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.
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.
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.”
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.
“Even numbers are our jam.”
Tickets available for tomorrow's game here.