D1C: Ohio Roller Girls Preview

D1C: Ohio Roller Girls Preview Photo: Bob Dunnell

MILWAUKEE, WI–Ohio is a prime example of hard work paying off. In 2011, they played 17 games before they entered playoffs as the 10th seed and came out 9th. The following year they played 21 games, entered playoffs as the 5th seed, and finished 4th.

This year, after playing 20 games, they finally punched their ticket to Champs with a 2nd place finish in Fort Wayne. Captain Phoenix Bunz recognized their busy schedule as a factor in their improvement. “We like to play and if we aren’t playing, we are practicing, so it’s not like we are getting time off. And when you are preparing for awesome events like Play-offs or Championships, burnout is pushed aside by focus, drive and excitement.”

As an original member of the WFTDA, Ohio has kept a strong core of skaters through the years but the league is very small and their game day rosters even smaller: in Fort Wayne, 10 skaters saw track time against Arch Rival and 11 against Montreal. The team takes the track with their best skaters and they aim to win. “We try to balance that with getting all skaters some game experience and opportunities to to develop, but our team’s overriding goal was winning and getting us to Champs.” And it’s clear Bunz and her team’s strategy has worked, because now they will be sharing the track with the best teams in the world.

As well as looking at each team as a whole, we’re featuring one skater from each team. For Ohio, we caught up with notable jammer The Smacktivist.

You began skating with Ohio last year with a hockey background and had an impressive rookie year. Wat got you into derby and how have you risen so fast?
I played girls’ AAA travel ice hockey for almost half of my life. I started playing derby because my hockey career had come to an end after playing for a season with the Ohio State University Women’s Club team. I found out about derby and was in a place in my life where I felt really hopeless, but also like I had nothing to lose. So I went to a Wanna-Be Clinic with OHRG and people, apparently, thought I was pretty good at skating. Many of them encouraged me to attend tryouts shortly after and the rest is history, I guess. Or, y’know, a lot of hard work and training with some of the best.

What has been the favorite moment of your career thus far?
Hm. Seeing my teammates’ (especially the veterans’) faces when we won that game against Montreal at Playoffs, solidifying our advance to play Denver and our shot at Champs. I was so proud of everyone and everything we’d done to accomplish this goal and I was so happy to know that the people who had put 6 something years into this were finally seeing all of their hard work paying off. That and the one time Tripp was dancing (kind of?) on a pool table at an after party.

Ohio seems to use a strong, smaller number of core skaters who play double time. What keeps you and your team going when they’re tired?
Heart. Desire. And camaraderie. We don’t have a big league at all, in physical size or in numbers. Sometimes our scrimmages are 5-on-5 and we don’t have subs. But we’re all there because we love it and because we want to be the best that we can. And we are constantly cheering one another on and encouraging each other. That’s something that I love most about my league.

What are your personal goals for Champs? How do you prepare for a big weekend?
Personally, I want to play Gotham. I want a shot at them so badly. Maybe I’m being silly. But I want to score points on them and knock them over. Haha. I also want to have fun. And I need to say that, because sometimes I am so hard on myself that I forget why I do this in the first place. Honestly, I have a lot going on in my life. I struggle with various mental health issues, am in a band, facilitate a radical mental health collective and I work almost full time. So I tend not to focus too intensely on big weekends until they are happening. I go to all of the practices that I am able and I continue my regular gym regimen and I work extra hard on taking care of my body physically and mentally (which is often a struggle for me). My pregame ritual involves a lot of hardcore and not a lot of talking.

As a fairly new skater in the derby world, what advice do you have for young skaters?
I’m not sure if this can be considered advice but–YOU RULE! You are so brave and I am proud of you! Keep working hard (if that’s what you want to do and it makes you feel good) and be kind to yourself! Most of this stuff doesn’t come overnight (I still am not 100% on the rules, heh). Try hard to be present and to enjoy the PROCESS of learning and becoming better at roller derby. Process is just as important and fun as results. (Side note: these are things I need to tell myself regularly.)

Ohio’s busy 2013 season started as a winning spring with some solid victories over mid-level and lower ranked D1 teams. In their first trip to Milwaukee this year, they went 1-1 at BrewHaHa, winning by 323 points against Pikes Peak and losing by 238 against the strong Minnesota RollerGirls. Their last loss before playoffs was a strong showing against Philly, only losing by 25 points, giving them a 15-5 record.

Despite the demise of the location-based tournament system this year, Ohio still met regional foe Arch Rival on day one of the Fort Wayne playoffs. They took two wins over Arch Rival last year–including one which knocked ARRG out of the running for 2012 Champs. In a brutal fight this past May, Arch Rival sought revenge and took a 179-108 victory over a scrambling Ohio. In Fort Wayne, Ohio had a slow start, letting Arch think it would be another notch in their belts. After a 68 point deficit 20 minutes into the first half, the Smacktivist clawed Ohio back into the game with 62 points over two jams. Ohio took advantage of penalty riddled Arch and rallied to a 218-166 victory.

Another upset against Montreal the following day put them up against Denver for the final bout and while Ohio had a good early run against the Mile High Club, staying in the game for the first 25 minutes, they were roundly trounced in the final analysis. The side put up just a handful of points in the face of two 80+-point runs by Denver, finding themselves in a 90-point hole at half-time en route to a 304-134 loss.

Flat Track Stats has no predicted winner for Ohio’s Championship debut versus Rat City- there is a 50/50 chance either team will prevail and WFTDA rankings currently place them three spots apart. Phoenix Bunz has proven to lead her pack, whether wearing the star or the stripe, into solid performances, and blockers Loraine Acid, Bratislava Bruiser and Ava Tarr will likely be able to draw penalties on Rat’s jammers. A solid rotation of Bunz and Smack with the star, backed up by Outa My Wayman and Pippi Ripyourstickings, seems a recipe for solid competition against the ladies from Seattle.

This weekend will also be the final hurrah for the versatile Phoenix Bunz and Pippi Ripyourstockings. Bunz is extremely proud to see her team make it this far. “Champs was always the goal–often a lofty one–and as a skater I wasn’t sure I’d be around to see the day we qualified. So to qualify for the first time in our league’s history is the ultimate capstone.” No matter how they perform this weekend, it will no doubt be a cherry on top of those two skaters’ careers.

Ohio Roller Girls All Stars

125 Paige Bleed // 10 Outa My Wayman // 1098 Amy Spears // 1101 Ava Tarr // 12 Kitty Liquorbottom // 138 Pearl Rogi // 19 Texas Chainsaw Sasskicker // 1993 Bratislava Bruiser // 216 Kill Basa // 23 Phoenix Bunz // 365 The Smacktivist // 451 Burnadeath // 5150 Pippi Ripyourstockings // 5459 HellionBoi // 59 Loraine Acid // 815 Bigg Rigg // C4 TactiGal // V0LT Elektra Magneto // ICU2 Ena Flash

An earlier version of this article stated that Ohio finished 3rd at Fort Wayne. They finished 2nd and the article has been corrected. DNN regrets the error.