10 Things You Need to Know If You Missed Out on the Lansing D2 Playoff

Charm City Winning the WFTDA Photo Booth in Lansing

If you missed our recap last week, we try and get people up to speed featuring 10 dominant themes from the past weekend’s Playoff tournament. Lansing was similar to Wichita in some ways (7 seed to Champs, lots of seeding upsets with 7 in total to Wichita’s 6, and lots of close nail biters and come from behind wins) and a completely different animal in other ways (faster, harder individual hitting, massive per game penalty increases, etc).

5 seed Calgary and 7 seed Charlottesville are on to D2 Champs in Portland to join up later with Brandywine and Blue Ridge. The C’s and the B’s! This is how Calgary and Charlottesville got there and also some of the other important things to happen this weekend.

About Cincinnati’s Coach, Fans and Passion

After getting caught on broadcast running the outside track to shout directions at blockers, and then getting caught again arguing with the tournament head ref DURING PLAY about his ability to continue to do this, Cincy’s Coach Quad Almighty took a ton of twitter fire. The double down was getting trapped on the inside arguing more calls and things spiralled from there. There is a lot you can say about how this impacts a team, although most teams grow accustom their coaches behaviours and styles over time.

I didn’t fully grasp this inability to reach a zen place until Cincinnati’s final game on Sunday — their 7th place match up against Sac City. In venue, Cincinnati had one of the more sizeable fan sections and they were also the most vocal and intense. They rode the roller coaster with their team in the 2nd half and they didn’t care if the rest of the venue thought they were nuts, they were proud to be on the verge of tears as their team came up short but left it on the track. I tried to console one of their super fans post bout telling them to cheer up and that the future of Cincy is brighter than it has been in years, but he was absolutely crushed.

I’ve been there before and all of it made me reset on Cincy and recognize that the fact that this kind of passion — from their fans and Quad — shouldn’t be as rare as it is and it shouldn’t be frowned upon. It may not always be helpful to the team, but I CAN empathize with the desire to sprint around the track to yell instructions at your blocker in a game you are not going to win no matter what you are saying. Cincy loves roller derby and they can’t control it. That’s ok.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: Cincy also sold something like 1,400 tickets at their season opener this year. They might be on to something.)

Nidaros Were the Lansing Sweethearts

Care packages, plus hugs and kisses for every team they played. Endless positive bench talk, very European last ditch merch sales pitches on Sunday, and their awesome warm ups.

Nidaros were such a wild card coming in on just 4 scores and without any footage to review. Former Windy City star Varla Vendetta Coached a gritty and happy bunch to their first ever WFTDA Playoff victory on Sunday though, bouncing back from their heartbreaking loss to Tri City on Saturday (more on that below). They were so happy to be there in the moment, and their positivity will go a long way to secure repeat appearances. They left their safe European homes and stole our hearts.

Calgary’s Depth Is Ridiculous

Calgary Celebrating Their Win Against Charlottesville. Photo: Joe Mac

Calgary is so jammer rich its absurd. After not being able to travel for tournament play this year, Calgary rolled out Team Canada’s Kris Myass for potential unsuspecting opponents this weekend and also brought along another new face in the jammer rotation in Roc-A-Felon. They have so much depth that Taz, who would hands down be the 3rd, stays in the blocking core as a pivot and their other pivot Preacher’s Slaughter could also step in.

They rolled the dice a lot this weekend being reluctant to tighten their rotations until the very end of games and it paid off with a trip to D2 Champs as a 1 seed. By the end of the tournament though, opposing coaches were starting to suss out and roll the dice back at them in match ups that they liked. Calgary is really going to have to limit stretches between Kris and Easy Break Oven in Portland.

They can still go 4 or 5 deep if they want, but going 1–5 in order on repeat is allowing opponents to get back into games. They had more in the tank because of this depth and played 1 less game than Charlottesville, but this margin will only tighten further moving forward — both in Portland and later on as they establish themselves as a D1 team.

How is their blocker depth though? Tournament MVP Easy Break had the names of four skaters who couldn’t make it to Lansing on her shins/calves. This team can go even deeper at all positions. Scary.

Give’ Em Enough Rope

Wichita was such a great tournament and the refs had such limited impact on games people almost forgot what Playoff season was like. Then came Lansing. There were so many penalties, and so many more that could have been called. The polished concrete track was a dream to skate on and that led to faster play than Wichita’s sport court which let defenses set and dominate. As pack and blockers spread out though, the penalties got out of control. Everything about the weekend was fast — teams with pack advantage would start skating the pack on instinct because the pace stayed so frantic all weekend.

There were so many clockwise hits, brutal back blocks (some teams were relying heavily on back blocks to clear offense by the end of the weekend) and so many avoidable and careless track cuts on re entries it made everyone’s head spin.

There was one thing that could have made a slight difference though, the track rope was thin and short. We heard from multiple skaters who said they could not feel it on drags or their off foot and there were lots of cuts called in these scenarios. Give ’em enough rope is both a call for teams to realize surfaces/ref crews and adapt to not hang yourself, as well as, a call for hosts to lay down nice thick rope that you can feel (don’t just go with the minimum required).

Yes, the coming track cut rule change will alter this drastically in coming years and D1 shouldn’t have this kind of systemic issue we say this weekend, but if there is anything production wise that can limit seeing an endless stream of bad penalties we are all for it.

Bear City Is Still Bear City

You bet against Bear City you get what you deserve at this point, us included. Bear City lost their star jammer Master Blaster to London and under performed at BrewHaha. They looked like a 1 jammer team, relying too heavily on Mia Missile. Mia ended up 2nd in tournament scoring with 307 points, but it was actually Peanut Butter Panic who lead them through their first win against Tri City.

Their defense was tighter and agile, their jammer rotation was more even and they are still that cardiac team capable of a big swing — coming back from down big to repeat against Tri City and take 5th.

In 3 straight D2 Playoffs Bear City has come out a higher seed then they entered — going from 9 to 2 in 2014, 10 to 6 in 2015 and now 8 to 5 in 2016. They also ensured they held on to their sole lead in all time WFTDA Playoffs seeding upsets (6) this weekend adding one more to their column and denying Tri City a tie on Sunday.

The Bear City superfans and the drum weren’t there, but when they were making that run against Tri City on Sunday “BER LIINNNNNN — BOMBBBB SHELLLLLSSS” was running constantly thru our heads. The only other thing we can add about this team is that Mia Missile’s constant menacing jam smile is terrifyingly awesome.

That Crazy Squirrel Apex Jump 👀

If you are living under a rock you might have missed this, but Tri City’s Crazy Squirrel took the Turn 1 apex and called the jam with the game clock at ZERO to pull off a come from behind 3 point win against Nidaros on Saturday.

It looked like a Tri City collapse and Nidaros gambled perfectly to run down time while giving themselves lead and a 3–2 pack advantage in the final jam. Then their inexperience showed.

Squirrel grabbed quick lead on the inside and Nidaros’s jammer Nancy Nosebleed was close behind. Nidaros still had pack advantage and instead of skating the pack or picking a straight away, they set up right on the apex. Crazy Squirrel lived up to her name and reputation and made them pay, flying through the air before getting both feet in bounds and making the call off. Nancy Nosebleed had a shot at points and only needed to pass one Tri blocker to get the box points and tie, but instead of following Squirrel’s line she drifted to the out and just missed.

Catamuff got up a quick .gif and we got it up on our facebook as quick as we could. At time of writing it has over 27k views. Bananas. WFTDA also posted a clip of the full jam here. Squirrel, who lead the Tournament in scoring with 335 points, stole that game like an expert bank robber.

The win ensured Tri would come out a better seed then they entered, and was a great bounce back game for them after their first game loss to Bear.

I.M. Pain 🙌

We are still kind of speechless. I.M. Pain couldn’t get over the hump that was Calgary, but she put her team on her back on Sunday and ensured a medal with a last jam 12–4 desperation push to come from behind win against Wasatch 197–194. Wasatch’s Wreckless was having an absolutely monster game, putting up 117 points (top game scorer) with 55% lead and ZERO penalties. I.M. Pain was struggling, ending up a negative -2 in the game and 44% lead, but in that final jam she said not today and willed her team to victory. We consoled Sassy the Sasquatch post bout and Sassy knew that their team left it on the track. There was no shame in that result, just another absolutely heart pounding D2 Playoff game from what has been an amazing Playoff so far.

The 7 Seed Strikes Again!

Charlottesville lost 9 straight sanctioned games this year, 5 by under 10 points and 2 by 1 points. They kept a D1 schedule, but couldn’t find a way to shift any of those games to the win column and over ambitious scheduling (Jacksonville, Atlanta, Detroit) pushed them down to a 7 seed in D2. They were arguably the most battle tested of all the D2 Playoff teams this year and even though a 7 seed, they just needed to taste a win to get back to being dominant.

They rolled over Grand Raggidy, Sac City and Wasatch with none of them coming within 80 points before falling to Calgary in the 1st place match up by -24.

Both Charlottesville and Blue Ridge illustrate some of the issues with the current WFTDA ranking system in that lots of D2 teams are riding outlier scores against falling competition and lots of under ranked teams are weighed down well below their centre — penalized for playing tougher teams.

They also both illustrate the importance of fighting for seeding position. A 6 seed would have been a shorter route to that 1st place game and the fact that they played 1 extra game that weekend, and that their opponent in Calgary was extremely deep, meant they just couldn’t muster the 2nd half come back they needed (although they tried so hard).

Like Blue Ridge, the 2 seed has the advantage of going into playoffs hungry and with a score to settle. The 2 seeds should be more willing to accept the things they need to work on and a rested and prepared Charlottesville or Blue Ridge is a horrible thing to run into.

Also, S/O to the Charlotesville players and coaches that we missed on Sunday in Lansing. Check the Lansing Craigslist for our Missed Connections post in the coming days — “You were the team in teal, my favourite derby colour…..”

Trust Yer’ Coaches!

Lansing had wayyyyy too much ref harshin’ from skaters on the track. The typical appeal is for skaters to not do this as it is bad sportswomanship, but we’d like to pick another angle — it’s insulting to your coach. If you think you can bully a Playoff ref into or out of a call you are high af, and if you think you are doing your team any favours you are wrong. Have an issue with a call or non call — take it to your coach and let them decide if it is review worthy or to ask for clarification. Ref harshin’ on the track is stepping on your coaches toes and impacts their ability to do their job by advocating for your team — while also risking an insubordination penalty for you. Trust that your coach has a better vantage point on when to push buttons and when to step back.

Lansing Was Legit

It would be a crime if this review didn’t mention that the Lansing Derby Vixens put on an amazing tournament in a great facility. If you can’t make a venue, for sure get the WFTDA TV pass, but if you are within driving distance or hella rich you really should make it a point to take it all in in person.

Also, special S/O to the Lansing in venue DJ who played Hugh Masekela on Sunday. We appreciate you.