Preview: Dust Devil 2012

Preview: Dust Devil 2012 Angel City (in gold) took second place in last year's Dust Devil, losing to Carolina in the final. Photo: Masonite Burn.

TUCSON, AZ — April 13-15 marks the fifth Dust Devil Tournament – the latest edition of the one that started it all in 2006. Feburary 2006’s Dust Devil was the first ever national flat-track derby tournament, in which Texas defeated Tucson in the final to become the first team to lay a defensible claim to a national championship; in 2007, Dust Devil became the Western Regional playoffs, where Rat City defeated Tucson in the final before going on to lose to Kansas City in the championship game of the first WFTDA Nationals. Ever since, the Dust Devil has been a standalone invitational event outside of the WFTDA playoff structure.

This year, it’s hosted once again by Tucson Roller Derby (and this time around co-hosted by Arizona Roller Derby) and held in Tucson, AZ.There will be 17 sanctioned bouts over three days on a single bout track. The tournament will be single elimination with a consolation bracket, with the final scheduled for on Sunday, April 15 at 5:30 pm.
This year’s edition features 10 teams from around the globe, predominantly representing the WFTDA Western Region, which has already seen quite a bit of movement at the edges of the top 10 at Wild West Showdown and the Big O.

Participating leagues this year are Angel City Derby Girls (Los Angeles, CA), Arizona Roller Derby (Phoenix, AZ), Assassination City Roller Derby (Dallas, TX), Pacific Roller Derby (Honolulu, HI), Pikes Peak Derby Dames (Colorado Springs, CO), Rage City Rollergirls (Anchorage, AK), Rocky Mountain Rollergirls (Denver, CO), Silicon Valley Roller Girls (San Jose, CA), Tucson Roller Derby (Tucson, AZ) and Victorian Roller Derby League (Melbourne, Australia).

The tournament structure has the four bottom seeded teams battling in the first round on Friday for a chance to play the top 2 seeded teams (#2W Rocky Mountain and #9W Angel City (who took 3rd at last year’s tournament, losing only to 2011 DD tournament champs Carolina). Rocky Mountain and Angel City get a bye in the first round.

Opening Round

Game 1: #24W Pacific vs. Rage City (Friday, 10:30am)

This match up is particularly notable because it features the two WFTDA leagues from the non-contiguous US meeting on the mainland, in a climate that neither are familiar with. Rage City is unranked and lost to #20NC Killamazoo by 71 just last week, while Pacific’s most recent showing is an 11 point win over #28W Sonoma. This game will certainly help carve out where Rage belongs in the Western rankings, in addition to determining which of these two far-away teams will get the chance to play a fresh Rocky Mountain on Saturday.
Game 2: #19SC Assassination City vs. Victorian Roller Derby League (Friday, noon)
New WFTDA member Victorian Roller Derby League (Melbourne, Australia) are making their first jaunt across the Pacific to debut at this tournament, and their unranked status earned them this first game with Assassination City, who recently were 2-2 at the Governor’s Cup, losing to #1SC Texas and #13SC Duke City.
Interestingly enough, until just yesterday, this game was difficult to predict because VRDL’s only games against American teams were their 2011 bouts against Rat City and the TXRG Hotrod Honeys home team, who both traveled to their home turf to play.However, VRDL flew in a bit early and played an unsanctioned closed bout against Duke just last night and won 122-80. Assassination lost to Duke City in the Governor’s Cup 144-101, which seems like it might give VRDL an edge in this game. Notably for long-term derby fans, VRDL’s roster includes one of Charm City’s original all-stars, Berzerker, who helped form the league upon moving from Baltimore to Australia in 2007.
Game 3: #13W Arizona vs. #14W Silicon Valley (Friday, 3pm)
Both teams participated in Dust Devil last year, and SVRG placed 4th overall after their loss to Angel City. It might be safe to say that this will be one of the more intense games of the weekend, as these teams currently sit neck and neck in the rankings. Both have notable advantages —  SVRG has the advantage of momentum in that they’ve had a great season thus far with narrow, hard-fought wins against Jet City, Emerald City, DC and Santa Cruz. They’ve built a 4-0 record in those games, but their average margin of victory is just 10 points. 

Arizona, on the other hand, has the advantage of having picked up some key new skaters in addition to their already solid roster – Atomatrix and Hockey Honey, formerly of 2009 WFTDA champs and 2010 and 2011 finalists Oly, and Joy Collision (Team USA captain and formerly of 2010 and 2011 Championships-qualifer Charm City).  SVRG’s advantage of having played together consistently over the past few months could prove a tough match for Arizona, a team still welcoming their new all-stars.

Game 4: #10W Tucson vs. #18W Pikes Peak (Friday, 7:30pm)
Tucson appears to have a few major roster changes – the absence of jammers Sami Automatic, Bianka Trohl and blocker Helen Wheels, along with the notable addition of ex-Duke City standout Miss E Vil). After a season-opening 100 point loss to rapidly improving #23W Terminal City, Pikes Peak is coming off of two recent wins over Slaughterhouse and Santa Cruz. Thus far this year, Tucson only has one game to their credit, a 153-94 away game against the East Region’s Gold Coast.


Game 6:  #9W Angel City vs. Winner Game 2 (Assassination City or Victoria) (Friday, 4:30pm)
If triangulation between Assassination City and Victoria’s games against Duke City holds true, then it will likely be VRDL that takes on Angel City in this game.   This will be Angel City’s Hollywood Scarlets 2012 debut as well, who also feature some roster changes with the retirement of veterans Go-Go Gidget and Ms. D’Fiant.

Much of Angel City’s roster is the team from 2011 Regionals, but with some notable new (but not to roller derby) faces like Krissy Krash, B-Train and Wrecky (all formerly Orange County Roller Girls).   It’s hard to say what the team will look like against VRDL, other than noting that VRDL lost to Rat City by a similar margin that ACDG lost to Bay Area at Regionals. Based on that, this should be an interesting game and will be VRDL’s first shot at playing a ranked team in the West Region.

Game 5: #2W Rocky Mountain  vs. Winner Game 1 (Rage or Pacific) (Friday, 6pm)
This will be the Rocky Mountain 5280 Fight Club’s 2012 debut. RMRG is unofficially ranked #3 in the world via DNN and arguably gave 2011 WFTDA champs Gotham their toughest challenge during last year’s WFTDA Championships before losing by 48 in the quarterfinals. This year, they have some key losses as Ecko, Psycho Babble and DeRanged depart, but Rocky Mountain will likely still be a strong force, as the roster still holds most of its mainstays, including Amanda Jamitinya, Assaultin Pepa, Fiona Grapple, Frida Beater, She Who and the momentarily retired Urrk’n Jerk’n as Booty Blockya.

Path to the Championship

Saturday’s games, and particularly the semi-finals, are entirely dependent on the results from Friday, but a likely Rocky Mountain win will put them up against the winner of the SVRG vs AZRD game, which could prove interesting especially if AZRD comes out on top. An AZRD / Rocky Mountain match would pit Atomatrix and Hockey Honey as leaders with much experience against familiar foes RMRG, with talented Joy Collision in the arsenal as well.
The winner of Angel City vs. VRDL will take on the winner of Tucson vs. Pikes Peak and could potentially be a rematch from 2011 Western Regionals of Angel City and Tucson.   A strong Pikes Peak cannot be discounted nor can an unknown like VRDL, so the match up of this game will surely be the result of two hard-fought games.

Additional reporting: Elektra Highvoltage