Gridlock and Mayhem Fight for More Than Third Place on Saturday

By Thomas Gerbasi

A third-place game never sounded so good. In other sports, seeing who comes in third is almost an anticlimax, a chance for the athletes to compete once more while making things tidy when compiling the final leaderboards or standings.

Photo Sean Hale

Photo Sean Hale

In Gotham Girls Roller Derby, yes, it’s a chance for the athletes to take to the home team track once more in 2017, but it’s also an opportunity to tie up some loose ends and / or settle some scores while laying the groundwork for 2018.

 

And maybe, just maybe, some of that wouldn’t be the case if not for the Bronx Gridlock’s stirring 138-119 win over the Manhattan Mayhemon July 15 at Coney Island’s Abe Stark Arena.

 

The victory was the Gridlock’s first since May 2014, which was newsworthy enough. But it also kept the defending GGRD champions winless for 2017, a development which has been shocking for Mayhem, as well as Gotham fans.

 

So now we’ve got some intrigue, don’t we? The GGRD home teams always give a supreme effort on the track, and the back and forth nature of the games is proof. But when the Bronx and Manhattan take the track Saturday at John Jay College, a lot more is on the line than just third-place in 2017.

 

It’s a chance for Mayhem, a team that had to introduce four skaters into the rotation this season, to end the year on a high note. As for the Gridlock, that high note was hit last month, so on Saturday, they have the opportunity to prove that the win wasn’t a fluke while picking up a two-game winning streak and setting the stage for a promising 2018 campaign.

 

Third-place? That’s just a bonus.

 

Bronx Nabs First Win since 2014; Queens Sends Message to Brooklyn in Coney

By Thomas Gerbasi

It was fitting that the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league’s annual visit to Abe Stark Arena in Coney Island on July 15 was next to Luna Park, because both games epitomized the rollercoaster ride that has been the 2017 home team season. It’s been a campaign that has seen a defending champion go winless, two juggernauts battling for the title, and an underdog finally breaking back into the win column.

And we haven’t even reached the postseason yet.

In the opening bout of the doubleheader, the Queens of Pain continued to roll, as they handed the Brooklyn Bombshells their first loss of the year, 167-118. The top two teams in the league will meet again at John Jay College in NYC on August 26 to determine who wins the GGRD Golden Skate trophy.

Photo Sean Hale

Photo Sean Hale

But it was the closing game of the evening that made the most noise, as the Bronx Gridlock won their first bout since May 2014, defeating the defending champion Manhattan Mayhem 138-119. These two squads will also meet again, this time in the league’s third-place game on August 5 at John Jay.

 

This win for the Gridlock comes after years of frustration in which injuries, team turnover, and plain ol’ bad luck has kept them from getting back into the win column. This is a team that even had to borrow skaters from the opposing team for one bout in order to make up a complete roster. But in spite of all this, the Gridlock kept showing up to practice, kept showing up on game night and kept giving a supreme effort.

 

On July 15, they were underdogs again, and things didn’t get off to a great start as Manhattan earned an early 25-9 lead. As is their custom, the Gridlock kept it close, but at halftime, they were facing a 20-point deficit and the reality that the dynamic defensive duo of Violet Knockout and Roxy Dallas were going to do anything in their power to keep the cabbies from scoring.

Photo Sean Hale

Photo Sean Hale

The Gridlock were undeterred, and with their defense taking advantage of the absence of veteran Mayhem jammer Em Dash, Bronx’ own scoring machine, Kate Sera Sera, kicked things into high gear, with a 19-point jam to start the second period cutting the lead to 1. Five jams later, the Bronx took the lead, 93-90, and while Manhattan would briefly get the advantage once more, the Gridlock, led by Kate’s game-high 91 points, regained the advantage and never looked back, making it clear that this Saturday’s rematch is going to be one to watch.

Photo GGRD Facebook

Photo GGRD Facebook

In the opener, Queens reminded the league and its fans that if there is a favorite to win the Golden Skate this season, they wear black. Dominant all year, Queens made it 18-0 before Brooklyn even got on the board, and by halftime, it was a 95-41 lead for the team looking to secure its first GGRD title since 2013.

Photo Sean Hale

Photo Sean Hale

Brooklyn did make their run in the second half, but without GGRD All-Star V-Diva on the track, Miss Tea Maven was an all-night target for the Queens blockers, allowing Suzy Hotrod, Puss ‘N Glutes and their veteran squad to finish up the regular season with a win and an unbeaten record. Now all they have to do is repeat that win in a few weeks, a task easier said than done.

Photo Sean Hale

Photo Sean Hale

BROOKLYN vs. QUEENS STATS

                          1        2        F

Brooklyn4177118

Queens9572167

 

Brooklyn MVP – BlueJ

Queens MVP – Low Maim

 

Leading Brooklyn Scorers

Miss Tea Maven 63 points (28 jams)

Bellatricks 26 points (5 jams)

BlueJ 26 points (6 jams)

 

Leading Brooklyn Blockers

Lady Fingers 30 jams (-58)

D.A.R.Y.L. 29 jams (-37)

Papierschnitt 27 jams (-3)

 

Leading Queens Scorers

Suzy Hotrod 67 points (15 jams)

Low Maim 40 points (13 jams)

ShortStop 40 points (15 jams)

 

Leading QueensBlockers

Puss ‘n Glutes 33 jams (+26)

Pinky Swears 26 jams (+29)

Livvie Smalls 26 jams (-3)

 

Brooklyn Penalties

Minutes in Box: 23 Jammer Box Trips: 6

 

Queens Penalties

Minutes in Box: 46 Jammer Box Trips: 6

 

###

MANHATTANvs. BRONX STATS

                          1        2        F

Manhattan7643119

Bronx56      82138

 

Manhattan MVP – Veronica Ache

Bronx MVP – Kate Sera Sera

 

Leading Manhattan Scorers

Kid Vicious 47 points (11 jams)

J Rod 42 points (14 jams)

Lumiknoxity 29 points (10 jams)

 

Leading Manhattan Blockers

Roxy Dallas 25 jams (-1)

Violet Knockout 23 jams (-32)

Spork Chop 19 jams (-12)

 

Leading Bronx Scorers

Kate Sera Sera 91 points (17 jams)

Big Banger 19 points (10 jams)

Heronymus Boss 11 points (3 jams)

 

Leading Bronx Blockers

Caf Fiend 22 jams (-15)

Fast and Luce 20 jams (+11)

Cherry Napalm 19 jams (+17)

 

Manhattan Penalties

Minutes in Box: 33 Jammer Box Trips: 9

 

Bronx Penalties

Minutes in Box: 30 Jammer Box Trips: 10

 

Stats compiled via Rinxter

For Pride or Glory - Gotham Home Teams Visit Coney Island with Different Goals

By Thomas Gerbasi

With the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league’s regular home game season coming to an end at Abe Stark Arena in Coney Island on Saturday, it’s not a time to figure out who will be playing for the Golden Skate championship trophy on August 26 or who will battle it out for third place on August 5.

PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

Instead, those two post-season games will get regular season previews in the league’s annual visit to the boardwalk, and if anyone thinks that any of the four teams will mail it in or try to conserve themselves for the playoffs, they obviously haven’t been following this league.

And that’s the beauty of derby. There’s no resting of an all-star for the next big game or taking the foot off the gas to conserve energy or avoid injury. Every game is played like the seventh game of the World Series, and as soon as the Queens of Pain and Brooklyn Bombshells take the track for the opener, expect to see the kind of war these two teams always come prepared to wage.

With both Queens and Brooklyn unbeaten, and Manhattan and the Bronx winless in 2017, even a loss won’t keep Queens and Brooklyn from the championship game. But an undefeated record is important to every member of both squads, and maybe even more important to Queens, who suffered a crushing 179-152 defeat to the Bombshells that kept them from chasing their first league title since 2013. And given that they’ve been in the hunt for years, it’s clear that the ladies in black feel that this is their time to strike.

PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

The last time Brooklyn hoisted a championship banner was in 2015 and they were perilously close to a repeat last year. Some wondered if they would make it back to the title game after a huge turnover of players, but when those newbies are players like V-Diva, Donna Matrix, Sweets McBacon, Girl Friday and Bellatricks, that makes the transition much easier, and they’ve been firing on all cylinders since.

So will it be the new look Bombshells or the reliable Queens of Pain? Round one is Saturday. But don’t think the opener is the main event, as Manhattan and the Bronx are gutsy battlers with the talent and determination to be in next month’s championship game. But in a three-game home season, one bad night, one bad trip to the penalty box or one key injury can be the difference between winning and losing. In short, the Mayhem and Gridlock are a lot better than the 0-2 records they share, and derby fans will see that on Saturday.

PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

As far as the stakes involved for the teams who will play for third place next month, Manhattan has a lot of pride on the line as they look to salvage the season after their championship-winning one. So expect all-star blockers Violet Knockout and Roxy Dallas to deliver the hurt on jammers trying to break loose. But the Gridlock have been chasing a victory since their last one in May 2014, and if they can pull it off against the defending champs, expect Abe Stark Arena to erupt.

In short, don’t let the records fool you. All four Gotham teams have plenty to play for this weekend.

Tickets for Saturday available here.

Brooklyn Deliver KO Blow to Mayhem’s Repeat Hopes

By Thomas Gerbasi

The tradition of knockdown, drag ‘em out bouts between the Brooklyn Bombshells and Manhattan Mayhem continued at John Jay College in NYC on June 10. And while Brooklyn’s victory wasn’t decided at the final jam like so many of the bouts in Gotham’s greatest rivalry, everyone who competed in the Bombshells’ 155-142 win knew they had been in a fight by the time the final whistle sounded.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

That’s the way it ought to be when these two teams collide, and while last year’s meeting saw Manhattan emerge victorious and take the Golden Skate championship trophy, this year saw Brooklyn get a measure of revenge by sending the defending champs to their second consecutive defeat, dashing their hopes of a repeat.

But all’s fair in love and derby, and though Brooklyn took a little time to get warmed up, by the time BlueJ put up a 20-point effort in the sixth jam of the game, the Bombshells had a 22-13 lead, and they would never relinquish that advantage.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

Of course, it’s not as simple as that, as Manhattan stayed close throughout, with veterans J Rod and Em Dash combining for 91 points as Violet Knockout led a defensive effort that held scoring machine Miss Tea Maven to “just” 48 points.

Stepping up for the Bombshells jammers was all-star V-Diva, who delivered a game high 65 points in just seven jams. And while Manhattan was almost always within striking range for much of the bout, a 29-point burst from V-Diva early in the second half put Brooklyn up 104-64, and they never looked back as they kept their unbeaten 2017 record intact.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

 

MANHATTAN vs. BROOKLYN STATS

                          1         2        F

Manhattan     64  78 142                                          

Brooklyn   71       84 155

Manhattan MVP – Em Dash

Brooklyn MVP – Papierschnitt

Leading Manhattan Scorers

J Rod – 49 points (10 jams)

Em Dash – 42 points (11 jams)

Kid Vicious – 30 points (9 jams)

 

Leading Manhattan Blockers

Violet Knockout – 24 jams (43)

Roxy Dallas – 24 jams (-17)

Bonita Apple Bomb – 22 jams (2)

Spork Chop – 22 jams (-12)

 

Leading Brooklyn Scorers

Vanessa V-Diva Sites – 65 points (7 jams)

Miss Tea Maven – 48 points (20 jams)

BlueJ – 41 points (5 jams)

 

Leading Brooklyn Blockers

Papierschnitt – 22 jams (-25)

D.A.R.Y.L. – 20 jams (32)

Lady Fingers – 16 jams (-18)

 

Manhattan Penalties

Minutes in Box: 42 Jammer Box Trips: 9

 

Brooklyn Penalties

Minutes in Box: 38 Jammer Box Trips: 2

Stats compiled via Rinxter

 

Opposites Attack as Manhattan and Brooklyn Renew Rivalry on Saturday

By Thomas Gerbasi

It’s the broken record of all broken records in roller derby. If you’re going to watch one Gotham Girls Roller Derby game all year, it’s this Saturday’s bout between the defending champion Manhattan Mayhem and the Brooklyn Bombshells at John Jay College in NYC. To the uninitiated, that’s mere hyperbole. To those who have seen this rivalry play out, it’s an understatement. But as we do every year, a look at the numbers tell the tale.

 2013 – Brooklyn 178, Manhattan 171

2014 – Manhattan 170, Brooklyn 169

2015 – Brooklyn 153, Manhattan 148

2016 – Brooklyn 161, Manhattan 158

2016 – Manhattan 149, Brooklyn 146

Five games decided by a combined 19 points. For you mathematicians at home, that’s an average of 3.8 points. In derby, that’s unheard of. In fact, if one game ends with one team up by 19 points, that’s considered a nail biter.  So while the ladies of Manhattan and Brooklyn are friends off the track and league mates through and through, when the whistle blows, it’s always Ali vs. Frazier on skates.

“There’s a reason why we didn’t pass on a Memorial Day practice,” laughs Chugs Brewkowski of Manhattan. And after losing their opening bout to Queens in March, there’s even more on the line if they want a chance to repeat as champions in August.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

 “It’s a pivotal game, and it’s a championship game to us in the sense that however it goes affects how the rest of our season goes,” Chugs said. “So there’s no loss of weight to it, especially because of who we’re going up against. It completely affects our season and, in a lot of ways, the rest of the games for the entire league.”

A win for Brooklyn, who defeated the Bronx Gridlock in their season opener, will put them in the driver’s seat for a return to the championship game, with their likely opponent being the unbeaten Queens squad. But there’s sixty minutes of derby to be played before that possibility can even be discussed.

“For me, personally, I don’t even look at the championship game as a championship game,” said Brooklyn’s Miss Tea Maven. “For me, a game is just a game. If you put any additional weight behind it, I feel like it’s just giving yourself and your team extra, undue stress. We all feel it, we all know it, there’s no reason to call more attention to it. But as always with Manhattan games, we always know it’s going to be really physical and extremely tough. We know that going in, but we’re always prepared to just play Brooklyn’s game.”

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

The Brooklyn way of derby didn’t truly make an appearance until the second half of the Bronx game, a testament to the difficulty of bringing in a host of new skaters to the roster. Sure, some of these skaters are well known competitors like Donna Matrix, V-Diva, Sweets McBacon and Bellatricks, but the sport has shown that putting a bunch of all-stars on a team doesn’t make them a team.

“It’s a different team,” Maven said. “They’re veteran roller derby players, but they’re not veteran Brooklyn players, so this season has been very focused on trying to get everyone on the same Brooklyn page. It’s been a lot of retraining habits and strategies to fit within Brooklyn’s strategy.”

By the second half against the Gridlock, though, it was Brooklyn again, as they skated to a 167-148 victory. Now they’ll look to put a dent in the championship aspirations of the team that killed theirs in the final bout of 2016. And Manhattan knows the Bombshells will be coming at them hard.

“The pressure is always at 110,” Chugs said. “And any loss hurts just as much as a loss that keeps you in or out of it (the championship). We came into the season as returning champs and as a team that went through some big losses and retirees and a variety of injuries, but it’s a whole new season. There was an insane amount of pressure in the first game, and there’s definitely even more now.”

With the stakes higher than ever, the intensity should ramp up even more, and with so many GGRD All-Stars on the track and a packed house expected, the skaters are hoping it was Saturday night already.

PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

“One thing that I’ve experienced a lot is how much the fans affect the experience and why it feels so epic every time, every game,” Chugs said. “There’s always something about the boroughs, the teams and the fans that we both have that makes every moment full of oohs and aahs. The sound in the arena is overwhelming from the minute the game starts.”

 And is there anything like that sound?

“It’s phenomenal and empowering and devastating, all at the same time,” Chugs laughs. “It adds so much intensity to every feeling that you have about the game and what’s on the line, and how proud you are of your teammates. Everything you feel, you feel ten times more because the crowd is adding to it. It’s deafening sometimes because it’s hard to focus in and remember that everything you’re doing on that track, you’re doing for your teammates. But it’s a nice bonus to have a whole arena that cares about it too.”

So it all comes down to the same question asked every year. What is it about Brooklyn and Manhattan that makes for such compelling and dramatic derby? Maven believes it’s because of a clash of cultures, with the Mayhem bringing the intensity and the Bombshells being more laid-back.

“We’re very calm throughout the entire game,” she said. “I find that Manhattan brings all of their passion into the game, which sometimes brings them up to the next level and sometimes that passion leads to more penalties. Brooklyn is steady the entire game, and that can mean victory at the end or we come out just a little bit short.”

PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

Fire and Ice, then? Or maybe we can call this one “Opposites Attack.”

Tickets for Saturday available here.

Spirit of 2013 - Queens Beats the Bronx, Stays Unbeaten

By Thomas Gerbasi

If one word can describe the home season of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby League over the past several years, it’s “parity.” Among Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens, that the old sports cliché “on any given night” rings true.

But at John Jay College in Manhattan on May 6, the Queens of Pain were doing their best to shatter that notion of parity and “any given night” as they scored a 232-108 victory over the Bronx Gridlock that moved them to 2-0 in 2017 and one step closer to August’s championship game.

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

In the process, their 124-point margin of victory was the first three-figure spread in the league since Queens defeated Manhattan 262-171 in June 2013. That year was also the last time Queens hoisted the Golden Skate championship trophy, and they’re clearly aiming for that coveted trinket once more this year, if the win over the Bronx was any indication.

Trading points back and forth in the early going, Queens took an early lead, but the Bronx was staying within striking range. In the 16th jam, however, the Gridlock’s Kate Sera Sera was hit with a Gross Misconduct penalty and ejected from the bout for colliding with a referee.

At the moment of the ejection, Queens led 81-46, but by halftime, that lead ballooned to 126-60.

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

With one of their top scorers out of the game, Bronx’ Big Banger and Legs // Cite did their best to keep the points coming for the cabbies. But with veterans Suzy Hotrod and ShortStop stepping on the gas on the jammer line for Queens as their defense clamped down, it became a hill too high to climb for the Gridlock, who dropped to 0-2 on the season.

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

QUEENS vs. BRONX STATS

                          1         2        F

Queens   126   106 232                                          

Bronx     60       48 108

Queens MVP – Suzy Hotrod

Bronx MVP – Lucky Scars

Leading Queens Scorers

ShortStop 79 points (15 jams)

Suzy Hotrod 72 points (13 jams)

Beauty Andie Beast 61 points (11 jams)

 

Leading Queens Blockers

Livvie Smalls 22 jams (+67)

Puss ‘n Glutes 21 jams (+32)

Chopstick Murphy 18 jams (+86)

 

Leading Bronx Scorers

Big Banger 49 points (14 jams)

Kate Sera Sera 29 points (7 jams)

Legs // Cite 20 points (17 jams)

 

Leading Bronx Blockers

Cherry Napalm 24 jams (-55)

Rude McSlamahan 22 jams (-100)

Fast and Luce 21 jams (-44)

 

Queens Penalties

Minutes in Box: 24 Jammer Box Trips: 4

 

Bronx Penalties

Minutes in Box: 37 Jammer Box Trips: 8

 

###

 

Practice Makes Perfect for the Queens of Pain

By Thomas Gerbasi

The Queens of Pain’s Hyper Lynx wants to talk about practice.

Fifteen years after basketball hall of famer Allen Iverson created a stir by talking about practice with reporters, the GGRD All-Star veteran wants to do the same in the lead-up to Saturday’s bout at John Jay College against the Bronx Gridlock. And that’s cool with her.

“I still think Queens is the hardest working team,” she said. “We’re the ones who started up the extra hour for land drills. (Laughs) We’re always there every single team practice and win or lose, we always practice. We really felt like we should have been up there (last year). Obviously, every team feels that way, but we felt like we worked the hardest, so we want to show it this year.”

PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

Forget last year. Over the previous four years since they last won a GGRD home team title in 2013, Queens may have been the best team in the league night in and night out. But at key times, wins proved elusive, surprising their fans and the team itself.

“There’s an element of luck in derby,” Lynx said. “Sometimes things just don’t go your way. Maybe we just enjoy pain. (Laughs) But losing is never fun. You can’t win everything. It’s a game and anything can happen at any time. There are no guarantees.”

Well there is one, and that’s the reality that Queens will try to outwork their peers in the Crashpad practice space, garnering a reputation as the best conditioned team in the league. If a skater gets drafted and presented with a black jersey, they know that Suzy Hotrod and company will put them through hell before it’s time to hit the track on game night. But that’s a badge of honor Lynx and company wear with pride.

PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

“We work our asses off and it doesn’t matter if you’re a good or bad skater, we’ll build you up to be a good skater,” she said. “There’s a lot of skater development that goes on with Queens, and that’s our biggest strength. That and the intensity of our practices have remained consistent year after year.”

And if there was a wish for the derby gods to throw some good fortune their way, it was granted before the 2017 season even started, as the team revealed that they were taking the track with a roster intact from the previous year. That’s a rarity in Gotham, and Queens have taken full advantage of it, tearing out of the gate in March with a 176-130 win over the defending GGRD champion Manhattan Mayhem.

“I think it really helps because we’re basically continuing from the previous years,” Lynx said. “In the past years when we had new skaters, we always had time in the beginning when we had to get to know each other, if they were brand new they had to build their endurance up, and we had a harder time ramping it up. Whereas with us, at our first practice we said, ‘Let’s practice our plays again.’ And that really helps. I’m not saying we’re doing awesome every time, because we do lose scrimmages too, but our teamwork is great. Everybody knows what to do and everybody is much better at playing together. And a lot of that is from the sheer amount of practices that we do.”

Is Lynx talking about practice again? You bet she is.

Tickets for Saturday May 6 available here.

Bronx More Motivated Than Ever to Break Losing Streak on Saturday

By Thomas Gerbasi

The old saying is true that close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but in the sport of roller derby, you take whatever you can to help keep you on course. So if the Bronx Gridlock needed any motivation to help break a long losing streak this Saturday at John Jay College in NYC, they found it in last month’s season opener against the Brooklyn Bombshells.

“There’s a strength in being able to come back every single time and say this is a new game, this is a new jam, and letting yourself get hungrier instead of frustrated, even if it’s hard when it’s gone on as long as it has,” said the Gridlock’s Heronymus Boss. “But in the last game, and now, I really do think this team can pull it off this season.”

PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

If you want to discuss roster turnover, injuries, and plain ol’ bad luck, the cabbies have had more than their share. But as they prepare to face the Queens of Pain this weekend, they are in a better place than they’ve been in a long time, and it has a lot to do with the bout against the Bombshells, who fought from behind several times before emerging with a 167-148 win that was a lot closer than that score would indicate.

“It actually speaks to the strength of our defense that we had such a tight game and were ahead as much as we were given the penalties and the amount of box time we had compared to Brooklyn,” Boss said. “So it speaks to the strength of our defense, but we definitely want to cut down on the penalties because when we have all our skaters on the track, we’re really a force and keeping everyone on the track is the number one priority for this game.”

Remarkably, Brooklyn only had three penalty box trips from their jammers, which is a low number in these closely contested GGRD home games, and while it’s a testament to the discipline of the Bombshells, without such an effort, the Gridlock may have returned to the win column for the first time since May 2014. That’s okay, though, as they’re planning on getting the job done against Queens.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

“They’re a smart and talented team and it’s an interesting matchup because Gridlock is a tall team and Queens is a short team,” Boss said. “There are obvious advantages to both, so we have to use what we have to our best advantage and we have to think about how to play with that shorter team. They can get through cracks easily, they’re fast, but we have big blockers and we just have to stick together. So we’re looking to come in really fired up and cohesive and we’re working really hard on staying together. That’s our path to victory in this game. We don’t want to give them any holes to get through.”

And despite making a quick turnaround from the last bout, Boss and her teammates are looking at that not as a negative, but a positive, as they get to keep the good vibes from the April bout going into what they hope will be a victorious May.

“We knew we had the two in a row, so we were prepared,” she said. “It’s been a really busy month. The Traitors had a game, Termies had a game, All-Stars had a game, so we’ve all been very busy, but we’ve also had this in our sights and we’ve been focused. I think it’s always nice to have a little extra time to keep working on strategy, especially since it was such a busy month. But that was such a close game with Brooklyn and everyone came out really wanting to clinch the win, so we do have that momentum coming out of the last game.”

Tickets for Saturday May 6 available here.

Queens and Brooklyn Draw First Blood in GGRD Season Openers

By Thomas Gerbasi

Spring has sprung in the Big Apple, a sign that a new season of Gotham Girls Roller Derby action is underway, and the league’s four home teams came out swinging in their season openers at John Jay College in NYC.

PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

On March 25, the perennial contenders from Queens stunned the defending champion Mayhem 176-130, putting an immediate dent in Manhattan’s quest to become the first GGRD team to repeat since the Bronx Gridlock pulled off the feat in 2010.

Led by ShortStop, who put a game high 105 points on the board, Queens used an early 25-0 jam by the All-Star jammer to jump out to a 46-15 lead, and then their defense kicked in, holding the Mayhem to 18 points over the next 10 jams as they extended their advantage to 72-33.

By halftime, the Queens lead was 47 points, and while Manhattan played their rivals on even terms in the second half, they were never able to make the run that threatened the ladies in black, who skated away with a statement-making victory to kick off their 2017 campaign.

PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

QUEENS vs. MANHATTAN STATS

1 2 F

Queens 102 74 176

Manhattan 55 75 130

Queens MVP – ShortStop

Manhattan MVP – Cork Rebel

Leading Queens Scorers

ShortStop - 105 points (16 jams)

Suzy Hotrod – 42 points (10 jams)

Beauty Andie Beast – 23 points (12 jams)

Leading Queens Blockers

Puss ‘n Glutes – 23 jams (+19)

Livvie Smalls – 22 jams (+61)

Chopstick Murphy – 18 jams (+19)

Leading Manhattan Scorers

Em Dash – 65 points (13 jams)

Cork Rebel – 41 points (9 jams)

Lumiknoxity – 17 points (8 jams)

Leading Manhattan Blockers

Roxy Dallas – 26 jams (-27)

Bonita Apple Bomb – 26 jams (-95)

Violet Knockout – 25 jams (-15)

Queens Penalties

Minutes in Box: 36 Jammer Box Trips: 10

Manhattan Penalties

Minutes in Box: 29 Jammer Box Trips: 6

###

Two weeks later, derby fans returned to John Jay for a showdown that had a lot of intrigue attached to it, as the Brooklyn Bombshells assembled a squad that looked quite different from the 2016 version of the team, as four new skaters took the track. Yet after a slow start, it was business as usual for Brooklyn, who moved to 1-0 with a 167-148 victory.

PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

Eager to get back in the win column for the first time since May 2014, the Gridlock came out blasting at the opening whistle, slugging it out with the Bombshells until a 19-point jam from Big Banger broke open a close bout and put the cabbies up 71-33.

They added to their lead as the defense clamped down on Brooklyn, but the Bombshells’ Miss Tea Maven brought her team back into the game in the last two jams of the first half, with 29 points turning an 81-50 score into 81-79 at halftime.

Undeterred by the Brooklyn run, the Gridlock stayed composed early in the second half as they maintained their lead. But on the ninth jam of the second period, it was Maven again breaking the hearts of Bronx fans, as her 14-point effort put Brooklyn ahead 112-111.

The Gridlock’s grit was impressive though, as they fought back and regained the lead, 125-121, as time ticked away. Both teams had to dig deep as their defenses made life difficult for the jammers, and the lead changed three more times before Brooklyn finally pulled away with the kind of win that will certainly bond the new skaters with their squadmates.

PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

BRONX vs. BROOKLYN STATS

1 2 F

Bronx 81 67 148

Brooklyn 79 88 167

Bronx MVP – Kate Sera Sera

Brooklyn MVP – Miss Tea Maven

Leading Bronx Scorers

Kate Sera Sera - 63 points (19 jams)

Legs//Cite – 48 points (18 jams)

Big Banger – 37 points (11 jams)

Leading Bronx Blockers

Fast and Luce – 28 jams (+15)

Caf Fiend – 27 jams (-3)

Cherry Napalm – 24 jams (-33)

Leading Brooklyn Scorers

Miss Tea Maven – 112 points (24 jams)

VanEssaV-Diva Sites – 28 points (14 jams)

Sweets McBacon – 27 points (7 jams)

Leading Brooklyn Blockers

D.A.R.Y.L. – 24 jams (57)

Gut-Her Punk – 24 jams (26)

BlueJ – 24 jams (-2)

Bellatricks – 24 jams (-7)

Lady Fingers – 24 jams (-19)

Bronx Penalties

Minutes in Box: 43 Jammer Box Trips: 9

Brooklyn Penalties

Minutes in Box: 28 Jammer Box Trips: 3

Stats compiled via Rinxter

The New Look Bombshells Won't Get Caught Napping by the Gridlock

By Thomas Gerbasi

Roster turnover is an inevitable part of every Gotham Girls Roller Derby season. But few have been turned over like last year’s runners-up, the Bombshells from Brooklyn.

“I feel like this is the most turnover that we’ve had in a really, really long time,” said co-captain Raggedy Animal, who will begin her 12th year on the track when her squad faces the Bronx Gridlock this Saturday at John Jay College in NYC.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

So how different will the Bombshells look in 2017? Well, there will be five new skaters representing the team this year, the most of any GGRD home team. But that’s not why this is such a league-shattering news item. What makes this such a big story is that joining Girl Friday among the “newbies” will be former Bronx star Sweets McBacon, GGRD junior league phenom Bellatricks, current All-Star V-Diva, and another skater Gotham fans might remember, Donna Matrix.

Put those five on the track and it’s an all-star lineup in itself. Add them to a team that has won two championships in the last five years, and that’s a frightening prospect for the rest of the league. But as Animal points out, it takes more than talent to win in this league.

“We are super grateful and tickled that our turnover resulted in drafting huge, huge individual talent, and we have that excitement going into it,” she said. “But the challenge is knowing that individual talent can’t win games. It’s really been about making sure that we’re not just showing up with individual talent, but that all the draftees are enmeshed in the team culture and we’re on the same page with playing roller derby.”

Given this reality, Animal and the blue crew were very happy that their season opener was scheduled for this weekend and not on March 25.

“I’m so glad we didn’t play first,” she said. “The turnaround from a draft to the first game is tight. You’re basically dusting off the cobwebs from the off-season and it’s really intense. And while you always want more time, I definitely feel like we had the time that we needed. Because we drafted a lot of talent, our focus wasn’t necessarily on individual skill building. So Day One, we got right into how we play and our strategies and making sure that we were on the same page and had the same language and were doing the same things. So we’ve spent our time making sure that we’re skating together as a team.”

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

And if this group of skaters has come together as a team, it’s going to be quite a show this weekend. Yet regardless of the final score on Saturday, anticipation is at an all-time high to see what this group offers to the league.

“Because they come from such amazing backgrounds, to get to see them skate for the Bombshells is a whole new world of excitement, with Diva and Donna and Sweets, and even Bella coming from the junior league,” Animal said. “She (Bella) is incredible and did amazing things in the junior league. She’s unassuming and quietly effective, but she’s always in the right place at the right time. So it’s not that we drafted new skaters that have experience. We drafted some serious skaters with major accolades from what they were doing previous to becoming a Bombshell.”

Yet even though all eyes will be on Brooklyn in this opening matchup, the Gridlock aren’t showing up to make up the numbers. They’re coming to win, and with no victories on their ledger since May of 2014, the Bronx are hungrier than ever and more dangerous than they’ve been. But they won’t sneak up on Brooklyn, whose veteran skaters know just what it’s like to be in that position.

“I’ve been on the losing side and I’ve been on the winning side,” Animal said. “In 2014, we lost every single game and in 2015 we won every single game. They are very different motivating factors. Even in the early years of the Bombshells, when I first joined, we couldn’t win a game to save our lives. We kept being called the lovable underdogs, the Gotham darlings, and we couldn’t beat anybody. So I know how bonding it is to go into a season and be like, ‘Damn it, we want to win.’ And they have so much individual talent and they’re big and strong, so they’re absolutely a threat.”

 

The Comeback Begins for the Gridlock This Saturday

By Thomas Gerbasi

It’s been a rough couple years for the Bronx Gridlock, but if there’s an omen for getting back into the win column for the first time in nearly three years, it may be that they will be lining up this Saturday against the team they beat in that May 2014 bout, the Brooklyn Bombshells. But the cabbies aren’t superstitious or thinking of the past. They’re simply approaching the season opener at John Jay College as a fresh start.

“I think we’re all really positive,” said Lucky Scars. “It’s a brand new team, a brand new year, so we’re all very excited to be able to go out there and show everybody what we’ve got. People are pumped.”

Home to four new skaters (Scars, Annie Mergency, Gwen Animals Attack, Heronymous Bosch), the Gridlock still retains much of its veteran core, a unit that has weathered the bad times and still show up on bout night ready to leave it all on the track. In this league, that’s the M.O. for every team, but with so much talent on display across all four Gotham Girls Roller Derby league home teams, it becomes a game of inches where one key injury or one penalty at an inopportune time can spell the difference between victory and defeat. For fans, that’s a blessing. When you’re on the wrong side of that injury or penalty, it’s a curse, and one the Gridlock hope to break in 2017.

“That says something about the draft process and how close games have gotten in the past few years,” said Scars. “It’s really anybody’s game, and over the last few years, the Bronx has put up a really good fight, but it’s just come down to a few points. So it’s really anybody’s game on any given day. Bronx is a really hard working team, we love each other just like any other team, and we have just as much of a chance as anybody. So I’m really looking forward to bringing back those wins for the Bronx.”

PHOTO TYLER SHAW

PHOTO TYLER SHAW

With league parity making virtually every game a fight to the finish, it’s the intangibles that often set the squads apart, and even early on this season, team personalities are starting to take shape. So far, the Mayhem are the defending champs looking for a repeat and Queens is the team that returns fully intact from 2016. But what are the Brooklyn Bombshells bringing to the track this year? The two-time GGRD champs got hit hard with turnover in the off-season, but their draftees are some of the most experienced and highly-regarded skaters in the league. So are they the derby version of Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates?

“We don’t know what we’re gonna get,” laughs Scars. “But I think as a league there are some things that we can expect, some things that the Bombshells do that never change. We’re all familiar with each other’s little tricks and twists and we try to prepare for that, but then you never know what’s going to come out of left field. But we try to adapt and that’s part of the game and I think we’ll be able to do that.”

As for the Gridlock, they’ve gone through various personalities as a team over the years. The near-dynasty years from 2007-2010 saw the team skating like a well-oiled machine, technically sound with few mistakes. Then they became the cardiac kids of Gotham, pulling off miracle late bout runs that kept fans on the edge of their seats. And in recent years, they’ve been the squad that has stared adversity in the face and just kept moving forward, refusing to give in on and off the track. So what does the 2017 version of the Bronx look like?

“The personality of the 2017 team is very hardworking, very close knit,” Scars said. “We’re funky, we’re a mixed bag, but it just works. We all meld together in this funky fresh kind of way. Every jam’s a new jam, every game’s a new game and every year’s a new year. You just have to keep working hard, and it’s like a restart. Every game is anybody’s game, so we can absolutely take it.”

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

On Saturday, the road back begins. And while it is a fresh start, Scars and her teammates realize that there is also a history there for the Gridlock, and it’s something they take seriously as they attempt to recapture the glory days.

“Whenever I put on that jersey, it’s a very proud moment,” she said. “There is the history. You have Bonnie Thunders and Vicious Van GoGo, who have been on the team before, and it gives you confidence.”

The Fight for the Golden Skate begins with Manhattan and Queens

By Thomas Gerbasi

No home team in the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league has repeated as champion since the Bronx Gridlock pulled the feat off in 2010. On Saturday at John Jay College in New York City, the Manhattan Mayhem begin the defense of their title against the Queens of Pain, and the champs are most certainly hoping to end the six-year repeat drought.

“It’s always the year for a repeat,” said Mayhem newcomer Brawleen Lidz. “We have a lot of amazing new talent on our team that I think has been meshing very well at scrimmages and at practice and the vibe has been very welcoming. I felt accepted onto Manhattan Mayhem as soon as I got the phone call that I was drafted, so I’m really excited to try and make this a repeat for us this year.”

Lidz is one of four skaters donning the orange and black for the first time, and with a 16-skater roster, that’s a quarter of the team that needs to get acclimated not only to the Gotham way of derby, but to the reality of playing at the highest level of the sport every night. Luckily, after winning three of the last five league titles, Mayhem deals with the yearly turnover better than most, and as Lidz points out, that unity among the team was evident from the first time she saw her future squad on the track.

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

“The first Gotham game I ever saw that wasn’t on television was a Manhattan versus Brooklyn game and I didn’t know any back story about the two teams or that they had this chemistry off the track as well, but when I was watching Manhattan play, there was something there that I couldn’t quite figure out because I was just getting into derby, but something was happening that I ultimately wanted to be a part of,” she said. “And it’s this chemistry, this magical thing that happens. And now I’m here, and it’s still like a dream almost. I’m waiting to wake up from.”

It is still largely a crap shoot until the first whistle blows, though, because when the games are for real, anything can happen, and it’s in the heat of battle that teams with new skaters sink or swim. So if we’re breaking this weekend’s season opener down on paper, the edge would have to go to Queens, a team whose roster is untouched heading into 2017. And with that being the case, the usual desire to not be in the first game of the season is gone. In short, Queens wanted to play yesterday.

“I think because we didn’t get any new skaters this year that we’ve been ready,” said Beauty Andie Beast. “Honestly, when the season first started, I was like, ‘Let’s just play.’ (Laughs) I forgot that other teams were still drafting people. So that’s really given us an advantage as far as having the camaraderie already there and knowing who skates well with each other, so we are definitely ready.”

And how important of an edge is that to have?

“It’s really important,” Beast said. “Even more so than physically being able to skate together and understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses, because you can pick that up pretty easily. But just the mentality and the bond that you have with your team, everyone’s already comfortable, everyone’s already to work hard and knows the expectations, so you can hit the ground running and work on strategy at a higher level. So we’ve been able to try a lot of new things this year and it’s made practice really fun.”

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

This all sets the stage for an epic showdown, the type of bout Manhattan and Queens are accustomed to. Last year’s bout was a thriller, Mayhem squeaking by the ladies in black by a 192-187 score, and Queens winning by just seven points in their 2015 meeting. Add in a host of stars on both sides, from Manhattan’s Bonita Apple Bomb, Em Dash, Roxy Dallas and Violet Knockout to Queens’ Hyper Lynx, Puss ‘n Glutes, Short Stop and Suzy Hotrod, and it’s a must see for local derby fans. As for the skaters, it’s a must win, because in a three-bout home season, every match matters. So it’s no surprise that neither team is taking the other for granted.

“I know Manhattan is going to be working their hardest out there,” said Beast. “They’re hungry for it just as much as we are. So this game won’t be an easy win just because of how much both teams want it and how much we’re both going to be working hard for it. I know it’s going to be a good competition.”

“I see a very, very dedicated team ahead of us that really wants to go a hundred percent at us and get a hold of another championship,” said Lidz when asked her thoughts on Queens. But when it comes to that whole Queens winning the championship thing, that’s not something her squad will allow. “No, absolutely not,” she laughs. “That’s not how it works.”

But Queens getting back to the top and winning their first Golden Skate trophy since 2013 is an interesting subplot to the 2017 season. Some would argue that the ladies in black have been the most talented team in the league over the last several years, but there is only the one title to show for it. What will it take to change that?

“Keeping our physical endurance and our strength up, because we are a smaller team in comparison to other teams,” Beast said. “So we have to be stronger than them to be able to hold and block, and when our penalties are low, we really see an impact on our game. So if we stick to our game and to what we know we can do, I think we do that very well. It’s keeping ourselves focused and not worrying about what anyone else is doing but remembering what we can do better.”

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

On Saturday, the breakdowns and predictions are over. At 7pm, the 2017 season – or more accurately the fight for a title – begins. And it will be a fight.

“When it comes down to it, you’re playing jam by jam,” said Lidz. “Like my co-captain Roxy says, it’s a game of inches and you always have to keep that in mind. You’re going inch by inch and not foot by foot."

Brooklyn and Manhattan are Ready for a Fitting End to the 2016 Home Season

By Thomas Gerbasi

How appropriate is it that it has come down to this? Brooklyn. Manhattan. Golden Skate trophy.

Yes, the Bombshells and Mayhem have proven themselves to be the elite in the 2016 Gotham Girls Roller Derby league home season, but when the blue and orange collide, it’s always more than just a game, even if this one will determine a champion.

If anyone has seen them play each other, they’ll know precisely what this means, but for a more nuts and bolts explanation, the proof is in the numbers.

2013 – Brooklyn 178, Manhattan 171

2014 – Manhattan 170, Brooklyn 169

2015 – Brooklyn 153, Manhattan 148

2016 – Brooklyn 161, Manhattan 158

Forget the 3-1 Brooklyn advantage. Look at the scores. Four games decided by a grand total of 16 points. In modern derby, a single game decided by 16 points is a close, back and forth bout. Four games determined by that total is unlike anything ever seen in GGRD.

So what’s the secret?

“On a certain level, I wish I knew,” laughs Manhattan co-captain Roxy Dallas. “I hesitate to call it chemistry, but there’s a real sort of agro-magic that comes out on the track when we meet each other. And that’s true in our private scrimmages as well. That’s not just something that comes out on game day. If I had to guess, I would say that it had less to do with the actual strategy or technical skill on the track and even more to do with the team cultures. The way that we operate culturally as squads off the track really contributes to the way we end up playing on the track.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

Suffice to say that both teams bring a high-level of hard-hitting intensity to the track, and it’s almost as if each team could accept a loss, as long as it wasn’t to each other. It makes picking a winner in this Saturday’s championship bout at John Jay College in NYC impossible, which speaks to the quality of the matchup, because those looking at the bout on paper would have to lean toward the defending champion Bombshells.

Unbeaten in 2016, Brooklyn hasn’t lost a bout since Manhattan edged them out in July of 2014. That’s a lot of success in the last two-plus years, and as the weekend approaches, the Bombshells are on the verge of history, as they have the opportunity to become the first team since the 2009-10 Bronx Gridlock to repeat as champions. It’s been a long drought of dominance, but Brooklyn captain Evilicious has a theory.

“We have so few games, and our drafts are so steeped in math that our teams are more evenly matched than ever before,” she said. “We’ve eliminated all of the variables that left one or two teams unbalanced as compared to the other teams. There are obviously the rebuilding years and someone who you draft on to your team early in the season is going to contribute differently than someone who has skated on the team for a decade or close to it. But because of how serious we are about the math behind who has the ability to draft someone, the teams are so evenly matched that you can’t bank on any one team winning any game, even if they have a perfect record. So I don’t think it’s a mental thing; that’s just the nature of the cycle of what we’re going through in Gotham. I would love for the Bombshells to change that on Saturday.”

PHOTO: SEAN HALE

PHOTO: SEAN HALE

And Manhattan would like to keep the parity status quo, at least until they attempt their own history in 2017 should they win on Saturday. So at the moment, Roxy enjoys the “any given night” nature of the league.

“I think that this trend that no one stays on top too long is so awesome,” she said. “I really love it, not from a Mayhem perspective, but from a league perspective it just shows how much insane talent we have and how much talent is joining the league and working up through the ranks. As much as I’d like to spoil it for our own personal gain, I think that the turnover for the Golden Skate is saying really good things about our training.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

That training for the home team season begins early in the year, continues through the spring and summer, and culminates in one game for all the marbles.  For a long time, Brooklyn and Manhattan watched as the Bronx and Queens traded championships back and forth. But in the last few years, there has been a changing of the guard of sorts, with no transformation more miraculous than that of the Bombshells, who went from the oft-noted lovable underdogs to dominant champions. Evilicious is fine with the team keeping the lovable part of the equation, but as far as being underdogs, the veteran blocker can’t even fathom those days ever returning.

“I think we’re a completely different team than that,” she said. “Our maturity as a group of skaters and the hours that we’ve put in together have really changed us. It’s kind of lore now. Queens and Bronx used to be the only teams that won championships, and that was individual talent, great management and years of experience together. Those teams were the teams that had that core anchor that helped propel them to championships. Manhattan and Brooklyn were scrappier and we weren’t able to rack up the wins with the consistency that they were. But it’s equalized throughout the league and so we’re unrecognizable from the Bombshells of five years ago, for sure.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

Of course, having said all that, now Brooklyn or Manhattan will win by a hundred points this weekend. Nah, not likely. Especially not with these two squads. And whether the victor walks away with a win by 10 or a hundred points, both teams will know they’ve been in a war.

“It’s not possible to get out of a game unscathed, no matter who you’re playing, especially Manhattan, because they have such strength, and that leads to really strong offense, which is how the blockers get beat up,” Evilicious explains. “The jammers generally get beat up no matter what. That lends itself to a really taxing game, even if the audience can’t tell. So even with a hundred point spread, I think you do need triple digits before anyone can relax, because anything under that is a couple of jammer penalties, and as everyone’s seen this season with all our teams, you can rack up 30 points in a jam and your lead is a distant memory. So unless we can to a three-digit differential, which we haven’t see this year, no one’s gonna relax and everything is going to feel like a fight in every jam.”

That’s what derby fans want to see and hear. Now all that’s left is for Brooklyn and Manhattan to play for the championship. Not just of the league, but of each other.

Tickets for tomorrow available here.

Queens and the Bronx Get a Chance to End 2016 with a Win this Saturday

By Thomas Gerbasi

In sports, there’s nothing like a second chance, or in the case of the Bronx Gridlock, a fourth chance for a first win and third place in the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league standings. If those are a lot of numbers to digest, suffice to say that the Gridlock are unconcerned with the specifics of this Saturday’s bout against the Queens of Pain at John Jay College in NYC, only that when those numbers are tallied, they have more points than their opponents.

“This is kind of like the playoffs,” co-captain Back Alley Dred said. “There’s a team that can have a bad season, but then all of a sudden, boom, this is the playoff and this is what matters. So in some ways, this is our playoff. We don’t have four out of seven or three out of five, but it’s still that same idea of this is where it counts.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

Winless since May of 2014, the cabbies have had another rough year in 2016, but as is usually the case in such a competitive league, the scoreboard doesn’t always tell the whole story.

“We give people a run for their money,” said Dred. “No one ever walks away from a game with us and says, ‘That was so easy, we felt like we had it in the bag.’ And that’s a win in and of itself.”

That was certainly the case in April, when Queens defeated the Gridlock 200-159 in a bout that was a lot closer than that score would indicate.

“The game went back and forth and felt really close and really hard the whole time,” agreed Queens’ Tiny Apocalypse. When that bout was over, it looked like Queens was just getting warmed up for a spot in the GGRD championship game, but pivotal losses to Manhattan and Brooklyn dashed those hopes. Thankfully for the ladies in black, they too get another shot at finishing 2016 on a high note.

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

“We’re really lucky that we get that extra game and that the season isn’t over for us,” Paco said. “Looking back at the games we’ve already played, we get to take the things that we’ve learned and try to improve on any mistakes we’ve made and keep doing what we’re doing right. It’s a good way to start getting ready for next year.”

2017? Already?

“Not that this game isn’t also important, but we’ve already started thinking about next season,” she said. “We learned a lot from our last game against Brooklyn, and even though Bronx and Brooklyn are very different teams, we’re looking forward to taking what we learned from that game and capitalizing on opportunities against the Bronx where maybe we didn’t in our Brooklyn game. We just want to prove that this season, even though it looks like a rebuilding year for us because of all the new skaters, we’re pretty strong and we’re going to finish strong.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

The Bronx squad has the same motivation, and as Dred describes it, this isn’t the same team that lost to Queens four months ago.

“We played Queens early on, and we had just started working together,” she said. “Right now, we’re at that point where everybody is trusting each other on the track, having a feel for what our jammers want, how to play offense for them, how to stick together in the walls and communicate, and that’s what’s different for us. So we’ve been building after each and every game. Our walls are getting stronger, our jammers are getting better, and we’re working as a more cohesive unit. And this is just going to continually progress. This is one more step of us gelling together and a win would be fantastic.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

As for Queens, they’re also not counting on playing the same team they did in their season opener. They’re ready for a battle.

“I think every team is so close skillwise that playing a team one day versus playing a team a different day, whether it’s four months apart or a week apart, could produce a completely different outcome,” Paco said. “And I think we know that. We see it during the week when we have scrimmage nights and we saw their walls in their game at Coney Island against Manhattan and they looked really good. They were really strong, and they’re really different from us, so we know what we have to focus on. We have to focus on those differences, the difference in size, and their offensive style versus ours, and how we can make the most out of our strengths and take advantage of any of their weaknesses or mistakes.”

And just win. It may not be for the Golden Skate Trophy, but for two teams looking to exit the 2016 season with a victory, it could be even more important.

Tickets for Saturday are available here.

Brooklyn Gets Scare Before Vanquishing Queens

By Thomas Gerbasi

For a while in the July 16 bout between the Queens of Pain and the Brooklyn Bombshells at Abe Stark Arena in Coney Island, it looked like Queens was about to rebound from their lone loss of the year and secure yet another trip to the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league championship game on August 27.

But it was not to be, as a one-time 69-20 lead turned into a 179-152 loss that sent the unbeaten Bombshells to John Jay College for an opportunity to defend their title against the Manhattan Mayhem.

“It will definitely be a good matchup between our teams,” said Brooklyn MVP D.A.R.Y.L.  “It's going to be an intense game but it's a really great way to end the home team season.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

Queens, the four-time winners of the league’s Golden Skate Trophy, will now play the Bronx Gridlock in this Saturday’s third-place game. “It is always physically and mentally demanding to play Bronx,” said Queens’ MVP Pinky Swears. “We have very different styles of game play. Queens is about recycling and utilizing speed changes. Bronx plays a slow and controlled game with effective delayed offense, so you have to be on guard and ready to anticipate the next move. We joke they are ‘the Land of the Giants,’ whereas Queens is a fairly ‘vertically limited’ team in comparison.”

The idea of Queens playing this weekend and not in three weeks didn’t seem realistic early on in their battle with the Bombshells. Shortstop put up 48 of her team high 73 points in the early going, and soon, the ladies in black were up by nearly 50 points. Brooklyn was on the ropes, but not rattled.

“We were able to trust each other and our leadership that we were stronger than how we started the game,” D.A.R.Y.L. said.  “It only takes a jam or two to get back in the game, so we just kept our heads up and kept fighting.”

And while Queens aimed to put the nail in their rivals’ coffin, penalties allowed Brooklyn back in the game.  “We went into the game knowing we needed to remain calm and super focused to be able to pull off a win against the very challenging Brooklyn team,” Pinky said. “We were able to build a lead at the beginning, but as derby often proves, there is no such thing as a solid lead. Penalties, of course, are often what can win or lose a game. Even with getting lead 60 percent of the game, we had some trips to the penalty box that came at very critical moments, like during power jams, and we just weren't able to gain the traction we needed to jump ahead again.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

By the 20th jam of the bout, a 22-point effort from Miss Tea Maven gave Brooklyn an 87-73 lead,and while Queens superstar Suzy Hotrod put her squad up by 10 points at halftime, Brooklyn regained the advantage early in the second period and never let it go, setting up what should be a memorable championship game. Yet for the blue-clad bombshells, they expect it to be business as usual.

“I think that we're just going to keep doing what has been working for us,” D.A.R.Y.L. said. “Working hard, practicing our basic formations, and being mindful of penalties and staying clean.”   

PHOTO: ASA FRYE

PHOTO: ASA FRYE

QUEENS vs. BROOKLYN STATS

Queens 100 52 152

Brooklyn 90 89 179

Queens MVP – Pinky Swears

Brooklyn MVP – D.A.R.Y.L.

Leading Queens Scorers

Shortstop – 73 points (19 jams)

Suzy Hotrod – 72 points (20 jams)

Beauty Andie Beast – 7 points (6 jams)

Leading Queens Blockers

Puss ‘N Glutes – 31 jams (+20)

Livvie Smalls – 31 jams (-42)

Chopstick Murphy – 25 jams (+35)

Leading Brooklyn Scorers

Miss Tea Maven – 107 points (28 jams)

D.A.R.Y.L. – 51 points (14 jams)

Hela Skelter – 12 points (4 jams)

Leading Brooklyn Blockers

Sexy Slaydie – 37 jams (+89)

Lady Fingers – 28 jams (-13)

Papierschnitt – 25 jams (-30)

Queens Penalties

Minutes in Box: 35 Jammer Box Trips: 4

Brooklyn Penalties

Minutes in Box: 30 Jammer Box Trips: 4

Stats compiled via Rinxter

1 2 F

Mayhem in Coney Island, as Manhattan Earns Title Shot

By Thomas Gerbasi

First, the Manhattan Mayhem put a dent in Queens’ hopes for a return trip to the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league championship game. Then on July 16 at Abe Stark Arena in Coney Island, the orange-clad ladies put the stamp on their own ticket to the title bout with a 140-119 victory over the Bronx Gridlock.

The win capped off a 2-1 regular season for the Mayhem and sets up a showdown with the defending champs, the Brooklyn Bombshells, for the Golden Skate trophy on August 27 at John Jay College in NYC.

“Brooklyn vs. Manhattan is always a very physical game, but I think that the winner of that game will come down to who wins the mental game, which team remains the most calm,” said Manhattan MVP Veronica Ache. “During the season opener with Brooklyn, our team really struggled with penalties.  We have been working throughout the season to clean up our game and stay out of the box.  Our last two games, our penalties significantly dropped and no one fouled out during our last game.  Hopefully, we can carry that on to the championship bout.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

In that season opener, Brooklyn outlasted the Mayhem 153-148 instant classic. The Bombshells went on to win their next two and wrap up an unbeaten season, while Manhattan was forced into must-wins in their final two bouts. They fulfilled their end of the bargain, with the win over the Gridlock cementing their championship game slot.      

“The key to our victory against the Bronx was our ability to focus on playing our game and not be ruffled by their offense,” Ache said. “We knew that the Bronx had been playing a great deal of offense all season long, especially off the line.  So, we knew we just had to ignore their offense, step in front of it, give them a little bump back and focus on maintaining our strong four wall to contain their jammers, so that our jammers would have time to work and get free. Also, our chance to go to the championships was on the line during the bout, and I think that drove everyone to push harder and really lock it down.”        

Jumping out to a 20-0 lead thanks to Bruzin Brody’s efforts in the first jam of the game, Manhattan soon had to hold off a ferocious charge from the gutsy Gridlock, who were seeking their first win of the year. Kate Sera Sera put the Bronx ahead 33-24, but penalties would eventually allow Manhattan to soar ahead and stay there.

There would be one more big push in the second half, as the Gridlock cut the Mayhem lead to two thanks to a 43-10 run, but Manhattan got back on track and locked things down defensively in order to secure the victory. The loss put the cabbies at 0-3 for the 2016 regular season, but they never stopped fighting.  

“Gridlock's biggest takeaway from 2016 is our incredible potential,” said team MVP Fast and Luce. “We have had a taste of the success that comes with teamwork and dedication, and we definitely want more. The fight and heart that was with us every second of the season is exactly the spirit we are ready to lead with moving forward. We are ready to come into our own next season, building upon the solid foundation we have laid down throughout the year. I'm confident when I say we are more unified than ever before, which is going to be a key factor in the Cabbies' rise to power.” 

PHOTO: SEAN HALE

PHOTO: SEAN HALE

Unlike previous seasons, the teams that didn’t earn a place in the title game will get one more shot in this Saturday’s third-place bout, with the Gridlock facing the Queens of Pain.

“Fans can expect a fast-paced bout with a well-matched defensive performance,” Luce said. “Queens is an excellent opponent, and we look forward to the rematch.” Then three weeks later, it’s another rematch. This one is for all the marbles. Just the way Manhattan likes it.

“I am really glad how it played out,” Ache said. “It feels great to go into the championship bout and have a rematch against Brooklyn.”      

PHOTO: ASA FRYE

PHOTO: ASA FRYE

MANHATTAN vs. BRONX STATS

Manhattan 83 57 140

Bronx 62 57 119

Manhattan MVP – Veronica Ache

Bronx MVP – Fast and Luce

Leading Manhattan Scorers

Bruzin Brody – 47 points (11 jams)

J Rod – 42 points (12 jams)

Em Dash – 41 points (10 jams)

Leading Manhattan Blockers

Roxy Dallas – 22 jams (+48)

Bonita Apple Bomb – 22 jams (+21)

Sunshine Skate – 21 jams (+19)

Leading Bronx Scorers

Kate Sera Sera – 63 points (10 jams)

Legs / Cite – 21 points (5 jams)

Big Banger – 19 points (10 jams)

Leading Bronx Blockers

Fast and Luce – 19 jams (-33)

Caf Fiend – 19 jams (-34)

Cherry Napalm -17 jams (+11)

Manhattan Penalties

1 2 F

Minutes in Box: 34 Jammer Box Trips: 5

Bronx Penalties

Minutes in Box: 46 Jammer Box Trips: 10

Stats compiled via Rinxter

Manhattan and the Bronx Fight to Own the Track in Coney Island

By Thomas Gerbasi

Heading into the final weekend of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby’s home team regular season before the championship and third place games, a cut-and- dried title matchup between Brooklyn and Queens got a shake up when the Manhattan Mayhem upset Queens on June 11.

For the Mayhem’s Full Metal Jackie, she knew what was going to happen the moment she stepped into the locker room at John Jay College. And it had nothing to do with the idea of “staying alive” in the title race.

“When you say something like we need it in order to stay alive, that evokes a lot of desperation,” she said. “There is that reality, but I think fortunately, we didn’t allow ourselves to have that infiltrate that team mentality or even let it be recognized. Coming into that game and walking into the locker room and seeing my team’s faces staring back at me, there was a sense of calm and reassurance and an understanding that we have to get this done. That’s it. There was a goal, we had to achieve it, and there wasn’t any other way.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

Sixty minutes later, Manhattan skated away with a 192-187 win, and heading into this Saturday’s matchup with the Bronx Gridlock at Abe Stark Arena in Coney Island, another pivotal win could produce a three-way tie for two title bout spots, pending the outcome of the other doubleheader bout between Brooklyn and Queens.

That’s a lot to play for when it comes to the top three squads in the standings, but what of the Gridlock, who sit outside of the title party but have not played like it in their first two bouts, showing the parity of the league in 2016. It’s frustrating, but as Bronx standout Fast and Luce points out, that’s part of the gig as a GGRD skater.

“Every team has taken its turn rebuilding, growing, coming to a peak and then going through the cycle again, so that’s something we always keep in mind with the Bronx,” she said. “At this point, I think we’re really just trying to play the best game that we can play. We find a lot of success in scrimmages every week. I think the public games that we play only a few times a year are only part of the story for the Bronx. And I think that we’re just now realizing that when we play well and we play together, then that feels good and it feels like winning and that’s our main focus for how we’re preparing to go into this game against Mayhem.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

Saddled with an 0-2 slate heading into this bout, the Gridlock have not won a game since defeating Brooklyn in May of 2014. It’s been a painful drought, but one that the cabbies aren’t focusing on heading into the weekend, simply because they can erase that streak with a victory against Manhattan.

“We’re definitely a team that plays with a lot of heart, we give a hundred percent in every game and I think that we always go in with the hope that our work will pay off in that moment,” Luce said. “But it’s also derby and games go the way that they go, so it is a difficult thing to kind of pick your head up after a game time after time and experience so many losses in these last couple seasons. But if we feel that we play well and play our best and are together on the track and we’re executing all the things that we work on in practice, then you have to take away what you can from it, and leave the rest on the track.”

And would a win mark 2016 as a success?

“A win on Saturday would mean that we have improved over the season, that we looked at how we were performing in previous bouts and that we worked on specific goals in practice to get better as a team,” she said. “And I think anytime you’re successful at that - and a win this Saturday would absolutely tell us that we were successful in that way - we can go away from this season being happy with it. I think it would be a great wrap-up to the season if we could say that we pulled through in the end.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

The Mayhem are in a different place than the Gridlock though, and they have a different goal. In other words, they want to be playing someone on August 27 with the Golden Skate Trophy on the line. Does Metal have a preference if they make it that far?

“My preference is to play the most competitive and the most highly skilled team,” she said. “The team coming out of that game (Brooklyn vs. Queens) victorious is the obvious answer, so I’m looking forward to seeing who walks away from that, and I’m looking forward to playing them and beating them.”

But first, there’s the Gridlock, a squad whose championship game is a day away. “When preparing for Mayhem, we really have just been focusing on being prepared for their offensive skills and I think that both teams have good defense, so you can expect to see that matching up,” Luce said. “We always look to try to keep it calm and collected and Mayhem is a very chaos-driven team, with their offensive plays especially, so the Bronx is focusing more on the opposite of that and keeping cool and together on the track.”

Mayhem is fine with that, and if you think they’re focused on the end of August, think again. They’re just looking at taking it two minutes at a time, starting tomorrow night. “The game is just a series of two-minute segments, and how you play those two minutes and what you do in those two minutes can affect all your teammates,” Metal said. “So we try to play our hardest and our best for them. It’s all about concentration and where you allow your concentration to focus emotionally and physically. Going into this game, we’re focusing on each other and how we play. I feel that for any team, you are playing the way your team has been trained. If Bronx plays Manhattan’s style, then we will absolutely take it as a win and walk away victorious. But that’s always the biggest challenge – owning the track.”

More Coney Island Fireworks Expected in Brooklyn-Queens Clash

By Thomas Gerbasi

This Saturday’s Coney Island showdown between the defending Gotham Girls Roller Derby league champion Brooklyn Bombshells and the Queens of Pain at Abe Stark Arena was expected to be a clash of unbeatens that previews the August 27 home team title game.

Then Manhattan got in the way, defeating Queens in June and setting up the possibility of a three-way tie at the top pending the results of Saturday’s doubleheader. While it wasn’t a shock that Queens went from 1-0 to 1-1, it was a disappointment for the team and co-captain Livvie Smalls.

“We were disappointed because, of course, we wanted to win, but I don’t think we were surprised,” she said. “Everyone was pretty aware this year that the teams were closer than even they have been in recent years and that on any given game day, any team could rise up. We also know that Manhattan’s always a tough team, and I really feel like they step up when they play Queens so we definitely would have liked to win, but to say that we were surprised that they fought so hard, we’re never surprised at that.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

It’s a classy attitude to have, but at the same time, it does throw this weekend’s game into a new light. If both teams entered at 2-0, it would be an opportunity to perhaps test out some new strategies, get some bench players some more track time, and basically stay sharp for the title bout. Now, it’s a must win game. But as Livvie points out, with only three home games per season, every trip to the track is a must win.

“We play so few games that, in a way, we try to put all our energy into every single game,” she said. “There’s added pressure, but we want to be in that finals game and we want to win that finals game. So we want to lay the groundwork to show Brooklyn what they’re going to be up against and we want to win. I think we would have wanted to win anyway, but the added pressure is undeniable.”

As for the Bombshells, 2016 has basically been a continuation of 2015 – Eat, Sleep, Dominate, Repeat. Looking as good as they ever have, the team appears to be on their way to another title bout and, if they have their way, a repeat as champions. But one chat with All-Star jammer Miss Tea Maven and you’ll understand that their key to victory thus far has been staying humble.

“I don’t think we think we’re the greatest,” Maven said. “This league is so talented and every game is anybody’s game. A lot of times, it just depends on if the other team can play their game or not. And if both teams are on their game, it’s one or two points difference. So we need to stay humble in order to keep playing the game that we know and love to play. And another big contributing factor is our leadership. Our three captains do a fantastic job of organizing us and keeping us calm. We focus on the now and the moment, and once it gets closer to game time, we focus on what we need to do in that game. So while we’re proud of our accomplishments, it’s never a driving force, and it keeps us humble.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

What both teams can agree on though, is that Brooklyn vs. Queens always ends up being a special bout, filled with hard hits, high-scoring jams and Cyclone-worthy ups and downs. As such, don’t expect either team to come in mentally unprepared.

“I think we’ve been mentally preparing for this for a while, pretty much straightaway since the Manhattan game, and it definitely feels like we’re in the mental place that we want to be,” Livvie said. “The biggest thing for us is that when we’ve been playing together, we looked fantastic and were a challenge for any of the home teams. So mentally, we’ve really tried to focus on having Queens look inside, rather than looking too much at what Brooklyn’s going to do, play our game, play together, and stay out of the box.”

“Every game is a new game, every jam is a new jam,” Maven added. “Every time I take the line, it’s 0-0. If we win our next game, then we’re absolutely in, but we’re not guaranteed at this point. So everyone’s gunning for everybody.”

As the favorites though, does Maven have a preference if Brooklyn makes it to the Big Dance? “We’re going to be ready for any team at any time,” she said. “So I don’t know if we have a preference. Each team has its own unique style of play. Manhattan is much stronger and has a hard-hitting, aggressive style of play, and Queens is a lot slower, but controlled, and they recycle really well and they use a more strategic style, so it’s more organized. But Manhattan is one of the most intense teams you can play.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

In other words, it doesn’t matter. Just bring ‘em on. And should Brooklyn become the first team to repeat as GGRD home team champions since the Bronx Gridlock did it in 2009-10, what would that mean for the Bombshells?

“When we repeat as champions, I’m just going to look at the team and say, ‘All right, now we’re going to be the first team ever to win three in a row.’”

Mayhem Shake Title Picture Up with Win over Queens

by Thomas Gerbasi

For the home teams of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league, it’s a whole new world after the Manhattan Mayhem’s 192-187 victory over the Queens of Pain at John Jay College on June 11. Expected by many to pick up their second win of the season and sail into an August championship showdown with the unbeaten defending champions from Brooklyn, Queens instead met a team unwilling to see their dreams of a title end in June.

Now it’s all down to this Saturday’s Coney Island doubleheader to determine which teams move on to the title bout and which start focusing on next season. And Manhattan (1-1) and Queens (1-1) are both eager to get a win and make a statement.

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

“I can't wait to play against Gridlock,” said Manhattan’s Em Dash of her squad’s showdown with the 0-2 Gridlock. “They're a team of really excellent skaters, many of whom are taller and bigger than my teammates, so it's always a really intensely physical game. That said, our jammers are used to being beaten up. Mayhem beats up our jammers every Sunday, and not a lot of people hit harder than Bonita, Violet, Sunny, and Roxy. And as you might have noticed, Cork Rebel was back on skates (on June 11), so with any luck we'll have our full team for the July 16 bout as well. It feels so much better to have our whole team skating.”

“The team is looking forward to skating against Brooklyn,” Queens jammer Shortstop said. “They beat us twice last year so we are looking to change that this time around. The game against Mayhem has made us even more hungry to take a win.”

Despite losing last season’s championship game to the Bombshells, Queens have been one of the most dominant teams in the league for a long time, and their season opening win over the Bronx only cemented that reputation. But the Mayhem, which lost a three-point heartbreaker to Brooklyn in their first bout of 2016, were ready for the challenge, with team MVP Dash thrilled about her squad’s performance.

“We played a calm, happy game and exhibited great teamwork,” she said. “Our jammers stayed focused and used incredible footwork to zip through tiny holes in Queens' defense. Overall, our team played one of the cleanest games I can remember; it's easier to play well when you have a full pack and a jammer on the track.”

And while a small difference of five jammer box trips to Queens’ seven, and 35 penalty box minutes to their opponent’s 42 may not sound like much, in a close game, it can speak volumes.

“I don't believe anything went wrong against Mayhem, but our penalty times are something we can improve for our Brooklyn game,” Shortstop said.

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

Nip and tuck throughout, both teams let their offenses do the talking, leading to the highest scoring bout of the year thus far, with Queens MVP Shortstop leading the way with 102 points and Bruzin Brody putting up 63 points on the board.

The veteran Dash, who is approaching the one-year anniversary of the publication of Derby Life, a book readers have come to consider the flat track derby bible, chipped in 57 points, and she makes no bones about it – a high-scoring game is a lot more fun for the fans and the jammers.

“I cut my teeth on a version of derby that was a lot faster and more chaotic than the current version, so I love a fast pack and a bit of offense,” she said. “Juking around a talented blocker is one of the best feelings in the world.” 

Appropriately, it was Dash who was on the track for two pivotal jams in the second half, first scoring 14 points to turn a seven-point Queens lead into a seven-point advantage for her squad.

Then three jams later, Dash added 25 points in a single jam that put Manhattan up 148-121. Shortstop and Suzy Hotrod made a late surge for the ladies in black, but came up five points short, setting the stage for a photo finish in one of the most interesting seasons in GGRD history.

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

QUEENS vs. MANHATTAN STATS

1 2 F

Queens 82 105 187

Manhattan 91 101 192

Queens MVP – Shortstop

Manhattan MVP – Em Dash

Leading Queens Scorers

Shortstop – 102 points (21 jams)

Suzy Hotrod – 60 points (16 jams)

Kitty Roadkill – 14 points (7 jams)

Leading Queens Blockers

Puss ‘n Glutes – 31 jams (+34)

Livvie Smalls – 29 jams (-24)

Chopstick Murphy – 26 jams (-14)

Leading Manhattan Scorers

Bruzin Brody – 63 points (14 jams)

Em Dash – 57 points (13 jams)

J Rod – 46 points (14 jams)

Tickets for the 7/16 doubleheader in Coney Island are available here.

Queens and Manhattan are Well Prepared for Their Saturday Night Showdown

By Thomas Gerbasi

Brooklyn and Manhattan always bring it, especially against each other. Queens is a ferocious machine on the flat track. And the Bronx refuses to go away without a fight. Yet despite all this goodness Gotham Girls Roller Derby league fans have seen thus far in 2016, there’s a feeling that given the stakes involved and the usual intensity from both teams, this Saturday’s bout between the Queens of Pain and the Manhattan Mayhem may just produce the best action of the year.

Think about it. Queens looked championship-bound given their opening win over the Gridlock, and Manhattan may have lost on the scoreboard to the Bombshells in their first game of the season, but that three-point defeat didn’t stop anyone from looking at them as one of the best teams in the league. And now they meet, with Queens a win away from clinching a championship rematch with Brooklyn in August, and Manhattan hungry to keep their title dreams alive, something that can only happen with a victory. It’s high noon at John Jay College in NYC this weekend, and both teams know it.

“We always expect that kind of (intense game) from Manhattan,” said Queens’ Erin Watershow. “They’ve always been a really strong and tough team, and whenever we play them, at least the past few years, it’s always been an intense and tough game.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

Adding to the intensity is the reality that with each team only getting three home games, one loss can be critical. It’s not the ideal situation, but it’s one every team has to deal with.

“This is my ninth full season with Gotham, so I’m certainly used to it by now,” said Manhattan’s Em Dash. “But I wish we got a chance to play each other more. We scrimmage once a week, we practice three to four times a week, and only getting a chance to put it all on the line three times is hard. I would love to play every team a bunch of times all season long, but it’s just not practical. So you do what you can, you bring a hundred percent to every single game, and it is what it is.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

That’s the bad news for local derby fans. The good news is that with so much on the line every night, each bout takes on a championship feel. It’s not like major league baseball, where each team has 162 games to play with. This is like combat sports, where a fighter has eight weeks of training to perform on one night. You either get it right or you don’t. If you do, the glory is yours. You don’t, and it’s a long wait for a shot at redemption.

“Especially because I’ve jammed a lot for Mayhem, the idea that you have one night to show everything you’ve worked for and show what your team can do can be really hard,” Dash explains. “So the thing that has made the biggest difference in my game is building up mental skills, focusing on the moment I’m in and just letting go of anything that’s come before, whether it’s losing the previous game by three points or the last jam we didn’t get lead. Everything that’s happened already is gone; all we have is the next moment. And I think that’s the only way to succeed in a season that has so few opportunities to show what you’re made of. It’s just focusing on every moment and making the most of each moment you have.”

This is the beauty of derby. It’s not a bunch of skaters racing around a track hitting each other. It’s so much more than that. In a lot of ways, it’s a chess match on eight wheels, with every skater forced to not just deal with the physicality of the sport, but the strategy, the reality of playing offense and defense at the same time, and doing it all while on skates.

“It’s hard to put a number on it, but this is an incredibly mental game,” Dash said. “And once you develop certain baseline skills, what separates a pretty good player from a phenomenal player, like a Bonnie Thunders, is your knowledge of the game, your ability to put that knowledge into action while people are hitting you, knocking you down and chasing you around the track. And it’s also your ability to reset, shake off a bad jam and focus on what’s coming next. All of those mental skills are critical.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

But perhaps the most important mental skill is making sure that your eyes are focused on what’s in front of you and not what may be down the road. That goes for every sport, and while Erin admits that she and her team are gunning for a rematch with Brooklyn in August, there may not be an August if they don’t get the job done this weekend.

“I would say we’re definitely thinking about Brooklyn because we know that they’re going to be at Champs, but we’re definitely more focused on the game right now,” Erin said. “The focus since we played the Bronx has been on Manhattan. We haven’t talked about Brooklyn too much because Manhattan’s a really tough team and we are by no means underestimating them at all.”

That may be the biggest key to the dominance of a Queens team that has been near or at the top of the league for years, regardless of team turnover.

“Something I know from my experiences in derby, not just with Queens, but in general, is that I think you should never go into a bout expecting to win,” Erin said. “Never take your opponents for granted, even if you’re really confident that you’re the stronger team. Don’t underestimate them. And I would also say that Queens really prides itself on how hard we work and how many hours we put in. Our land drills are really hard and intense, and our team’s attendance is always very high. We’re very dedicated, and that is also one of the secrets to Queens’ success, even with all the internal personnel changes.”

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

PHOTO: DAVID DYTE

So who wins the mental battle? Does Manhattan’s camaraderie on and off the track put them back in the championship race, or will Queens continue to take out all comers on their way to another title bout? This one may just come down to who is willing to dig down deep and win a dogfight. But then again, both of these teams are down for a good ol’ fashioned throwdown.

“There’s just something really rewarding and exciting about a really hard and tough game,” Erin said. “Even if you don’t win, you can be proud of the way that you played. Blowouts in derby are great if you’re winning, but it’s not nearly as rewarding in the end. So as much as it’s emotionally stressful for me, I would still prefer a close game. It’s more fun to play and it’s more fun to watch.”

Tickets available here.