Our 2011 Big 5 preview continues with the North Central’s Monumental Mayhem, hosted by the Naptown Rollergirls in Indianapolis, IN October 7-8. All live streaming coverage of the 2011 Big 5 tournaments will be provided by Blaze Streaming Media and the WFTDA.- RDIT Editors
The WFTDA released the all-important Quarter 2 rankings last month. Now, that announcement was something of an opening bell for players, staff, and Dudes With Laptops alike to start making predictions about the outcomes of the North Central’s blur of a tournament. Was the high noise-to-signal ratio expected? Certainly. At the same time, it can be damn tiresome, especially when the actual weekend is a month away.
Many of you are able to follow the top ten leagues of your own region. You probably also have an idea of which teams are the likely candidates to advance to November’s championship. Let’s get you up to date on the North Central. What follows is a rundown of what we see as the compelling stories behind each of the ten leagues in the MidBest. If you’re watching from afar, this’ll give you some context when you finally turn on the WFTDA stream on Friday, October 7th.
This is what we know as of late August in 2011 regarding the top ten leagues in the North Central region:
1: Windy City Rollers – Sure, there’s the streak (now at 21 wins and no loss – ever – against North Central teams in sanctioned play). What’s more interesting is that Windy has kept up its talent pool despite losses in personnel on the All-Star team. WCR is very proud of its farm system, and that system appears to have allowed them to slowly build the next players that will step into Chicago’s premier league. It doesn’t hurt that some of their fastest have also been cross-training on the speed track in national USARS competition. With their solid victory against Detroit at the Golden Bowl…they’re definitively at the top of the region.
2: Detroit Derby Girls – Detroit has been the second seed for each of the NC tournaments. They’ve never made it to regional finals. This year, it looks like they’ve played against anyone and everyone to get them over the top and into the final bout against (presumably) Windy. Detroit threw themselves into a very tough schedule this year with one of those infamous Northwestern tours that make most leagues blanch. After defeats by Rose, Oly, and Rat, the DDG headed east and started cleaning up. We’ll see if that early drive makes a difference this year.
3: Minnesota RollerGirls – The past year has shown that the MNRG has reestablished itself as a strong national player. The fire that they showed at last year’s NC tournament (finishing #2) has been sustained with wins against every midwestern league they’ve played besides the WCR. It appears that their trip to Championals also raised some eyebrows; Nashville, Charm, and Philly each invited them to their home track to scrimmage or play this summer. One potential downside for the MNRG is this: it’s been a good year, but with a narrow loss to Philly and going toe-to-toe with Windy for the first half at the Brewhaha…no one is going to underestimate the MNRG for a long time.
4: Naptown Tornado Sirens – So this is the story of a league who continues to displace other leagues. Naptown started the new year ranked #6 after rising from last year’s ninth-seed at NC Regionals. They shouldered past Madison and Cincy and came within a few jams of defeating the MNRG earlier this year. They’ll be playing on home turf at this year’s regionals and they start one spot away from the top three. And yes, they are the host league…no host league has won a tournament in WFTDA history. It’s a valid point, but there’s far more interesting things happening than ‘The Curse.’ If you aren’t watching the Sirens, I’m going to suggest that it’s time to start.
5: Cincinnati Black Sheep – Can you sing along with this one? A league is really good, but just barely misses the trip to the WFTDA Championship and then – holy crap! – a bunch of players suddenly leave. THEY’RE GOING DOWN IN FLAMES. The thing is, this scenario has played out twice to Cincy, and they remain one of the best teams in the region. They gave themselves a brutal 2011 season and they’re still in the top 5. Cincy abides, and it speaks well to their training program that they can continue to lose quality players and still play so damn well. And – oh yeah – they just lost Sk8 Crime and Trauma. Are they going to collapse at NC regionals? The past says no.
6: Madison Dairyland Dolls – The Dairyland Dolls were one of the 12 leagues invited to the WFTDA championships in 2010. They skate fast, have nimble blockers, and have a long history of exemplary play. 2011 has not been kind to this founding league of the WFTDA. They’ve had one victory in eight 2011 bouts (over Milwaukee at the Brewhaha) and they’ve lost several core players. What’s more, Madison (the city, not the league) doesn’t have a lot of spaces to practice at; the MRD’s primary training facility has been known to occasionally cancel their workouts for birthday parties. The Dairyland Dolls been a force for many years in the upper Midwest; the question to ask is whether the Dolls will be ready to stage a comeback in October, or might instead need to wait until 2012.
7: Brewcity Bruisers All-Stars – It seems as if Milwaukee’s league has been in the shadow of Madison for a long time. Brewcity has been playing leagues lower on the totem pole than the Double-Ds for the past couple of years. They’ve had a fair bit of success, but that way of thinking feels like damning with faint praise. There’s no reason the very physical, defensively-minded Brewskis can’t overcome their Wisconsin sister league this year…or indeed, stride even further up the ranks of the NC.
8: Arch Rival: Arch Rival bottomed out in 2010 with a drop from #8 to #10 in the NC tournament. They’ve been making a silent comeback, handily defeating mid-ranked teams by margins of fifty or more. Late-Q2 wins over the North Stars and the Outfit have put them right back in at #8. Arch appears to have worked their collective ass off to get clear of the whims of the leagues looking at those bottom rungs of the top ten. They’ll get a chance to play their way up the ladder in a month.
9: Chicago Outfit Syndicate – There aren’t too many leagues that can get invited to their regional tournament after only one full year of WFTDA competition. The Syndicate has proved themselves with victories over a host of excellent leagues and smallish losses against monsters Detroit and Nashville. This is a big opportunity for a young league.
10: Ohio Roller Girls – Ohio’s grab of the final seed is fantastic for long-time fans of Midwest roller derby. They’re not a brand new league that the region decided to put into the tournament for the jolly hell of it. In fact, Ohio is one of the original leagues of the WFTDA. What’s more, they’ve been in regional competition before…in the Bush administration, when Ohio took on Providence at the original Eastern regional in 2007. Their invitation is a homecoming for one of the oldest leagues in flat-track derby, but it’s well-earned – they defeated every league that they played which were in contention for the #10 spot, from Bleeding Heartland to Burning River. We’ll see how they fare against the top nine very soon.
I’ve long been of the opinion that the NC has the most exciting tournament, end-to-end, of any of the WFTDA regions. You’ll see bouts from the tournament site in Indianapolis every day (October 7-9) that will have you wishing for better pixel resolution. No North Central spot is safe this year. Commence your smack-talking, derby fans. Get your laptops and start typing.