JACKSONVILLE, FL – Tournament play continued Saturday afternoon with a matchup between first-seed London and fourth-seed Atlanta in Jacksonville. Both teams had entered the game undefeated in the tournament so far, and the winner of this game would be guaranteed their trip to Minnesota in November, while the loser would have to fight on for the 3rd spot to Champs.
It was festive in the venue, with the crowd torn between their love affair with internationals London and the plight of the Atlanta underdogs, while cheering passionately for both sides. After a game that was riddled with penalties, especially for the losing side, London finally took a solid win, 221-88.
The game got off with a close start with Atlanta taking an early lead, as Slams McKenzie took unexpected extra points over Stephanie Mainey’s jam lead, 14-7.
But the team lost that lead by the fourth jam into the game, when Rogue Runner took jam lead and 14 points, that even a star pass for Atlanta couldn’t reply to. By the time the game wore on, numerous penalties really started to confirm the game lead for London, and Atlanta were never able to close the gap.
When London’s jammer Trisha Smackanawa went to the box on a track cut at jam 7 in the first period, the full line of Atlanta blockers were unable to get their jammer through on the resulting powerjam, and Trisha was able to return to add in 4 points for LRG. While it certainly seemed testament to the prowess of London’s penalty-killing defense, it foreshadowed the remainder of the game with Atlanta’s blockers persistently reluctant to play offense.
It was an understandable strategy. To have any chance at stopping Lexi Lightspeed or Stephanie Mainey, your wall needs to be solid, but it was hard to watch Atlanta’s jammers struggle while her blockers looked on. By half-time the score was firmly in London’s hands, 144-33.
London’s unique tripod configuration, with the forward-facing blockers bent at the waist to nearly 90-degrees, was consistently a challenge for Atlanta’s jammers. When that fell apart, or Atlanta took the opportunity to play some offense, their jammers got through and scored. Trouble Make-Her and Slams McKenzie having the most luck, collectively putting 55 of the 88 points on the board between them.
The game saw a lot of penalties. Even though they seemed to really hinder Atlanta in the first half, they only served two-and-a-half minutes more than London who were better prepared to play short-handed.
By the end of the game, London had served 38 penalties to Atlanta’s 41. Both teams were close to losing key players to fouling out, with Stephanie Mainey and Wild Cherri ending the game with 6 penalties each.
Despite some of these challenges, Atlanta put up a good fight. At times, they matched London in defense, as both lines of blockers made it impossible for their opposing jammers to pass and they all crawled around the track at a snail’s pace.
The final four jams included three jam leads for London, and fairly slim additions on both sides, but by then, even with London’s jammers playing frequent back-to-back jams, the differential was too far skewed in London’s favor. Atlanta was never able to overtake London and the game ended with a score of 221 – 88.
London advances to the Championship round tomorrow for 1st place tournament departure at 6pm (EDT), and Atlanta will play for 3rd place on Sunday at 4pm (EDT).