Let’s Play Two – Title Challengers Get Acquainted in Coney Island

They’ve already stamped their ticket to the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league home team championship game, but before the Queens of Pain and the Brooklyn Bombshells head to John Jay College on August 29, they will first meet in the second game of the GGRD doubleheader at the Abe Stark Arena in Coney Island on Saturday.

The bout poses an interesting dilemma for both squads. Is this an opportunity to come out all guns blazing and send a message to their opponents, or is it a chance to simply stay sharp and test out strategies against the team they will face for all the marbles in a month?

With both teams holding an unbeaten record and wanting to keep it that way, expect the usual level of intensity, along with some serious scouting going on at the same time.

“We’re absolutely not looking at it as just another game,” said Queens’ Whiskey Lullabye. “We want an undefeated season – that is our number one goal – and we think we have a chance to do that. So we’re going into this game with just as much seriousness as we went into our first two games of the season.”

“[The Bombshells] have trained really hard and the tone of the season is a very serious one,” adds Brooklyn’s Lady Fingers. “We have been meshing really well and we go into every game with the intention of winning and playing our best, so even though it’s like having the same game twice, we may be trying some other stuff out. Because we’re going to be facing them again, it’s good litmus test to see what’s working really well and what’s not working, and then have some more time to focus on those things before the championship game.”

Competing against each other in the league’s first BQE title game, Brooklyn and Queens have taken similar paths to the final, each having trouble with the Manhattan Mayhem while having less so against the Bronx Gridlock. Seeing Queens in the championship is not surprising, given their 6–2 record over the last two seasons heading into their 2015 campaign. And if the veteran squad does one thing better than most derby teams, it’s adjust on the fly. So if Brooklyn thought they were going to catch the ladies in black napping next month, this weekend’s bout will likely kill any chance of that happening.

“Any mistakes that we might make in this game, we’re going to be able to learn from because we’re playing them again,” Whiskey said. “Any mistakes that they make, we’re going to be able to hopefully exploit and capitalize on because we’re going to play them again. So we’re going to get a good indication of what that final game is like, and we’re going to know what we need to work on to win that championship game.”

The Bombshells, league champs in 2011, had always been the league’s loveable underdogs up until that memorable season four years ago, and while that tag always stung the skaters, as Fingers points out, “I think it’s safe to say those days are over.”

Brooklyn did enter 2015 off a 2014 season that saw them go winless, so maybe those underdog whispers were coming back, but with B. Zerk and Hela Skelter returning to the track, Sexy Slaydie intimidation of opposing jammers and Miss Tea Maven continuing to cement her status as one of the league’s elite scorers, the Bombshells got their groove back.

“There wasn’t much that needed to be changed,” Fingers said when discussing the team’s plan of attack for 2015. “After every game last season, we would come back to the locker room and I would say ‘I’m proud of the way we played, I think we played an excellent game, I’m proud of all my teammates, and we felt really good about our performance.’ We knew there were minor tweaking issues and we had the same attitude coming into this season. We know we’re a great team, we know we have great defense, we know we do all these things well – let’s just fine-tune the areas that we thought were not as ideal. People were really excited about this season.”

And with good reason, as the GGRD home season has been more competitive and evenly matched than ever before. In the NFL, they used to call it parity. In derby, suffice to say that when everyone’s playing at the highest level of the game, it’s the smallest details that make the difference.

This Saturday, it’s not a championship bout, but it will feel like one, and don’t think for a moment that every hit and every point scored won’t be remembered come August. This will be no calm before the storm.

Written by: Thomas Gerbasi