Part 1: Windy City Rollers 2012 Season Analysis and Predictions
Two months after roller derby's first ever World Cup, 2012 packs a lot to look forward to for diehard fans as well as intrigued newcomers.
We'll continue Roller Derby Week with a three-part series on Chicago derby clubs by first focusing on the Windy City Rollers, the larger of two derby leagues and the current North Central champion.
WCR has four teams that compete in their league, where The Fury has been dominant for two years.
Team: Double Crossers
Colors: Black and Silver | Emblem: XX
Last Season: 4th Place
2011 was tough for the Double Crossers, a team that supplies important players to the WCR All-Stars. The XX lost all six bouts last year after losing new recruits to injury amidst hard-fought battles with the league's top teams.
Nina Faile returns to skate after a season as a Double Crossers bench coach, doubling up her experience and defensive know-how with All-Star veterans Karmageddon and Georgia On Yer Behind. New co-captain Abbey provides the Double Crossers with some speed and new dimension along with a list of jammers including Julia Rosenwinkel, IndyCent and Crossers' rookie of the year Sunshine 'n' Painbows. The question lies in whether the team can go skate-to-skate with other teams on defense and prevent competitors from running away with leads.
Still, it's likely that the XX will pick up some solid wins in upcoming campaign. And if they can win at least one contest against either of last year's top two --the Manics or The Fury--- then the league's post-season situation looks interesting.
Prediction: 3rd place or better if they win half their bouts.
Team: The Fury.
Colors: White, Orange and Black | Emblem: Brass knuckles
Last Season: League Champions. Ivy King Cup Champions in 2010, 2011.
Imagine if the Chicago Bears lost both linebackers --Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs-- plus Julius Peppers and two defensive backs. That's the situation here as several women of The Fury's defensive armory have either retired or moved. That said, The Fury still have potent offensive options and some defensive power to spare, but don't expect them to be so dominant this year. Last year the brass knuckle babes won all seven home bouts, yet a repeat of that is unlikely.
Speedskater-jammer Kola Loka returns as a key point scorer, along with superstar Jackie Daniels while Team Argentina MVP Alisa "Sargentina" dePedro is set to take a non-skating role as a bench coach. Other key players like Yvette Yourmaker and TS Helliot have sharpened their saws, gaining experience on WCR's all-star rosters. Plus, Janicide Joplin adds fire as a scrappy hellraiser alongside.
Still, injuries have been an issue, with jammer Ska Face suffering a broken leg in October and SpartaKris returning from a similar injury that took place mid-year.
In '11 The Fury combined defensive prowess with opportunistic jamming to take huge leads in every bout without conceding much to opponents. But with the loss of key members the champions may have some adjustments along the way, and a new team chemistry in the works.
Prediction: 2nd Place, but not without a fight.
Team: Hell's Belles
Colors: Red and Black | Emblem: Horns & Tail
Last Season: 3rd Place.
A new set of captains take over in 2012 for the Hell's Belles, who had a decent last season while developing a talented crop. They've got a good defensive core thanks to an experienced Hermione Danger and up-and-comers Tay Q Down, Dinah Party and Yameet Ur Doom. Plus Phoebe Fi Fo Fum, a second-team all-star, can block and create chances to score.
The Belles' Unicorner, who joined WCR from Bloomington just a year ago, has fast become a rising star. Returning veterans Zombea Arthur and Pominatrix also add style and body to the Belles as Deb Autry heads up their efforts with Mya Ssault as her co-captain.
Evenly balanced on offense and defense, the Belles didn't excel in either in 2011 especially against The Fury. But their athleticism, improved defense and good leadership will likely make the ladies in red a growing threat against their rivals this season.
Prediction: 2nd Place, perhaps in a tie situation with The Fury.
Team: Manic Attackers
Colors: Blue and Yellow | Emblem: Lightning bolt
Last Season: 2nd Place, Ivy King Cup Runners Up, 2011.
After being dominated in 2011 by The Fury's quick offense and often-impenetrable blockers, things are looking very positive for the Manics, despite the fact that Beth Amphetamine and Amy Nonamey have retired their blue and yellow uniforms.
Molly Fannin aka Bork-Bork-Bork --only a second year skater in 2011-- was named one of the Chicago Reader's athletes of the year, along with Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose and Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. And she's only gotten better. Bork's past life in other sports combines with her great positional sense and strength, making her the best defensive player in the league and perhaps the country. This pairs well with some of her fellow defensive proteges like Rose Feratu, AliSin Chains and Val Capone, plus a Manics benchful that can fulfill both offensive and defensive needs.
Bork's charismatic co-captain, Mo Vengeance, leads as a pivot and shores up the offensive side of things along with Zoe Trocious and Ruth Enasia, while the pint-size Tamikaze also jams potently, blocks well and can fill the pivot position. Plus the Manic Attackers have a triple-threat in veteran Wreck n' Shrew and another strong pivot in Ada Hatelace patrolling the track.
In contrast to The Fury in 2011, who drove a one-two punch of strong blocking and quick offense, the Manics' squad, player-for-player, appears to be more versatile. If this is indeed the case then the Manic Attackers are better apt to institute strategy to combat against sheer size and speed. Then it's up to them to punch their weight in a league that, overall, will be much more competitive this year.
Prediction: 2012 Champions
Later today we'll look at roller derby in independent film, and tomorrow Derby Lite, a recreational fun and fitness league that starts in Chicago this month. Thursday, we'll take a look at The Chicago Outfit, Chicago's other roller derby club.
Photo of Brawla Poundstone above by Andy Frye. Other graphics courtesy of the Windy City Rollers.