Set the wayback machine to twelve months ago and the primary travel squad of Arch Rival Roller Derby (ARCH) reaches a historical benchmark.
After a third-place finish at the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) Division 1 playoff round held in Tucson, Arizona, the St. Louis-based franchise earned its inaugural trip to the governing body’s international championships.
At the moment, a long-sought derby goal had been obtained by the ten-year-old league. Fast-forwarding to the here and now, ARCH has an opportunity to replicate that achievement this weekend if it finishes with top-three placement at a competitive, ten-team tournament.
St. Louis, ranked #8 internationally, skates at the WFTDA Division 1 playoff round beginning Friday in Madison, Wisconsin at Alliant Energy Center’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Within the event’s bracket, Arch Rival, seeded second at the three-day showcase, has a quarterfinal game set for 8 p.m. Friday against the winner of a play-in game between seventh-seeded No Coast (Lincoln, NE) and tenth-seeded Mad Rollin’ Dolls (Madison, WI) held earlier in the day.
This weekend’s tourney is the final of four separate Division 1 playoff rounds that are held in September. The top three finishers at each respective tourney advance to the WFTDA international championship that will be held in November. In short, a dozen teams will survive in order to battle for governing body’s Hydra Cup.
ARCH, currently 9-0, remembers the euphoria experienced from last season’s medal placement that punched their ticket to the WFTDA’s international dance. How much do they crave a return trip?
“So badly,” seriously stated Arch Rival co-captain Bricktator.
ARCH have been patient since the WFTDA revealed its post-season pairings in mid-July and, much like a caged tiger waiting to be released, looks forward to display its ferocity in the Badger State.
“There’s a lot of anticipation for Madison, especially since we’ve been watching all of the other playoffs while we wait,” Bricktator said. “Nonetheless, we are channeling that energy into our upcoming games and are ready to play with power and smarts.”
Arch Rival’s spotless record this regular season was highlighted with collective invitational sweeps at May’s Big O in Eugene, Oregon, June’s Midwest BrewHaHa in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and its self-hosted Sibling Rivalry later that month.
Since learning its playoff fate, ARCH has kept its collective flat-track skills sharp with internal scrimmages at its South City-based practice facility as well as a 340-76 sanctioned win over Argentina-based 2 x 4 at Kansas City in early August.
“After Sibling Rivalry, we had a nice break, so the 2 x 4 game was a good opportunity to get back into the groove of derby,” reflected Bricktator of the team’s ninth victory. “It allowed us to evaluate if we resorted back to bad habits or stayed true to our strategies.”
Numerous components from last year’s WFTDA championship entrant are a part of ARCH’s complexion heading into the weekend. Alongside Bricktator, co-captain Harmony Killerbruise and veteran Annie Swanson propels the jamming rotation.
On the blocking side, veterans Party Foul, Shimmy Hoffa, Chewblocka, Cloak N’ Drag-Her, Shear-Ra Powers, Jamheiser Bush and Kayla Woodward are primed to set up the walls, both offensively and defensively. Blocker Smarty McFly, who rejoined Arch Rival this season after multiple seasons with Chicago-based derby leagues, also supplements the attack.
First-time “A-teamers” in 2016 have also been imperative in ARCH’s recent success. Jammer CupQuake and blockers Salty, Molotov and Krista Grant have effectively blended into the team’s overall scheme.
“The new additions to our charter had big shoes to fill from last year’s retirees and they have filled them perfectly,” assessed Bricktator. “Both in skating ability and personality, they have meshed with our team from the beginning and continued to grow.”
Also in the 20-skater charter this weekend is jammer Psychokid D’ Freakout as well as blockers Fletcher, Party McFly, Girl Fawkes and Pegasass.
Arch Rival is no stranger to the WFTDA post-season as it makes its eighth straight playoff appearance. What is unique to them this year is that, as a number two seed in a ten-team tournament, it does not know its Friday opponent in advance. The Friday morning battle between No Coast, 6-4 and ranked #25 in the WFTDA, and Mad Rollin’ Dolls, 4-2 and ranked #39 internationally, determines ARCH’s quarterfinal competitor.
According to Bricktator, the team is primed to challenge whoever the adversary should inevitably be.
“Even though we don’t know our first opponent yet, we will have a chance to watch both teams play each other earlier in the day, which is a perk,” she said. “Regardless of who we play, we know how important it is to start the tournament strong by dictating play.”
If Arch Rival wins its Friday quarterfinal, a projected Saturday semifinal match-up against third-seeded Minnesota is more than likely. ARCH topped Minnesota, 6-4 and ranked #9 internationally, by three points in a donnybrook at the aforementioned Big O Invitational.
“It was intense, said Bricktator of the squads’ prior meeting. “After a rough start, we did what we needed to do to pull out a win. I expect this game to be challenging, but we are poised to get it done again.”
That anticipated semifinal only occurs if both leagues win their respective Friday quarterfinal. Arch Rival’s goal is to launch its weekend play with a dominant win and utilize that as a springboard to claim its second straight WFTDA International Championships bid.
Online coverage of the weekend tournament is available via wftda.tv. A full video stream of the tournament can be purchased by going TO THIS LINK. A complimentary audio link is available for free by going to THIS LINK.
For more information on Arch Rival Roller Derby, go to its OFFICIAL WEBSITE.
Arch City Sports will be on-site at Madison and will provide updates throughout the weekend.