stings like getting slammed in the face with a mace. Betty is an athletic freak of nature whose size, strength and speed make her a one-woman SWAT team of destruction.
candyKICKass!: Overlooked and underrated for years, Candy has become a pillar for this team on defense this year. Her sit blocks are like a spider’s web, because once she gets her hips on a jammer, they aren’t going anywhere. Look for the straight edge superstar to have some big plays this weekend.
Hannah Barbaric: The toughest rollergirl I have ever seen play the game. Hannah has found a renewed lust for life in the pack. Like a double agent, she is now using her years of jammer experience against opposing players who are rocking the star. Hot damn, I love me some Hannah Barbaric.
June with a Cleaver: The secret to an amazing band is a great rhythm section. You can have the best guitar player in the world, but without a good beat and a nice low end, it all falls apart. That is what June is – the AC/DC rhythm section of roller derby, setting up the blocks and walls that allow the Sheep’s big hitters to decapitate opposing players. She is a mastermind who is always thinking three moves ahead.
K. Lethal: One part gymnast + one part ninja + one part figure skater wrapped in a butt load of tattoo sheets and topped with an ebony Dolly Parton wig. There is only one K Lethal. The young, brash Lethal is a seasoned veteran at this point and loves when the game is on her shoulders.
Kitten Kicker: What a wonderful story of hard work and tenacity. Things really clicked for Double K this year, despite briefly being sidelined with a non-derby-related foot injury, and thus she has become a staple on the Black Sheep roster. She has found a home in the pack and I look forward to watching her punish the opposing blockers.
La Bruja: The rookie of the year (it’s not official yet, but it’s going to happen). While her athletic ability is impressive, it’s her quick learning skills and aggression that really impress me. She does things in the pack that would make you think she has been playing this game for nine years instead of nine months. Keep an eye on the baddest witch in the game; she is going places.
Nuk’em: If you look up BAD ASS (in all caps of course) in the dictionary, there is a picture of Nuk’em staring right back at you. I am convinced that Nuke’s hips have some sort of heat seeking missile style sensor in them that allow her to zero in on opposing team’s jammer and send them flying into the fifth row.
Penn Tupanga: I don’t know where Panga finds a helmet to hold that gigantic brain of hers. Just like June, Panga is always thinking ahead and lining up walls to contain opposing players. I know all the glamor goes the jammer, but seriously, take a few jams this weekend to just focus in on Panga and watch what I’m talking about.
Railroad: If someone offered me the option of 1) getting hit by Railroad or 2) getting shot in the chest while I was wearing a bullet proof vest, I would seriously opt for option 2. Railroad is violence incarnated. I honestly can’t believe a fan hasn’t made a YouTube highlight video yet of her smashing other players while that awful “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” song plays in the background.
Ruff’n the Passer: Battle tested and in the best shape of her derby career, Ruff can do it all. Block people, hit people, talk to referees, get them to over turn calls and even occasionally jam, Ruff is CRG’s Swiss army knife in booty shorts.
Sadistic Sadie: The dark soul of this team. It’s no surprise that the 2013 return of Sadie also saw the return of CRG’s bad girl swagger. Her attitude reminds me of the ’70s Oakland Raiders as it’s all about “Just Win” to her. Thanks for making this season great, my friend, and reigniting CRG’s fire.
Sailor Scary: A heavy metal concert meets an ’80s Schwarzenegger movie on roller skates. Scary is all the things I love about roller derby: Big personality, big hits and you can tell she is loving every second of it. A transfer from the Rollergirls of Southern Indiana, Scary has been hands down the best addition to the league in years.
Sk8 Crime: Speaking of additions, one of the original Cincinnati Rollergirls has returned after living in New York and traveling aboard for the past two years. I am interested to see what Sk8’s game looks like after her stint in Gotham.
Wheezy: I am convinced that Wheezy was born from a secret government project dubbed “Operation RoboStallion” in which a female cyborg was injected with racing horse hormones. Seriously, Alex Jones has the high res photos to prove it. I can’t wait to see what she does against some of the top teams in the world this weekend.
They start the tournament at 10 a.m. Friday with their third meeting of the year with Bloomington, IN’s Bleeding Heartland Roller Girls. This is the rubber match as CRG lost the first game by just three points but won the second by a whopping 158. The key for winning this game (and all the other games this weekend) for CRG is to STAY OUT OF THE BOX! When the Black Sheep have all of their pack players and jammers on the floor they can hang with the top teams on the planet, but when they become frustrated and commit penalties, that’s when everything falls apart.
If Cincinnati pulls out a win over Bleeding Heartland, they go on to face the No. 1 seed, the Denver Roller Dolls, at 4 p.m. Friday. A win is unlikely here, but Denver has had problems at the playoffs in the past. What happens next will be determined by the outcomes of the other games in the tournament bracket (click here to see it).
So what should we expect out of this tournament? At this point in their development, if the Black Sheep leave at the No. 8 spot or higher, I am calling it a successful playoffs for them as they’re good, but still a year away from competing on the top tier of the WFTDA. If they can move into the Top 30, that would be a nice cherry to top off the year.
My final prediction: If Cincinnati plays with their heads this weekend, they will move up. If they play with their penalty-ridden hearts, it will be a long off-season. I am hoping for the former and not the latter.