Brooklyn and Manhattan Play for the Championship of Each Other Tonight

By Thomas Gerbasi

On paper, a league’s third-place game is, well, the third-place game. But when the Brooklyn Bombshells face the Manhattan Mayhem tonight at John Jay College in NYC, it will likely feel like a championship game three weeks before the Queens of Pain and Bronx Gridlock do it for real on August 25.

 PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

Why is that, you may ask? Is this just pre-game hype to get you into the city on a Saturday night? Well, if you’re reading this, you know precisely why there will be a championship intensity between the Bombshells and Mayhem, and it’s been something repeated over and over in this space for years.

But for the uninitiated, whether they play each other in April or August, Manhattan and Brooklyn always play as if the Golden Skate trophy is up for grabs. I’ve asked skaters about it every year, and no one can put a finger on it, but suffice to say that theclash of blue and orange produces magic on the track year after year after year.

This season has been no different, with May’s regular season meeting between the league powerhouses delivering another nailbiter, with Brooklyn edging Manhattan 169-164. That’s in keeping with tradition, as Brooklyn has now won five of sevenmeetings with the Mayhem since 2013, with the total margin of victory being 37 points. Average winning advantage? 5.2 points.

Sure, most games of this nature are an opportunity for the skaters to hit the track one more time with their home team, maybe try out some new strategies and make sure not to enter the post-season with any injuries. In this case, there will be no stone left unturned in search of victory and no figurative punches pulled for 60 minutes.

It’s Brooklyn. It’s Manhattan. And it’s like the great sportswriter Jerry Izenberg said of the trilogy between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier: by the time they made it to Manila in 1975, they were fighting for the championship of each other.

There’s no Golden Skate up for grabs tonight, but Brooklyn and Manhattan are playing for their own title. And there’s no third-place about it.

Tickets for tonight are available here.  

Everything Matters When GGRD Hits Coney Island This Saturday

By Thomas Gerbasi

When it comes to the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league home season and the two teams that will play for the Golden Skate trophy next month, Coney Island is where all the fun happens this Saturday, and how appropriate is that? Next to the Cyclone, Wonder Wheel and all the other rides and attractions, the premier skaters in the sport will battle it out before what is expected to be a packed house at Abe Stark Arena in Brooklyn.

And while the annual doubleheader always delivers thrills and high-level derby, this time around, it’s a race between the four home teams that can produce any number of outcomes when it comes to the title picture.

The Queens of Pain have continued to be the juggernaut they’ve been for years, yet while they’ve been the bridesmaids several times recently, they are determined to be the bride and win their first GGRD title in five years in 2018. At 2-0, they’ve secured their spot in the August 25th title game at John Jay College, because even with a loss to Brooklyn and a win by the Bronx, their June win over the Gridlock breaks that three-way tie.

 PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

But that’s where things get interesting among the other three squads.

The resurgent Gridlock sit at 1-1 heading into their matchup with Manhattan, and a win over the Mayhem, coupled with a loss by Brooklyn, will set up a championship rematch with Queens next month.

And though the Mayhem have struggled thus far this season, the winless squad could salvage everything should they defeat the Gridlock and watch Brooklyn fall to Queens. That would produce a three-way tie for the final spot in the championship game, with the other half of the title bout matchup being determined by overall point differential.

 PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

As for the defending champions getting a home game in Brooklyn, the Bombshells bounced back from a season opening loss to the Bronx in March to win a nail biter over Manhattan in May. And while defeating Queens is a big task, in their last meeting in 2017, Brooklyn earned their third league title with a 162-158 victory.

In short, all bets are off in Coney Island this weekend, and each game matters. So when the dust settles, we’ll have two teams in the championship game, two in August 4th’s third-place contest, and a lot of happy derby fans on the boardwalk.

Tickets for tomorrow's double header are available here 

Queens and Bronx Go Back to the Future This Saturday

By Thomas Gerbasi

Once upon a time in the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league, there were two teams and everybody else.

 PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA 

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA 

From the first league title bout in 2005 until 2010, six champions were crowned. Three Golden Skate trophies went to the Bronx Gridlock and three went to the Queens of Pain.

Queens was a juggernaut with a brutally effective pack that opened lanes for Suzy Hotrod and Hyper Lynx while also shutting down opposing jammers. The Bronx were like a well-oiled machine, rarely making mistakes on the track as Bonnie Thunders piled up the points.

Brooklyn and Manhattan wouldn’t get into the act until 2011 and 2012, respectively, and in the last five years, those squads have won four of the five GGRD league titles.

 PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

But on Saturday at John Jay College in NYC, it may be a case of the league going back to the future, as Queens and the Bronx put their unbeaten 2018 records on the line in a bout that may very well be a championship game preview.

Having the ladies in black in the title race is never a surprise, as they are perennial contenders to be the last team standing, with their consistency and well-rounded attack always something to pay attention to.

But seeing the Gridlock in this spot has been a surprise considering the hard times they’ve gone through in previous seasons. Remember, this is a team that went through a three-year losing streak before snapping that last season, yet in their first bout of 2018, a 185-136 win over the defending champion Bombshells, was an eye opener and perhaps the start of their first championship season since 2010.

Eight years is a long time, but Queens’ five-year wait for a championship may feel even longer considering that they’ve come so close so many times over the last few years. But with the core from the glory years (Suzy, Lynx, Ana Bollocks) still delivering the goods and setting the stage for the newer members of the roster to do their thing on the track, Queens is still a top contender, which was evident in their one-sided 191-98 win over Manhattan in April.

So is it Queens’ experience and consistency or the Bronx’ size and hunger that gets it done in NYC this weekend? They’ve got 60 minutes to figure it out. Just like the good ‘ol days.

Tickets for tomorrow’s game are available here 

 

Championship Intensity in May, as Brooklyn and Manhattan Look to Keep Title Dreams Alive

By Thomas Gerbasi

The names change, as they do every year, but when the Brooklyn Bombshells and Manhattan Mayhem take the track, the result is almost always something special, and those expectations are still there for Saturday’s matchup at John Jay College in NYC.

Yet while both teams have always delivered on bout night, this year, the two squads enter with a little more urgency after losing their season openers. The defending champion Bombshells were on the wrong end of a 185-136 score against the Bronx Gridlock on March 17, and Mayhem dropped a 191-98 nod to the Queens of Pain.

 PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

In most sports, we could call that an easily rectifiable slow start to 2018. In the Gotham Roller Derby league home season, in which each team only gets three games to earn a spot in the championship bout, one loss makes the next game a must win. Two losses and you’re thinking about next year.

So there should be championship game-level intensity on the track this weekend, with the winner staying in the hunt for the Golden Skate trophy, and the atmosphere at John Jay should match that intensity.

But who wins?

Penalties are always a vicious determinant of which team emerges victorious when the whistle blows, and that goes for all roller derby games. Mayhem were particularly hurt by ten jammer box trips against Queens, with a reasonable 30-point halftime deficit turning into an insurmountable one thanks to a 57-0 run by Queens to kick off the second half.

Manhattan is also still getting used to the loss of veteran Em Dash and the defensive 1-2 punch of Roxy Dallas and Violet Knockout.But with five GGRD All-Stars on the track (Bonita Apple Bomb, Giles, Brawleen Lidz, Cork Rebel, Lumiknoxity, Spork Chop), including the team’s co-captain Bonita, as well as Cork and Giles, both of whom had excellent performances in the opener, their ability to get back in championship form should come sooner rather than later.

That should also be the case for Brooklyn, a team that has always found a way to fight back from adversity, thanks to a veteran core of Papierschnitt, Raggedy Animal and Lady Fingers, all of whom have battled together for the Bombshells for several years. And when you add one of the game’s greatest blockers – Donna Matrix – and one of its premier jammers – All-Star Miss Tea Maven – as well as two more All-Stars in D.A.R.Y.L. and Space Invader, this once again becomes one of the most evenly matched bouts you will find in a league that has celebrated its parity.

But if you need a little more proof for how close Saturday’s bout between the two teams who have each won three GGRD league titles will be, consider the history, where Brooklyn has won four of six bouts since 2013, with the total margin of victory being 32 points. Total. That’s an average winning advantage of 5.3 points.

Sure, numbers don’t always tell the whole story, but when it comes to Brooklyn and Manhattan they say all that needs to be said. In other words, find a ticket and get to John Jay on Saturday night. 

Tickets for Saturday available here.

Queens Looks Sharp in Season Opening Win over Mayhem

By Thomas Gerbasi / additional reporting by Hewlett Smackard

A dominant 2017 season for the Queens of Pain ended with a four-point overtime loss to the Brooklyn Bombshells in the Gotham Girls Roller Derby championship game. Eight months later, any lingering effects from the defeat were extinguished in the space of 60 minutes at John Jay College last Saturday, as the ladies in black broke open a close game with a second-half surge that saw them soar past the Manhattan Mayhem, 191-98.

 PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA  

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA  

"I think what happened was that the team really came together,” said Queens captain Livvie Smalls. “I really feel like this was a team win; we ran all of our skaters tonight and everyone contributed.”

It was the boost Queens needed, especially after losing the likes of Shortstop and Puss ‘n Glutes in the off-season. But with newcomers such as Stephinity and Beyond stepping up, the team appears to be right on target for another championship run in 2018.

"We drafted some really fantastic skaters like Stephinity and Beyond,” said Livvie.“It's hard to fill the tiny but mighty shoes of Shortstop, but she looked amazing tonight. Beast [Beauty Andie Beast] looked amazing. Suzy (Hotrod) obviously is amazing and I think the jammer crew as a group really stepped up to fill those shoes. And then we still have Puss on the bench,so that calm presence with all of that experience is still with us.”

 PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

Manhattan also had its share of turnover, with Roxy Dallas, Violet Knockout and Em Dash all missing from the track, but the Mayhem defense still held strong in the first half, staying within striking distance of Queens. Seven jammer box trips in the opening 30 minutes didn’t help Manhattan’s cause, though.

"They had some penalty trouble and I think that with any team that has to play down, it's very hard to keep yourself as cool and composed as when you're ahead,” said Queens MVP Suzy. “It's a lot easier to be cool and composed when you're not fighting to get back. So we were really fortunate to begin the second half ahead - 30 points in derby is not really anything. But then we had a really good trajectory. They lost a player (when Giles fouled out) and that's really hard to recover from mentally.”

Up 79-49, Queens blitzed Manhattan to begin the second half, reeling off 57 unanswered points to put the game out of reach.

 PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA 

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA 

“Queens played very cohesive and it was just a little chaotic for Mayhem,” said Manhattan MVP Cork Rebel. “Something Mayhem can take away from this game is to basically try to play a calmer game, have more communication -- we have great cohesiveness during practice. I think it was just a very weird thing. It didn't feel like us, basically.”

On May 5, Mayhem faces Brooklyn, while Queens’ second trip to the track will be against the Bronx on June 9.

 PHOTO DAVID DYTE

PHOTO DAVID DYTE

QUEENS vs. MANHATTAN STATS

12F

Queens79112191

Manhattan494998

Queens MVP – Suzy Hotrod

Manhattan MVP – Cork Rebel

Leading Queens Scorers

Beauty Andie Beast – 80 points (15 jams)

Suzy Hotrod – 63 points (16 jams)

Stephinity and Beyond – 33 points (12 jams)

Leading Queens Blockers

Livvie Smalls – 22 jams (+54)

Nail Diamond – 21 jams (+82)

Kitty Roadkill – 20 jams (+8)

Low Maim – 20 jams (-10)

Leading Manhattan Scorers

Giles – 38 points (13 jams)

Cork Rebel – 28 points (6 jams)

Kid Vicious – 19 points (12 jams)

Leading Manhattan Blockers

Spork Chop – 25 jams (-60)

Bonita Apple Bomb – 24 jams (-67)

Knightmare – 21 jams (+5)

Queens Penalties

Minutes in Box: 28 Jammer Box Trips: 4

Manhattan Penalties

Minutes in Box: 39 Jammer Box Trips: 10

Stats compiled via Rinxter

Queens and Manhattan Get a Fresh Start on Saturday

By Thomas Gerbasi

It’s a safe bet that no two teams want to turn the page on the 2017 season and move on to their 2018 opener at John Jay College on Saturday more than the Queens of Pain and Manhattan Mayhem.

 PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

Last year, Queens romped over the rest of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league, putting together one of the most dominant regular seasons in recent memory. But what seemed to be a done deal and a fifth league title came crashing down in heartbreaking fashion when they lost in overtime to the Brooklyn Bombshells in the GGRD title game.

As for Manhattan, their quest to retain their league title and repeat as champs hit the skids early, with only a win over the Bronx Gridlock in the 2017 third-place game keeping them from a winless season.

“For me, personally, it was a big shock because I was injured for a lot of it, and I think for the team as well, it was a bit of a blow,” said Mayhem veteran Maddog. “Also, we weren’t at full strength for a lot of last season. So I think that (the 2017 season) was just us trying to make the best of not having full numbers.”

It’s what can happen over the course of a three-game home season, and while it’s great for the fans, knowing that every game has the intensity of a championship bout, for the players, it’s a situation where one bad night can affect the entire season. But Maddog embraces that pressure.

“I think it’s a blessing because that ‘what if’ that anything can happen is part of the mental edge of being an athlete and rolling with those punches and adjusting to the unknown that you can’t predict,” she said.

 PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

That unknown is just around the corner, with fans waiting to see what each team will bring to the track. The teams don’t know what will happen on bout night either, but they have gotten a feel for each other in practice, where scrimmages are often as intense as the games.

“There’s a lot of respect for Queens and how hard they work and the game that they play,” Maddog said. “But I also think that there’s a lot of competition between Mayhem and Queens. There’s a lot of love – I love a lot of people on Queens, but you always want to beat your friends and you don’t want them to beat you. It’s part of what makes it fun. There’s mutual respect, but at the same time we really want to beat them.”

Only one will get that win and start the season off the right way. The team that doesn’t leave the track with the win will then have an uphill battle the rest of the way. Again, it’s the beauty of the Gotham home season, and Maddog believes this one will be something to see.

“I think this season in particular, just with the way people are playing in scrimmages and the strategies that teams are incorporating, you’re gonna see a different style of derby, especially when it comes to jam starts,” she said. “There’s a different vibe now. Having footage accessible to the teams has been super great and an important tool for us to try and figure out what they’re thinking. It’s going to be a really interesting game.”

 PHOTO JEAN SCHWARZWALDER

PHOTO JEAN SCHWARZWALDER

But who’s going to win and make a run for the title?

“We like even numbers,” said Maddog, whose Mayhem squad has won titles in 2012, 2014 and 2016. It’s 2018.

She laughs.

“Even numbers are our jam.”

Tickets available for tomorrow's game here 

Gridlock Assemble! The Bronx Send Message to League with Win over Brooklyn

By Thomas Gerbasi / additional reporting by Hewlett Smackard

Last season, the Bronx Gridlock were the hard luck gang of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league, always competitive but still in the position where the primary goal was to break a three-year losing streak. They did that last July, and in the GGRD season opener at John Jay College in NYC, they opened their 2018 campaign with a statement-making 185-136 win over the defending champion Brooklyn Bombshells.

That statement? This ain’t the same Gridlock anymore.

 PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

“I think we were just ready,” said Bronx captain Fast and Luce. “Bronx was completely ready to be in that winning position. We've been training for many seasons now to get to that place and we all just came back to the season - even our new people we drafted - with the understanding that we were going to work with a single goal in mind and that was to really dominate the track.”

Mission accomplished, at least on March 17, when they led from whistle to whistle, buoyed by the scoring attack of GGRD All-Star Kate Sera Sera, a member who is rapidly emerging as one of the league’s top jammers.

“I come in expecting to make points with every jam,” said Kate, who logged a game high 101 points. “When you look at [our] defense and what it's been doing throughout — I didn't have any doubt in my mind that the defense was going to hold. We're going to make points. You know we're good at finding where the points are while holding back the others.”

 PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

In such a high scoring contest, it’s easy to forget the defensive end of the equation, but the tight-knit defensive unit of the Cabbies was able to limit the high-octane Brooklyn offense when it counted, with only the always-dangerous Miss Tea Maven (99 points) able to find daylight consistently for the Bombshells.

Ultimately, what the game may have come down to was the cohesiveness of the Gridlock, something that was difficult to achieve in recent seasons due to injuries, turnover, and simple bad luck. But it appears that those days are in the past, and it was noticeable to the Bombshells even before the opening whistle.

“You know, it's kind of funny,” said Brooklyn co-captain Lady Fingers. “We anticipated this from having scrimmaged them for the last few months, and we kind of knew it was coming. But even when you know it's coming, they were just very good at it. They were really good at playing their game and playing their strategy. And it leaves the other team sometimes with having to, on the fly, change your strategy because they're really doing a great job playing their game.”

 PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

Not surprisingly, the Bombshells fought tooth and nail throughout the bout, keeping it close in the early going as both offenses took some time to get into gear. By halftime, the Gridlock’s lead was only 18 points, but in the second half, they steadily pulled ahead, outscoring their foes in the first 16 jams of the final 30 minutes.

“I have to say we very much try to keep each other focused jam-by-jam and it keeps us moving forward and keeps us from zooming out into a big picture and thinking about things that we don't need worry about,” said Luce. “The margin is not something we want to worry about. We take it jam by jam, reset after every jam, and that, step by step, is how you win a game.”

By the time Brooklyn’s Sweets McBacon outscored Kate 2-0, the die had been cast, as the Bronx now led 162-62. Jams of 23 and 29 points by Maven down the stretch closed the gap slightly, but it was strictly cosmetic, as the Gridlock had already made their point. And as Luce puts it, the best is yet to come.

“We drafted our new people exactly a month ago,” she said. “The amount of work that we've done here is only been a few weeks of practice and that's a completely different thing to prepare a team in three weeks than it is to have two and a half months or three months. There is a lot that we plan on working on and it's just a different type of working.”

 PHOTO MANNISH GOSALIA

PHOTO MANNISH GOSALIA


BRONX vs. BROOKLYN STATS

           1  2  F

Bronx75  110  185

Brooklyn57 79 136

Bronx MVP – Kate Sera Sera

Brooklyn MVP – D.A.R.Y.L.

Leading Bronx Scorers

Kate Sera Sera – 101 points (24 jams)

Sally Handsome – 26 points (3 jams)

Annie Mergency – 22 points (5 jams)

Leading Bronx Blockers

Caf Fiend – 25 jams (-40)

Fast and Luce – 24 jams (-9)

Cherry Napalm – 23 jams (+30)

Leading Brooklyn Scorers

Miss Tea Maven – 99 points (21 jams)

Space Invader – 26 points (14 jams)

Sweets McBacon – 6 points (12 jams)

Leading Brooklyn Blockers

D.A.R.Y.L. – 25 jams (-23)

Lady Fingers – 23 jams (-50)

Gut-Her Punk – 22 jams (-20)

Papierschnitt – 22 jams (-3)

Bronx Penalties

Minutes in Box: 26 Jammer Box Trips: 6

Brooklyn Penalties

Minutes in Box: 27 Jammer Box Trips: 5

Stats compiled via Rinxter

Brooklyn Beats Queens in OT, Leaves Classic with GGRD Crown

By Thomas Gerbasi / additional reporting by Hewlett Smackard

It’s the scenario you hope for in any championship game. Sudden death for all the marbles, and when the Brooklyn Bombshells and Queens of Pain met for the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league title on Aug. 26, it was no surprise that 60 minutes weren’t enough to determine who would leave John Jay College in NYC with the Golden Skate Trophy.

 

158-158. Two minutes. One jam. An entire season comes down to this.

 PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

 "We were just saying, ‘Everybody sit down, everybody stay calm,’” said Brooklyn’s Raggedy Animal. “We didn't want to send the energy out to the track of chaos. We wanted the bench to be very Zen and sending a lot of positive energy, because it's already so intensely exciting we didn't want everyone on the track to have our energy be like, "Go, go, go." So, on the bench we try to keep it nice and calm and try to really feed the skaters that supportive, quiet energy.”

 

“We practice the two minute jams,” said Queens’s Suzy Hotrod. “We had a definite plan — Shorty would start, I would finish.”

 

Two minutes later, as the crowd roared, Queens had put 13 more points on the scoreboard. But Brooklyn scored 17. And the new champs wore blue.

 PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

 "When we were out there, we kept talking,” said Diva. “Stay smart, stay clean. And what was happening was that the other team went to the box a little more than we did. We just played what we did at the beginning to the end and just tried to finish that way. It was anybody's game, but our goal was to stay on the track. That's how we want to win the game.”

 

The victory marked the Bombshells’ third GGRD title and first since 2015. Queens, which saw its hopes for an undefeated season and a fifth championship, were crushed by the razor-thin defeat.

 

 "It's heartbreaking,” said Suzy. “I think about so many hours and hours and hours and hours of work, all the team, all the way down to the bottom of the bench every, every day. Every single thing we could have done.”

 

Yet that’s the beauty of derby, especially in Gotham, the reality that every team is so good that on any given night, any team can win. And while Brooklyn was a worthy one-half of this year’s title bout, Queens had defeated them in July and looked to be unstoppable heading into the final game of the season.

 PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

But that’s why they play the games, and Brooklyn, a squad that was missing Diva for the Coney Island bout, had her back. And she delivered, scoring a game-high 92 points.

 

“I will play wherever my team would need me to be,” she said. “Just like any of our players, I couldn't score points if my blockers didn't contain or continue keeping their jammer locked down. So. I just played my game and tried to stay out of the box, but I can't say they leaned on me - my team did what they had to do.”

 

What Brooklyn had to do was dig out of a 43-8 first half hole that almost saw them put away by the Queens trio of Suzy, ShortStop and Beauty Andie Beast. But once the Bombshells settled down and got into a rhythm, they erased that slow start and not only pulled closer, but raced past their rivals en route to an 80-71 halftime lead.

 

Now it was Queens’ turn to make a run, and by the sixth jam of the second period, they regained the lead, 86-84. That lead didn’t last long, as Brooklyn seized the advantage in the next jam, and when Diva delivered a 22-point effort that put her team ahead 138-118, it looked like game over in NYC.

 PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

 But when it mattered, one of Gotham’s greats took over, with Suzy using jams of 17 and eight points to even the score and force overtime. It was a furious run that was ended by Brooklyn’s effort in the overtime jam, but competing in one of GGRD’s greatest title bouts has to be some consolation for a team that already has its sights set on 2018.

 

“We're going to wash our tears away in the ocean tomorrow,” said Queens captain Puss ‘n Glutes. “Then we'll come back.”

 PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

PHOTO MANISH GOSALIA

 QUEENS vs. BROOKLYN STATS

 

                          1         2        F

Queens    71   87158

Brooklyn     80       82162

 

Queens MVP – Suzy Hotrod

Brooklyn MVP – V-Diva

 

Leading Queens Scorers

ShortStop - 64 points (26 jams)

Suzy Hotrod – 59 points (17 jams)

Beauty Andie Beast – 33 points (10 jams)

 

Leading Queens Blockers

Puss ‘n Glutes – 39 jams (+6)

Livvie Smalls – 35 jams (-51)

Pinky Swears – 30 jams (-14)

 

Leading Brooklyn Scorers

V-Diva – 92 points (18 jams)

Miss Tea Maven – 56 points (27 jams)

Bellatricks – 7 points (2 jams)

Sweets McBacon – 7 points (6 jams)

 

Leading Brooklyn Blockers

Lady Fingers – 35 jams (+38)

D.A.R.Y.L. – 34 jams (-21)

Papierschnitt – 30 jams (+8)

 

Queens Penalties

Minutes in Box: 45 Jammer Box Trips: 5

 

Brooklyn Penalties

Minutes in Box: 31 Jammer Box Trips: 4

Queens Plans to Go Out with a "Bang Bang Bang" in Title Bout on Saturday

By Thomas Gerbasi

 

This is what captains do. It was a July 15 game that had no bearing on whether the Queens of Pain were going to get into this Saturday’s Gotham Girls Roller Derby league championship game or not, as they were already in the bout at John Jay College in NYC. But Puss ‘N Glutes hopped on a plane from Loveland, Colorado to New York to lead her squad to a victory over the Brooklyn Bombshells before heading back on a red eye flight to continue coaching the GGRD juniors.

 

The trip back and forth lasted 14 hours.

 

“We committed as a team to doing our best to make this an undefeated season and we’ve been preparing and working hard to make sure every game shows,” said Puss, who will be a lot more rested as she takes the track to battle Brooklyn once more this weekend, this time for the Golden Skate trophy.

 PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

It’s the culmination of another season for GGRD, and one that has seen Queens dominate like few teams have in recent memory. Winning their three regular season bouts by an average of 73 points (for comparison, Brooklyn’s two wins have come by an average of 16 points), the ladies in black go into Saturday’s bout as a heavy favorite, and Puss would even go as far to say that in all her years with the team, this may be the best yet.

 

“I think that this is probably the strongest team that I’ve played on,” she said.“I think that Queens is an unstoppable force this year.”

 

The proof of that statement has been shown on the track, but the reason for the team’s dominance may come from an unlikely source.

 

“At the start of 2016, we had a lot of draft picks andwe decided that we weren’t going to pick the people that were ranked the highest,” Puss explains.“We decided that we were going to pick the right skaters for our team and pick the skaters that were going to be there every practice, busting their butts to get better. And so, coming into 2017, we had zero retirements, we are two years strong, and we’re a tiny team, size wise, but we have worked to be the fittest and the fastest and to make our gameplay really strategic. We are going to show no mercy this Saturday.”


To have the same team intact for two years in a row isn’t just a luxury; it’s the rarest of rarities in a league where titles are often won and lost by the teams that were able to weather the storms of team turnover the best. With Queens’ commitment to putting the right skaters on their team, a new blueprint may have been set for teams in future drafts.

 

“It’s a team preference and I think some teams will go into the draft feeling desperate for a jammer or a high level pivot / track leader type,” Puss said.“And we looked at last year as an opportunity to take skaters that we knew would grow and add to the culture of our team, which is all about hard work.We feltreally strong, really connected, and we were able to start working on new strategies from the first practice instead of getting people comfortable in our walls. We were fully ready and hit the ground running for 2017.”

 PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

Three big wins have followed, with Queens refusing to rest on leads or their laurels. It’s a kill, kill, kill mentality for 60 minutes, and in July, they sent a message to Brooklyn with a 167-118 victory.

 

“We’re never a team that underestimates our opponents, and the upper hand that we’ve had is that we’ve known our team intimately for two years now,” Puss said. “We didn’t have to know each other; we just had to start practicing how to take down the other teams. So we’ve been focusing our practices on the strategies of each team that’s coming up and I think it’s shown on game day. We know that Brooklyn is strong, we know that they’ll have even more of their skaters skating at championships and that they’ll come out pissed about the loss and even stronger, but they should know that we’ve prepared twice as hard.”

 

And with a few Queens veterans calling it quits at the end of the season, there’s even more incentive for the juggernaut to kick it into an even higher gear tomorrow night.

 

“Queens has made this the year of K-Pop, and so, as one of our favorite songs says, we’re planning on going out with a ‘Bang, bang, bang’ this year,” laughs Puss.“The ones that are taking the track for the last time are going to leave it all out there.”

Brooklyn Shakes Off July Loss, Expects Redemption in Rematch with Queens

By Thomas Gerbasi

 

The task of beating the rolling thunder that is the Queens of Pain will be a daunting one for any team in the Gotham Girls Roller Derby League, all of which have come up short thus far in 2017. But if any squad is up for the challenge, it’s the one that will face Queens for the GGRD home team championship, the Brooklyn Bombshells.

 

“The team is excited for the game,” said veteran D.A.R.Y.L., who has never NOT been in a championship game during her time in the league with the Manhattan Mayhem and now Brooklyn.“We’ve been progressing a lot as a team this year, so I think a lot of our strategies are finally coming together, so hopefully we can bring all of that on Saturday.”

 PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

Saturday’s bout at John Jay College is a clash of opposites in many ways, not the least of which is the roster composition of each team. Queens has had the same roster intact for two seasons now, while Brooklyn was hit hard by turnover after last season. That could have been a disaster for the Bombshells, but when the draft produced the likes of V-Diva, Donna Matrix, Sweets McBacon, Bellatricks and Girl Friday for the team, that can ease the pain somewhat.

Or not, as putting a bunch of talent on a team isn’t always the recipe for success. But in Brooklyn’s case, the newcomers transitioned nicely into the team’s system, and the result has been a chance to win their first title since 2015.

“We were fortunate to have a split with the new team members this season in terms of jammers and blockers, and they’ve been really great at jumping in and learning our strategies and asking questions and really contributing to how our team is developing,” D.A.R.Y.L. said.“So in terms of fitting in and meshing well with the team, it takes hard work and being there and working together day in and day out, and our new skaters have been able to do that.”

The Bombshells got off to a fast start with wins over Manhattan and the Bronx that earned them a spot in Saturday’s championship game, but there would be an initial battle with Queens in Coney Island last month. Queens drew first blood with a 167-118 victory, but it wasn’t a loss without some lessons for the blue-clad Bombshells.

 PHOTO SEAN HALE

PHOTO SEAN HALE

 “We learned a lot from that game in terms of what we could improve upon and tightening up our game so that we can beat Queens,” D.A.R.Y.L. said.“I think a lot of our strategies are actually very similar, so it’s just a matter of who’s executing them the best. Luckily we’re gonna have Diva and Punk back for the next game, and while there’s always something to learn from playing the same team consecutively, ultimately, I think it will be a very different game from the one in July.”

 

Different enough that Brooklyn expects to raise a third championship banner on Saturday night.

 

“We have so many games under our belts that we can now take what we’ve learned and the team leadership can be like, hey, we’ve done this in the past, we can take what we’ve done and move forward with it. We don’t need to be nervous, we can build off the great things that we’ve already been able to do and know that we can do that and then some. It’s a matter of having the confidence in ourselves, confidence in leadership to be able to lead by example so everybody else then has the confidence to say, ‘Yeah, we can do this.’”

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.”