ECE 2009 Saturday Preview

FEASTERVILLE, PA — The Philly Roller Girls put on the third iteration of their literal three ring circus this weekend as the East Coast Extravaganza returns to the Sportsplex. Previous years have featured no end of memorable moments: 2007 will always be remembered by its participants for the insane spring ice storm that scrambled travel plans and, in the end, annihilated a line of cars parked unfortunately close to an ice shelf sliding off the roof; 2008 featured classic Texas/Gotham and Philly/Windy City bouts among others. This year promises to be no different, with 21 WFTDA bouts on two rinks over three days, along with a wide variety of challenge bouts on a third rink.

Complete video and liveblog coverage of all bouts of the 2009 East Coast Extravaganza is made possible through sponsorship from Atom Wheels, Rollercon 2009 and Five on Five magazine. Friday night coverage begins at 5:45pm Eastern time, Saturday and Sunday at 10:00am.

This year, the timing of the ECE at the very end of the WFTDA ranking period adds a new wrinkle: it means that this is the last weekend and the last chance for teams to make an impression on WFTDA rankings voters before the seedings for the four regional tournaments are set. The Eastern Region and North Central Region are sending the most WFTDA teams, and hence the events of this weekend are likely to determine whether a few teams hovering on the edge of an invite either punch their ticket or will have to wait till 2010 for tourney action. Only the top ten from each region will be invited to their tournaments.

A quick overview of Saturday’s ECE action, along with potential tournament implications for each battle, follows.

10:30am – Fort Wayne Derby Girls vs Grand Raggidy Roller Girls: This bout kicks off the Saturday action with Grand Raggidy trying to put two tough losses behind them: they just fell off DNN’s national top 25 list for the first time last month after severe beatings from Detroit (179-35) and Cincinnati (147-29). Fort Wayne has a 4-2 winning record thus far in 2009, but their wins have been over middling competition.

Tournament implications: The girls from Grand Raggidy are currently officially ranked #7 in their region, but that ranking was before their recent slide. Fort Wayne is on the bubble for a tournament invite, currently sitting at #9 in the North Central but recently having lost a squeaker to the region’s #10th place team, Naptown. A loss for either team here would endanger their tournament invite, but their fate would remain dependent on how the weekend goes for other regional rivals.

11:00am – CT Rollergirls vs Dominion Derby Girls:
Connecticut’s defense has looked extremely good in shutting down non-WFTDA Pioneer Valley and WFTDA newbies Suburbia this month — they denied PVRD any first half points in a 88-22 40 minute win, and beat Suburbia last weekend 124-38 in a regulation bout. Meanwhile, Dominion has been struggling to return to form after some significant roster losses, and were most recently pasted by lowly ranked teams — 159-35 by DC in April and 200-58 by Atlanta in May.

Tournament implications: This is another “bubble bout” — with Dominion officially ranked #10 and Connecticut ranked #11 in the East, the loser of this bout is almost certain to miss the cut for the Eastern Regionals — although they could conceivably both get leapfrogged by DC for the #10 slot.

Burning River Roller Girls. Photo: Menacing Buddha12:30pm – Burning River Roller Girls vs DC Rollergirls: Two teams that look to potentially be on the verge of stepping up their game face here. Cleveland’s Burning River came surprisingly close to DNN’s national #21 Cincinnati with a 107-93 loss in April, while DC rolled over Dominion 159-35, also in April.

Tournament implications: Though Burning River and DC are in different regions, this bout will definitely provide an opportunity for them to make their tournament cases. DC is at #12 in the East, while Burning River is at #11 in the North Central. If DC loses to Burning River, BRRG has a logical path to dislodge NC #9 Fort Wayne, since DC will be playing Fort Wayne on Sunday. Alternatively, a big win for DC could bump them over Connecticut and Dominion and into the #10 slot in the East.

1:00pm – Atlanta Rollergirls vs Montréal Roller Derby: The far north takes on the far south in the first international sanctioned bout at ECE. Atlanta has been busy but all over the place this year, going 3-5 with blowout wins and losses; relatively young Montreal is 3-1 on the year but was beaten badly in their only WFTDA sanctioned game, going down 184-75 to Harrisburg.

Tournament implications:
Not many in this one. Atlanta is assured a trip to the South Central tournament they’ll be hosting, as they officially sit at #5 in the South Central … and with #8 SC Tampa Bay the only other South Central team playing this weekend, the result of this bout is unlikely to move either. Montreal will become eligible for ranking after this weekend, but with only one sanctioned bout against a regional opponent, will not be eligible for tournament play.

2:30pm – Minnesota RollerGirls vs Brewcity Bruisers: This is shaping up to be a particularly interesting one, as once-dominating Minnesota tries to regain some prestige after barely holding off the rebuilding Grand Raggidy in April, while Brewcity is clearly a team on the rise after nearly taking out Arch Rival (5th in the North Central) and edging out North Star (8 in the North Central) by just one point last weekend.

Tournament implications: Currently sitting at #12 in the NC, BrewCity has to pick up two slots to get a tournament invite. They’re likely to get at least one on the strength of the win over North Star, and a strong performance here could lock up the second. An equally interesting angle is how far an upset loss to BrewCity would cause NC #6 Minnesota to fall — especially as they’re hosting the North Central regionals.
Mad Rollin' Dolls. Photo: Ziv Kruger.3:00pm – #19 Mad Rollin’ Dolls vs #18 Kansas City Roller Warriors: In a strange way, MRD and KCRW have followed similar paths to their current back-to-back rankings — in 2007, Madison was the top seed and the team to beat in Eastern Regionals before suffering a first-round loss to (then) upstart Windy City, denying them their expected trip to Nationals. In 2008, it was Kansas City’s turn to have their #1 seed turn to dust with a first-round loss to Duke City at Western Regionals, ending their title defense in 60 minutes. Both have been working a road back to the top since.

Tournament implications:
Hard to say how this inter-regional matchup will affect each team’s standings within their regions, if at all. Madison seems unlikely to supplant NC #2 Detroit, although they could theoretically get passed by NC #4 Cincinnati or NC #5 Arch Rival with a flat performance here. Kansas City, on the other hand, is almost certainly holding on to their SC #2 spot, with Texas clearly ruling the region and SC #3 Houston not having any particularly memorable interleague upsets this year.

Photo: Jeff Sevier.4:30pm – #2 Windy City Rollers vs #21 Cincinnati Rollergirls: Cincinnati is known for showing no fear with their ECE challenges — last year they went up against #4 Texas, taking a big 135-48 loss. With Gotham not appearing at this year’s edition, Windy City is the highest-ranked team in attendance and has shown no signs of having weakened since their second-place finish at last year’s Nationals, having dismissed Detroit and Arch Rival by 60 and 141 points earlier this year.

Tournament implications: It would be hard to imagine Windy City falling out of its NC #1 slot based on this weekend, having already definitively turned away NC #2 Detroit in head-to-head action. Cincinnati is sure to get a North Central tourney invite, but they will mostly be working to demonstrate that they still deserve to be ahead of their regional rival Arch Rival — Cincy holds the NC #4 seed while Arch Rival holds NC #5 but just put together a surprising upset of national #12 Duke City.

5:00pm – #9 Carolina Rollergirls vs #8 Boston Derby Dames:
See DNN’s Feature Preview.

Charm City. Photo: Craig Lammes.6:30pm – #7 Charm City All Stars vs #14 Detroit Derby Girls: The history of this grudge match goes back to the original Ice Storm Extravaganza in March 2007, where Detroit edged out Charm City in a very physical 124-107 bout; slightly more than a year later, Charm City got revenge in a consolation bout at the 2008 Eastern Regionals as they came out on top 105-84 in a very similar bout.

Tournament implications: This one is pretty much for pride, with neither team likely to move based on the outcome of this bout. Charm City is well slotted into their #3 in the East Region spot, having beaten almost everybody in the region below them and having lost head-to-head to Gotham. Likewise, NC 2 Detroit has already lost to North Central queens Windy City, and the NC  3 Madison doesn’t have the opportunity for a big paradigm-shifting upset this weekend.

7:00pm – #3 Philly Liberty Belles vs #11 Rat City:
Hosts Philly end Saturday night’s action with their first-ever meeting with the girls from Seattle, Rat City. Philly has been on a tear for quite some time now, going 8-2 over their last ten games with their only losses being to all but unstoppable Gotham. Rat City looked wobbly at 2008 Nationals in a blowout loss to Windy City, but their outcomes this year seem to reflect a team that has stabilized, even if they’re not quite the protean force that was ranked #1 for a time in 2007 — they’re 3-1 on this year with wins over Bay Area, Duke City and Detroit and a 14 point, season-opening loss to Portland’s Rose City.

Tournament implications: While Rat City probably won’t move among the West teams as a result of this far-out-of-region bout, the fact that East #3 Charm City gets a shot at Rat City the night before East #2 Philly does provides a triangulation point for comparing Charm and Philly, the only top-five Eastern teams other than Philly and Gotham to not have faced one another this year. How much weight voters will put on that point, though, remains to be seen.