I’ve often said that the best sporting contests are those between teams and competitors that are evenly matched. More so than geographic or manufactured rivalries, combatants who meet with equal abilities combine for thrilling spectacle. When watching Major League Baseball, New York vs. Boston is always exciting for this very reason and not simply because they are divisional foes.
In relatively new sports such as women’s flat track roller derby, matches can be wildly lopsided as teams meet up having varying levels of expertise. Often an A level team will be bouting against a B level team. This is often easily recognized by final scores reaching triple digits on one end and low double digit numbers on the opposing side.
The recent matchup on July 16, 2011 between Lehigh Valley’s Hissy Fits and New Hampshire’s Skate Free or Die All-Stars saw both teams coming into this contest closely paired. That Lehigh Valley emerged victorious by a margin of 44 points is tantamount to how well they played the game and their deployment of strategy on the track.
Pre-bout the excitement, anticipation and a bit of nervous energy was evident amongst the Lehigh Valley skaters. On more than one occasion team members mentioned they were eager to face New Hampshire once again after suffering a 158 – 120 defeat during their last meeting in the Granite State on August 28, 2010. The final score of that bout was surprisingly close considering Lehigh Valley was unaccustomed to skating on the concrete surface that awaited them in New Hampshire’s arena.
Now facing the Skate Free or Die All-Stars on their home track, The Independence Family Fun Center, the Hissy fits were determined to turn the tables in their favor. Jamming for Lehigh Valley was V-Diva, Vanilla CreamHer, Lev’lin Levi, Roxxy Fox and making her debut, Lauranimal.
Positional coverage was provided by a formidable roster of; Chikki Six, Daisy Destructo, Greta Gridlock, Hell Raizin’ Hussy, Kathleen Turner Overdrive, Lin Diesel, Loogie Vuitton, Parka Paxa Punch, and Rose Beef.
Lehigh Valley posted an early lead but New Hampshire fired back and at the 21:59 mark of the first half led by a score of 21 – 7. By the 8thJam V-Diva added a double grand slam to the board bringing the Hissy Fits within reach of the lead with the scoreboard recording 21-17 and placing the Hissy Fits 4 points behind the All-Stars. Vanilla CreamHer added three more points while the positional players kept New Hampshire at bay bringing the score within three points of the All-Stars.
Lehigh Valley grabbed the lead away from New Hampshire at the 17:42 mark and kept racking up digits the remainder of the first half, leaving New Hampshire in their rear view mirror and closing out the half with a score of 72 – 35
During the halftime break the fans once again were able to purchase derby swag from both teams. Remember your purchase of team items helps fund the sport of flat track roller derby, so consider buying a shirt or even a sticker or button for yourself or someone else.
Raffle tickets were also sold for a 50/50 drawing and another derby painting. Once again I was unsuccessful in winning either the 50/50 or the highly coveted original artwork, but I am pleased to report that my “intern” Liz Roth was the big winner of the 50/50.
There was no band performing at the half, but the fans in attendance didn’t seem to mind and took to the surrounding outdoor areas to enjoy the mid July sunshine and to tailgate and chat with their friends and other fans.
I was concerned earlier in the day prior to the bout when I didn’t see people queued up as early as they had for past matches. The fans did not disappoint though and by the time of the whistle blow all available seats were filled and a large standing room crowd was evident.
While on line waiting to enter the facility I met the very nice parents of Rose Beef; Mama and Poppa Beef. It is great to see family supporting the sport and their family member’s involvement in it. Spouses, partners and significant others also bore shirts proclaiming them to be, “property of ____” (insert derby name).
Also waiting on line and consistently the first fan to arrive is a girl I have dubbed “super fan.” She travels from Sellersville in Bucks County to each and every home bout and brings along a myriad of homemade signs and paraphernalia to cheer on her favorite rollergirls.
Worth mentioning; LVRG has rescinded their restriction on bringing personal chairs into the facility. They understand that not all fans are able to stand for large periods of time and may not be comfortable sitting on the floor. The temporary ban on chairs was meant as an experiment in making the fan experience more comfortable by expanding the available seating area. Fans wanted to continue bringing their own chairs and LVRG listened. They still request that fans not bring the large coolers into the facility.
The second period began with a double grand slam from Vanilla CreamHer padding Lehigh Valley’s lead to a very comfortable 87 – 35. New Hampshire’s Make Out Bandit was lead Jammer in Jam 25 and posted a grand slam which chipped slightly at the large deficit for a score of 87 – 40 Lehigh Valley at 26:30.
It seems each bout this season is more intense than the previous one and this was no exception. Bodies were flying, falling, colliding and sliding across the highly polished wooden track surface of Independence Family Fun and hits were incredibly forceful. At one point two thirds into the first half New Hampshire’s #8.99 Hearty Break-Fist, was on the receiving end of a particularly brutal hit courtesy of Lehigh Valley and lay unmoving in the center of the track mere inches away from the playing area while the action continued around her. After what seemed an eternity, she brushed herself off and rose to the cheers of the crowd, providing another reminder to fans that roller derby is a dangerous full contact sport.
Lehigh Valley’s blockers possessed an aggression level that was off the charts. The team also appeared to be very much in sync with one another, working extremely well as unit. Their rigorous thrice weekly practice schedule is paying large dividends in final scores.
Although the Hissy Fits maintained the lead throughout the remainder of the bout, New Hampshire implemented some strategic moves such as speeding up the pace in an attempt to wear Lehigh Valley down. Lehigh Valley was not about to tire easily and continued to pound New Hampshire emerging victorious and recording a final score of 135 -91.
MVPs for the bout were #66 Lin Diesel of Lehigh Valley and New Hampshire’s #1010 Slam I Am. They were each presented custom metal trophies featuring a sexy skater atop a star flanked by two other stars. Congratulations to the very deserving MVPs from both teams.
Lauranimal fared very well in her debut bout and was cool under the extreme pressure of not only debuting against a formidable opponent but also playing in the spotlight role of jammer and scoring some points in the process. She is definitely one to watch!
Also worthy of special recognition is Parker Paxa Punch for her stunning rendition of the National Anthem. Sounding reminiscent of Sarah McLachlan her version of the anthem can certainly stand alongside the best of them that I have heard at the 10,000 seat Coca Cola Park. She should contemplate showcasing her talent on a larger stage and audition for the Iron Pigs next year when they conduct their National Anthem tryouts during the off season.
One final note, as I write this fan favorite Lillian Axe is on her way to North Carolina to return to the Carolina Rollergirls. She will be greatly missed by team mates and fans alike. The Corner Seat wishes her all the best in this next chapter of her life and we look forward to seeing her again in the future when she returns to the Valley for a visit.
The next bout for the LVRG will be another home game on August 20, 2011 at Independence Family Fun Center in Schnecksville, PA. This promises to be a wild day of roller derby action as it is a double header. Doors will open an hour earlier than usual for this event and the first whistle will blow at 5pm.
Tickets are only $10 in advance and $12 at the door, children are half price. We will post more information on the bout in the coming weeks, but you may want to order tickets early as it will likely sell out. Tickets can always be purchased directly from the rollergirls at their personal appearances or online by visiting http://www.lehighvalleyrollergirls.com/
A special thanks to Joe Robinson for the photos that accompany this article. You can see a full slideshow of these and many more of his shots on the upcoming examiner.com version.