women's flat track roller derby team in columbus, ohio - empowering women and gender-expansive people in sport
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For the third consecutive year, the Ohio Roller Girls will enter the WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs as a lower seed than their opponents.  Two years ago, Ohio was a #5 seed before upsetting #4 Arch Rival.  Last season, #6 Ohio again upset #3 Arch in the opening round before taking down #2 Montreal in the semifinals, thus earning Ohio their first ever trip to Championships.  This year, #5 Ohio again looks to play spoiler for the higher seed as they are scheduled to play the #4 Jacksonville Roller Girls’ New Jax City Rollers.

Any talk about Ohio being in a rebuilding year this season has been squashed by this 2014 squad.  At this time last year, Ohio entered playoffs at #24 in the world.  This season, Ohio enters playoffs four ranking positions higher at #20.  That being said, Jacksonville will be one of Ohio’s biggest tests this season, as the winner will still face an uphill battle in order to qualify for Championships.  The top three finishers earn a trip to Champs, and with world ranked #3 London Rollergirls, #6 Texas Rollergirls, and the #11 Windy City Rollers also in Ohio’s bracket, the winner will have to win at least one more tough bout to secure a Champs invitation.

Jacksonville is one of the most improved teams of 2014.  After a lackluster 2013 playoff run, the New Jax City Rollers have been on an absolute tear this season.  In fact, Jacksonville has yet to feel the sting of defeat this season, amassing an amazing 11-0 sanctioned record.  With quality victories over Charm City (Baltimore) 200-174, Toronto 243-116, Tampa (twice) 261-236 and 231-152, and an eye-opener over Tallahassee 711-3, Jacksonville is having their best season ever since joining the WFTDA in 2010.  More impressive than their overall record is the style in which they are beating their opponents.  Jacksonville has mastered a style of derby that incorporates speed, strength, and strategy that none of their opponents have been able to figure out.  Their blockers Fancy Schmancy, Lei Toro, Legs R Us, and Atomic Mel-Down are relentless and punishing on opposing jammers.  Fast recycling walls and strategic screening are at the core of their defense, but lose focus for one second, and they’ll blast you off your skates with a crippling block.

Jacksonville’s jammers Erin Jackson, Krispy Kreme-Her, and Jamsterella could all be #1 jammers for any other team in the WFTDA.  In a derby era where teams often try to take advantage of their opposition’s 2nd or 3rd jammers, Ohio’s blockers will not have a break from quality skaters taking the star for Jacksonville.  Erin Jackson is arguably the fastest jammer in the WFTDA.  A world-class speed skater, Erin Jackson is capable of putting up a ton of points in a relatively short period of time.  Jamsterella is an example of a jammer who possesses both the physical power to withstand a block, but also has the finesse and explosiveness to spin off blockers and perform highlight-reel apex jumps.  Krispy Kreme-Her is the epitome of what you could refer to as a “lunch pail” teammate.  She shows up to work and does her job, and she does it well.  Perhaps one of the best jammers at using her toe stops to quick stop and juke, Kreme-Her possesses the lateral movement capabilities that most jammers dream of.  Will Ohio be the first team to contain Jacksonville’s feared trio?  We’ll find out this weekend in Evansville.

For Ohio, teamwork continues to be the binding mantra for the black and kelly green.  Working with a short roster for most of the year, everyone has had to pick up their game at some time or another during their sixteen bout season.  With an overall 2014 record of 10-6, Ohio has definitely gone through the gambit of playing highly ranked teams this year.  Playing Montreal twice, Naptown, Toronto, Atlanta, Madison, Windy City, Arch Rival, and Steel City has allowed Ohio to take the track against a variety of strategies, which should help them as they take on Jacksonville.  Although they lost some of the bouts, Ohio was able to change things up on the fly, and change their own strategy if needed.

Solidifying themselves* as Ohio’s #1 jammer, The Smacktivist has produced multiple 100+ point bouts this season.  Possessing both power and vision on the track, The Smacktivist has quickly made a name throughout the derby community, in this, only their second full season with Ohio’s charter squad.  Behind them, a number of jammers who have flourished at different times this season include Kitty Liquorbottom, Bigg Rigg, Lora “Outa My” Wayman, Burnadeath, and TactiGal.  Paving the way for Ohio’s jammers will be blockers Wayman, Jesse “Ava Tarr” Fox, Amy Spears, Ena Flash, Burnadeath, and Zee “Loraine Acid” Gulertekin. With double the pressure, Ohio’s pack is tasked with not only getting their own jammers lead status, but slowing down Jacksonville’s point scorers in the process.

As mentioned, the top three finishers at the Evansville tournament will punch their ticket to the WFTDA Championships next month in Nashville, Tennessee.  The winner of the Ohio/Jacksonville bout will most likely face the #1 seed, London Rollergirls, as their next opponent.  The loser of the Ohio/Jacksonville bout will be knocked down to the consolation bracket, where the highest they could finish is 5th place.  Last year, many OHRG fans made the trip to Ft. Wayne to cheer on their home team, and the Columbus squad is hoping a good number will make the trip this year as well in support of their efforts.  The Ohio/Jacksonville bout will take place at 8:00 p.m. in Evansville, Indiana, at the Ford Center.  If you are unable to make it to Evansville, wftda.tv will be streaming the tournament for a small fee.

*The Smacktivist prefers gender neutral pronouns.

Photos courtesy of Dorn Byg and Joe Medolo,

Andrew Marron