With each team having one game in the books, the Brooklyn Bombshells and Bronx Gridlock come to that familiar crossroads this Saturday at John Jay College in Manhattan. It’s an odd thing to say after just a single bout, but with each squad in the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league only getting three home games per season, this second matchup has the potential to determine an ultimate outcome for 2015.
For the Bombshells, who broke a losing streak that lasted over a season when they won a nailbiter over Manhattan back in March, a victory this weekend could conceivably secure a spot in the 2015 championship game. For the Gridlock, who dropped an April bout to the Queens of Pain, a win gives their season new life, while a loss will likely eliminate them from a title run.
In Las Vegas, they call that high stakes. In New York, it’s just another week for the Gotham Girls, and despite opposite outcomes in their initial 2015 bouts, this is as evenly matched showdown as you will find—though one Brooklyn believes they will emerge victorious from.
“We’ve had a longer period of time to go back and watch our own footage, so we can really deconstruct the areas of strength and weakness that we had during the Manhattan game,” said the Bombshells’ ShadowboxHer. “We’ve had a lot of time to focus on things like being able to defend against a power jam and how we can be more effective offensively. Secondly, we’ve had the advantage of watching Bronx play very recently and because of that, I think it’s going to be more indicative to how they’re going to be playing on Saturday, as opposed to us, who have been able to really grow and develop since our first game.”
An interesting point: one might think that the team who played more recently would have the edge, simply because they’ve had less time to get back into game shape and more consistent time staying sharp. About the only negative of making a quick turnaround is that any injuries have not had time to heal, but Shadow believes whether you’ve had six weeks or six months, some things stick with a team.
“As far as healing the aches and pains, I’m gonna put it out there that I don’t think a derby girl ever heals her aches and pains,” she laughs. “I think you would have to go on a yearlong sabbatical to even start to heal. So as far as physically, I think we’re coming at it from an equal standpoint.”
Maybe overall, but Bronx did suffer a key loss when the MVP from the Queens game, Massacre Marie, broke her leg the week after the bout. The good news is that she expects to be back by the end of the summer. The bad is that she won’t be on the track this weekend. That doesn’t mean she’s not helping her squad though, as she’s been at practice becoming another set of eyes for her teammates.
“It’s a lot easier to get a read on some of the smaller aspects of what could be going better and there’s definitely an advantage to sitting and taking time to see what’s going on from the outside,” Marie said. “We take notes, and aside from the videos that are taken at scrimmages and practices, we’re able to give real-time feedback. It’s a lot easier to see something, tell your teammates and have them fix it as quickly as possible.”
And with the largest contingent of All-Stars in the league on the Gridlock, that feedback is taken in and digested quickly, with the results showing up on the track almost immediately. So while penalties and communication issues hampered the Bronx attack against Queens, that’s not the case leading up to the Brooklyn bout.
“We have a worked on communication a lot; our move to offense has become much sharper; and our teamwork as a whole in terms of coming together and knowing each other and how we play,” Marie said. “That’s what has increased in terms of getting much better and stronger. So the more we play together, the better we become overall, and it’s just a matter of specifically focusing on some of the strategies that we needed to tweak a little bit more, and we’ve definitely been working on that. It’s something that we have been putting into practice and that has gotten better each week.”
You might have assumed that having seven GGRD All-Stars would guarantee a spot in the title game, but in derby, teamwork is always the key, and that often takes a while to come together, especially with a bunch of new skaters playing together for the first time. That’s not the case with Brooklyn, which only has two new skaters, and also brought two veteran Bombshells back into the fold in the form of Hela Skelter and B.Zerk.
“I think it’s the team mentality that the stars are completely aligned right now,” said Shadow. “We fought really hard last year and worked really hard, but it doesn’t even compare to what we felt going into this season. Just having the two of them back on the team in full capacity has just been a physical and mental motivator for us. They’re two incredibly strong, positive women and big driving forces on the track.
“As far as Bronx having a ton of All-Stars and the Amazons of the league, I think Brooklyn has the secret talent,” she continues. “We may not have as many skaters who wear All-Star jerseys, but we have so many women on this team that have skills that meet the elite level of roller derby.”
And for those like Shadow, who went through an entire season winless with the Bombshells in 2014, getting that taste of victory in March was something she enjoyed so much that she’d like to make it a habit.
“It was the first win I’ve been able to celebrate with my team and it was honestly the best feeling in the entire world,” she said. “I have never felt that sense of joy. The game [against Manhattan] was such a nailbiter and it could have gone either way. We had to pull out everything we could and band together as a team, so we fought as a team and won as a team and it was an amazing feeling. To this day, I’ll think about it and just smile to myself. I hope that we’re able to continue this streak because this is the Year of the Bombshell. The Manhattan game was a start and we’ll do it again on Saturday, and again against Queens [on July 18th]. We’re a tough team this year. We’re no joke.”
The Gridlock aren’t laughing because they know they’re in for a fight. But they’re also aware that all it takes is one win and they’re back to where they want to be.
“It [the loss to Queens] was something we weren’t expecting, but we didn’t take it as an absolute downfall. We knew we had a lot of room to grow.”
On Saturday, the true test arrives.
Written by: Thomas Gerbasi