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Detroit Derby Girls versus the Tampa Tantrums

The Detroit Derby Girls hosted Tampa Bay's Tampa Tantrums on March 22nd, 2014, at the Masonic Temple

 A visit from a traveling derby team always introduces us to some derby names we've never heard before. This year's bests were PHDiesel, and Tic Tac Toni.

Tampa got the slightest of leads in the 1st jam, scoring 2 against Detroit's 1. Detroit's Racer McChaseHer gained 11 points in the 2nd jam to put them in the lead , 12-7, before being sent to the penalty box. Tampa would take it back again in the 3rd with 8 points from Apolo Ana.

The score was tied at the end of the 4th jam before Tampa pulled ahead again with a 3 point lead in the 5th. The next 7 jams didn't see any point gains from Tampa. Detroit's offense wasn't consistent enough over that 7 jam streak to really capitalize on it, with a 9 point play from Off The Hook in the 11th being the only big point gain. At the end 12th jam, Detroit was up, 35-18.

A big momentum shift occured in the 15th jam. Tampa's Laryn Kill had an easy time weaving through the pack since two of Detroit's blockers were in the penalty box, and she scored 15 unanswered points. Detroit's Meryl Slaughterburgh, jamming for Detroit in the 16th, got sent to the penalty box, and PHDiesel was able to add another ten. This was immediately followed by a 15 point gain from Tampa's Taz Maniac. The first half ended with Tampa ahead, 76-47.

Detroit's penalty trouble made the prospects of a comeback look bleak early in the second half. In addition to having more jammer penalties, they often also had a blocker or two in the penalty box. While Detroit's Feta Sleeze was sitting out the beginning of the 5th jam as jammer, along with two of her team's blockers, Laryn Kill went on to score 20 unanswered points. Tampa's lead was now at 102-51.

Racer's hot streak started in the 6th jam. She outscored her opposing jammer for a net gain of 8, although Tampa then made a net gain of 8 in the 7th. Racer then shot back with 11 unanswered points in the 8th. In the biggest single point gain of the night, Racer scored 25 points in 10th, during a rare Detroit power jam. The crowd was roaring, as it now looked like a victory was possible again. Detroit was now only down 105-117.
The timeout that was called after Racer's streak must been enough for Tampa to regroup. Even though Racer scored 8 in the 15th before getting sent to the box, PHDiesel also scored 13. Detroit didn't score anything for the next 4 jams, while Tampa added 12 in the 16th, 4 in the 17th, a whopping 20 in the 18th, and another 3 in the 19th. Detroit made a respectable 9 point play in the 21st and final jam, again from Racer, but there was no time left to build on it. Final score, a 183-125 win for Tampa Bay, and the first loss from Detroit's travel team that I've ever witnessed.

The most obvious difference in play between the two teams was the use of the star pass option, where the jammer confers her helmet cover and jammer status to her team's pivot. Tampa could do this while making a net point gain. In contrast, Detroit typically did it as an act of desperation, with little results. An obvious difference was in the number of penalties. Detroit totaled 6 jammer penalties, while Tampa only had 3.

The first Captains to be ensnared for my interview were Detroit's Fatal Femme and Lazer Beam:
Detroit Area Dork: What are you thinking right now about that bout?
Fatal Femme: It was a very physical game. They came out hard, and it payed off for them. I give them credit, because they played Grand Rapids yesterday, and Kalamazoo this morning. To come out here and bring it, I'll give that to them. They brought it.
Lazer Beam: We're a fairly new team. We have a lot of new girls. We lost some of our primary jammers this season. It was definitely a good game to see what we need to work on before we go to London.
D: What do you think needs to be worked on?
L: Staying out of the box. Same thing we always need to work on.
F: We only had ten practices, maybe, underneath us, so we need to get more practices underneath us, and get the ball rolling. Once that happens, I believe we're going to be absolutely fine.
D: Do you think there was a lot of penalty trouble for your team tonight?
F: The sad part is, we didn't do as bad as we normally do.
L: It was fairly good for us.
F: It was actually an improvement.
L: The problem is, they have less penalties than us. It doesn't matter if we do good if we're going to the box more. It's less people on the track. We had jammer penalties, which are way worse than having blocker penalties. I think they had two or three jammer penalties, and we had 5, 6 maybe.
D: What were most of those penalties for?
L: Back blocks, cuts, just everything.
F: I think for jammers, back blocks and cuts are the ones they normally get. Blockers are kind of mixed. Jammers, definitely back blocks and cuts.
D: Was there also a lot of blocker penalties this bout?
F: Yeah, there was a decent amount.
L: Direction of gameplay, which is huge for us. That's changing, so that'll be better for us.
F: This is our last game playing under the old rule set. So our next game will be under the new rule set. Now all penalties only last thirty seconds instead of a minute, and direction of gameplay is going to be called a little bit different, which will actually help us out. There are a couple of other rules that are going to change, so it's going to look a little different. That changes over on the first of April.
D: When you're putting together a travel team, how is it different than putting together home league team?
L: Right now, unfortunately, everyone is playing like their home team. When we come together as the allstars, we have to figure it out. Like Fatal said, we only had ten practices under our belt, so we're still all trying to figure out how everybody skates.
F: With the strategy and stuff there is definitely a difference between the allstars and the home teams. We're just able to take strategy a little further on this team. We're still getting our strategy nailed down.
D: There was a lot of instances in this bout where a blocker would skate backwards while directing the position of her blocking teammates. Is that common for travel team games?
F: Yeah, definitely. I think all national ranked teams do it. I think they all do.
L: Any time you get your wall moving forward, it's a good way to stop it. The central goal is to get turned back around and get back in your wall, and stop them that way. If your wall starts getting pushed, do it again, then rotate back into your wall. That's how it's supposed to work.
D: Are we going to start seeing the home teams do that more?
F: We already do it on home teams. The girls that flip around here already do it on home teams. Everything is slower on the home teams, so you might not notice it as much.
D: Next month [the travel team is] in London?
F: Yes.
D: What kind of cost does that incur onto the players?
F: We decided last year when the team voted on going. We decided we were going to go whether we had to pay all out of pocket our not, but the league was nice enough to give us a stipend to go. We're paying a lot out of pocket, but they also gave us some money to help with the costs.
L: We are having a fundraiser. June 14th. A skate-athon. You can donate to that to help us get to the playoffs.
D: How many bouts will you be playing in London?
F: Four.
L: Two against London Roller Girls, one [against] Rocky Mountain, and then Toronto.

Next I grilled Tampa's Lily the Kid, with some brief input from her Co-captain Lunch Lady:
Detroit Area Dork: What are you thinking right now about that bout?
Lily the Kid: I'm thinking that Detroit Derby Girls are absolutely the classiest and most sportsman like, and challenging team that we could have possibly kicked off our 2014 season with. They were excellent hosts, excellent opponents. I'm very grateful to have played.
D: You have a pretty intense schedule this weekend.
Lily: We do. In Florida we have to fly to most of our bouting locations. We really just try to get the most bang for our bucks. Historically, Tampa has always tried to bang out multi-bout weekends to get the experience. We're all ready for tournament season. We love playing. We love traveling together, and we like to challenge ourselves. Having four games this weekend was the perfect way to kick it off.
D: How are you able to research an opponent that's so far away from your home base?
Lily: We do watch some video. The most recent footage we had for Detroit was some vintage tournament stuff. As we all know, derby evolves really quickly, and most teams are playing a different type of derby between now and when division [playoffs] take place. We do some research, but we're working with a new charter this year that tweaks our focus and our goals. More of our focus was on playing our game and how we were going to maintain our strategy while we had four completely different opponents for this weekend. We had to stay consistent going up against very different teams. That was really our priority more than researching what those teams were doing.
D: Is it hard to fully rest between bout?
Lily: Yes and no. I'm an old lady. I like a full night's sleep. We have a two and half hour drive back to our hotel, and then we take on the Chicago Outfit tomorrow morning. We're a pretty focused and dedicated team, so we take really good care of our bodies, and we train really hard. We've been attending practices like five days a week to start off our season. This isn't necesarrily physically demanding for us to take on the four bouts this weekend, because we've been prepared for that. Definitely we're making a huge effort to recuperate between games. Today, having a good meal, hydrating, things like that. Making sure to get some mental R&R. It's about focus, and making responsible decisions. We're not drinking before we go to bed tonight.
D: Your team had very few penalties tonight. Is that how you normally play?
Lily: We try. The bout we had this morning was not the same. We actually had penalty trouble in the game we had this morning. Our team set a goal to get under a certain number of penalties as a team, as a unit. We're very happy to have met that goal in this game. Again, it was about being focused and playing controlled teamwork, as opposed to taking those risks that don't necessarily have a big payoff, that would have shown on the penalty board, and not in points. We were definitely trying to keep that clean. That was a huge goal for tonight.
D: What's your win-loss record been so far for the weekend?
Lily: For the weekend we are currently three and oh. We pulled out a win against Grand Raggidy last night, and against Killamazoo this morning. We eked out this win against Detroit. As a game, it felt a lot closer than the scoreboard shows. We have one more game tomorrow morning, and we'll see how that goes, and we hope for the best.
D: In the middle of the second half the score started to get kind of close, but you were able to pull away quite a bit towards the end. What did you do to pull that off?
Lily: Again, I think that was just concentrating on ourselves, and focus. We really on our bench trying to ignore what was happening on our floor, so that we could refocus those who were getting ready to get on the floor. Just to make sure that we could continue doing all of the good things, and not lose focus by whatever was happening, whether that was good or bad. Whatever was happening on the floor, we were making sure on the bench that we were planning for whatever we wanted to happen next to look like, and that payed off for us.
D: What does the rest of your travel season look like?
Lily: That would be a question for Lunch Lady.
Lunch Lady: We'll play Jackonville next in April the 26th, and we play Berlin at home in Tampa on the 30th. We go to Beach Brawl on May the 3rd, 4th, and 5th. We play three teams there. It's Steel City, Houston, and we play Stockholm. June is Franky Panky, which we do an invitational. We're playing Jacksonville again, Charm City, and Oklahoma victory dolls. At the end of June we go to Rocky Mountain, and we play Rocky Mountain, Denver, and Fuller County.
D: Tell me about your home venue.
Lily the Kid: Our home venue is a locally owned skating rink that hosts roller hockey, and public skating sessions. It's where we practice, and have our bouts. We have more home team bouts there than we do travel. Our travel team does not play at home very often. Franky Panky and our closed bout against Berlin is really the only times we'll be playing at home. Our Tampa fans are more familiar with our home teams than they are the travel teams.
D: How many home teams do you have?
L: We have three.
D: Just to be sure, Berlin as in Germany?
Lily: Yeah, Berlin Germany. We're kind of piggy-backing. They will also be in town for that Beach Brawl international invitational, because that will be held in Miami...well, Fort Lauderdale, which is near us. They're coming in early to enjoy America, and Florida, and all that good stuff. They're coming to us to play a closed bout the Wednesday before we all head to that big international invitational. We're really excited to be playing against an international team like Berlin. We can't wait to host them.

Before the Tampa Tantrums made it to the Masonic Temple, they beat Grand Raggidy 322-78, and Killamazoo 261-117. The day after, they beat the Chicago Outfit 432-42. According to WFTDA new rankings, Tampa went from 28th place to 26th.

All photos by Dan Bachorik

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 With a face for radio, a voice for print, and the prose of a new immigrant, I'll stick to amateur blogging