NASHVILLE, TN – After a start with the announcement that this week is officially Roller Derby week in Nashville, and a tense and focused series of warm-up drills, Philly Roller Girls skated out in their white tournament jerseys – not a dress in sight. And perhaps this was an indicator of renewed play, as Philly adapted their usually more scrappy defensive play with backwards bracing and sandwich-blocking. Ultimately, prior years of failing to take Champs play any further than the first round proved itself too strong a history to belie. Denver was to prove the winners with more persistent play, but a narrower than predicted margin, at 148 – 139.
These teams last played at ECDX in 2012, when Denver took the win, 228 – 130. And in this game, the Denver Roller Dolls’ (WFTDA #8) previous season play hadn’t given us a clear account of how they might do without blockers Serelson and Rivas after their Rose City transfer, midseason. While Philly Roller Girls (WFTDA #10) may have entered the tournament down, having had to earn their entry with every game at Charleston, but had also a longer history of Champs appearances to work with.
First half of play featured fast-moving packs and jammer chasing, while Denver struggled with penalties (19 to Philly’s 9 by the end of the first half) especially for their jammers (5:2) and featured the preponderance of the game star passes. Brazilian Nut was the only jammer for Philly who experienced penalty issues, handing Denver all their powerjam opportunities in that half.
Dowigallo took first game penalty for Denver, with repeat recycles on Philly by Denver, Buscek taking lead. The first jam ended 3-0, Denver first lead, which was to then escape them for long minutes through the first period. V-Diva on the line second up, played hard past a star pass foul-up which coincided with two earned penalties and left the Denver jammer and pivot for the main part of the jam. By 5mins into the game, Philly pulled into the lead, 24-13, and then held Denver scoreless for long enough that the 10 min mark left the game at 48-13 to Philly.
Denver responded by taking the first of their team time-outs with just under 19 mins remaining in the first period. And it seemed to work, as their blockers soon wrangled a powerjam start for Wilhelm when Brazilian Nut was boxed on a track cut, and they started to even the score. This then seemed to start something of a trend as Denver claimed three lead jams in a row, and quietly point added to arrive at a lead change, at 53-42 with 12:30 to go.
Denver held the lead narrowly then till jam 20, with just under 2 mins to go. By the end of the first half, even the combined talents of Denver’s top two jammers Urrk’n (32) and Wilhelm (23) couldn’t equal V-Diva’s point additions (59). And V-Diva went on to prove why, when on a V-Diva vs Urrk’n Martin match-up each of the jammers was trapped in a front / rear wall spread, which left V-Diva shouldering her way through the pack. Philly claimed five further points, nonetheless, and entered half-time 82-76, in the lead.
The second period gave viewers split packs, and more even lead spreads, while the game lead remained neck-and-neck through the first 5 mins. This lasted till Bucsek took lead as the teams tied at 88, and V-Diva was boxed, giving Denver lead on a powerjam and time to claim a new lead that they never lost -104-89, Denver in the lead. Philly immediately took the first of their team time-outs.
Kilmartin did a jump-back on a recycle, landing Williams in the box, and signaling a possible change of fortunes as Philly began to press up again. But while Dezellem first gained and then lost lead on a penalty, gifting a powerjam start to Philly, the narrow lead that Denver had still persisted, and was solidified as V-Diva’s repeat issue with wheel and line push-offs saw her boxed again.
Denver managed to quietly and persistently hold lead, score-wise, for the rest of the game, with only a narrow lead. By the time we arrived at the penultimate jam, both teams had determinedly locked down, as both teams relentlessly held their opposing jammers, with Denver stretching into the front and Philly holding the rear.
While V-Diva claimed ultimate jam lead jammer status, Denver’s star pass for Bucsek couldn’t be completed as she claimed a penalty with the star still in her hand, and V-Diva remained the only jammer on the track. Philly still was unable to push ahead for enough points to close the game, as their jammer got caught in walls and recycles. Final score went to Denver 148 – 139.
Denver will move on to face Bay Area (WFTDA #3, and SLC #1 seed) at 10AM CDT* on Saturday, and given that their prior games this season included a number of Champs players, including two matchups against BAD, this game might have some decent precedence for the viewer.
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