The Road to Champs
The Road to Champs
by: One Hit WoundHer
Hello, faithful Blue Ridge fans! We may be in the off-season, but the blog is still going. I love this entry by One Hit WoundHer; her take on the road to champs is refreshingly honest and inspiring. Enjoy!
In a cold lunchroom at a derby widow’s office, we all sat in uncomfortable chairs, some grumpy because we weren’t allowed to bring beer to these league meetings anymore, others getting “hangry” because they hadn’t eaten in the last two hours (darned athletic bodies always demanding nourishment), everyone a little on edge because of the discussion at hand. We were hashing out the pros and cons of getting on the “divisionals track” and playing at a more competitive level than Blue Ridge had ever played before. Things were getting so heated that one skater even threatened to quit skating and start having babies if we didn’t choose to be competitive.
Around the room, skaters were voicing their concerns:
“How much money will this cost?”
“Will we have more practices each week?”
“How will this affect my playing time?”
“What about our B team and our bubble skaters?”
We all knew choosing this track was going to mean making even more sacrifices than we’d all already made for derby…even less time with our families, less money in our bank accounts, etc. Could any of us really give more than we already were? And yet in a room of skaters already spread so thin and giving so much, we unanimously voted to get on the “divisionals track” and fight for a spot in the Division 1 regional tournament that we would be hosting the following September.
The 2013 season began in March, and for the next nine months, we would travel nearly 4,500 miles to eight different cities in seven states, as well as host six home games. We would lose by 400 points in Atlanta and by one point in Omaha, take second place in the Got to Be NC tournament with a win over the Carolina Rollergirls, and play Team S.A.S.S. with a roster stacked with our derby idols. We would be coached by skaters Lil’ Pain (Boston) and V-Diva (Philly), play against future Team USA members Wild Cherri (Atlanta) and Baller Shot Caller (Gold Coast), take on jammers like Freight Train (Houston), Olivia Shootin’ John (Texas), and I.M. Pain (Charm). The season was unlike anything Blue Ridge had ever experienced.
Unfortunately, our goal to be Division 1 was not met, but looking back, now we’re all grateful that things turned out the way they did. Flying to Des Moines, Iowa, for the WFTDA Division 2 division tournament was not in our original plan, but that is where our ranking landed us. After some truly heartbreaking losses, going into the first ever WFTDA Division 2 regional tournament as the third seed turned out to be the boost we needed.
We went to that tournament with a chant:
“DUKE CITY, BREW CITY, CHAMPS!”
We had to beat Duke City, we predicted we would face Brew City, and then we’d be in the playoff game and headed to Champs, where the top two seeds from each Division 2 tournament would bout. The chant ultimately changed after a few unexpected wins in the tournament:
“TREASURE VALLEY, JET CITY, CHAMPS!”
But the end goal remained the same: CHAMPS.
We took second place in the tournament in Des Moines; we got into some penalty trouble, and it cost us the playoff game and the gold medals. You can read the blow-by-blow write ups of that tournament here: http://wftda.com/tournaments/2013/desmoines/blog, but what really needs to be said is that the Blue Ridge Rollergirls went to that tournament and made a name for ourselves. We played against some incredibly tough teams, we fought hard, and we showed the derby world who we were.
We came back to Asheville with silver medals, but we also came back without a coach. Our fearless leader, Trey LaTrash, had to retire for personal reasons, and he coached his final bout in Des Moines.
Coming back was bittersweet, to say the least. Some of us celebrated, others were depressed, and others went so far as to say they were heartbroken. It felt like after all we’d been through, all the tough losses, all the hard work, the time and money spent, that we should have won that tournament. And knowing that we were going to Champs but could only go to win third place overall was disappointing. (The winning teams at each Division 2 tournament would face one another at Champs for 1st and 2nd place, while we would battle it out for 3rd or 4th.) It was a whirlwind of emotions that took a lot to deal with.
A month later we hosted one of four Division 1 playoff tournaments on our home track. You could go to WFTDA.com, DNN, or DerbyLife and see “Blue Ridge Rollergirls” and “Asheville, NC” all over their pages. We made it into Blood and Thunder magazine for hosting that tournament; we were even WFTDA’s featured league for September: http://wftda.com/featured-league/blue-ridge-rollergirls
We had the Windy City Rollers, Minnesota RollerGirls, Rocky Mountain Rollergirls and yes, even Gotham Girls Roller Derby skate on our home track. We worked from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and then partied until the bars closed down, got up the next morning, and did it all over again.
Despite our initial disappointment, we were thankful every second of that tournament that we weren’t skating as well as hosting, because some of us had never been that exhausted in our lives. Yet knowing that the wheels of Bonnie Thunders, Juke Boxx, Jackie Daniels, Sweet Mary Pain, Sexy Slaydie, Slamda Phage, and so many other incredible skaters graced our home track made it worth all the hard work and lack of sleep.
To say we were all burnt out after that tournament is an understatement. It started to get pretty scary how few All Stars were even showing up to practices come late October, just weeks away from Champs. One Saturday, two weeks before the tournament, we had only six Charter 20 skaters at our Saturday morning practice.
Without a coach, we had only our skater-run training committee to lead us, make line-ups, and develop strategies for Champs. It was a lot to put on the five-skater committee, and tension was high among the All Stars – we’ve never been a team that adapts well to change. Overall, things weren’t looking so great for us, and we weren’t sure if we could go to Champs ready to win. It took one horrific home bout, a team dinner, a lot of tears, and some ribbon dancing to patch things up for us before we got our heads on straight and our sights set on Champs. In true Blue Ridge fashion though, we pulled it together.
We didn’t have the entire All-Star team at Champs until Saturday night at 7 p.m., but we made it, ready to play our one playoff game at noon on Sunday. Sunday morning came, and we all donned our sparkly blue headbands lovingly made by one of our French Broads. Everyone was surprisingly calm, and the vibe in our Hollywood-style dressing room was a great one. We felt strong, confident and ready to kick butt. Again, a blow-by-blow of our playoff game at champs is located here: http://wftda.com/tournaments/2013/championships/blog/d-2-third-place-blue-ridge-rollergirls-vs-sac-city-rollers, but what really mattered in this game was that, possibly for the first time this season, we got into penalty trouble and didn’t let it get the better of us. We are admittedly a team that gets trapped in the penalty spiral, and it’s almost as if it’s contagious among teammates.
Once the penalties started in that playoff game, there were times that only one player was on the track, times when two blockers would leave the box only to be replaced by the other two, and multiple power jams for our opponent, Sac City, that nearly allowed them to take the lead. But unlike the playoff game in Des Moines, we didn’t let our opponents take the lead. We never once let them pull ahead of us; instead we brought our focus back to the task at hand, got our asses out of the penalty box, and we won. We won! The Blue Ridge Rollergirls brought home the bronze!
Throughout this blog, I’ve written on behalf of all of Blue Ridge because we got through this season as a team; it was never about any one individual, and no one skater won or lost a game, and I did not want this to be just about me and my experience. However, I will say this coming only from me, because I know every skater’s experience at Champs was different: the highlight of my experience at Champs was looking around that arena and seeing so many seats full and hearing so many people cheer for us.
To see the sign “ATL loves Blue Ridge” and our cheering section of the Boston Massacre, complete with mascot.
To know one of our own photographers and one of our favorite guest announcers was there all the way from home.
And above all else, to see so many of our French Broads come all the way to Milwaukee to cheer on the All Stars.
When I was a Broad, all I could think about was being an All Star. I was obsessed with it, worked my ass off for it, but I never supported the All Stars the way our French Broads do. These girls made us care packages for Divisionals, complete with handwritten letters of encouragement, scrimmaged us twice so we could practice as a team for Champs, and then made the 12-hour drive to cheer us on and even coach us.
I know they got to see some incredible derby there, and it wasn’t just about seeing us skate, but I know if the All Stars hadn’t made it to Champs, our Broads wouldn’t have made that trip. So thank you, French Broads, for being such a big part of my Champs experience!
The 2013 season has now come to a close, much to the relief of us all. We took on some big names and big leagues this year, we gained incredible experience, and though our record showed more losses than wins, we won when it really counted. We met our goal of playing in a Divisional tournament, and not only that, we played at the WFTDA International Championship tournament. We were also the first league to bring WFTDA medals home to the state of North Carolina. Next season, I’d like to bring home a gold medal to complete the set, but if we make it into a Division 1 tournament, I’d be fine with that too.