CLEVELAND >> The Santa Cruz Derby Girls lost their chance to advance to the Division II championships when they were upset during the second round of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s D-II playoffs Saturday night. But they didn’t lose their sense of pride.
After spending the night licking its wounds, top-seeded Santa Cruz returned Sunday for the third-place game ready to rumble. The Boardwalk Bombshells squad took out its frustration on No. 6 Houston to wrap up tournament play with a 154-141 win and the third-place trophy.
“Yesterday’s loss was really, really hard for our entire team,” said Tatiana Starets, who skates as Roasted Pony. “We sucked it up though. And woke up today ready to bring everything we had to the track.”
Santa Cruz wound up No. 42 overall when the WFTDA’s rankings came out May 31 — one spot below the cut for the Division I tournament. The Bombshells’ ranking took a hit when they were badly beaten by D-I title contender London Rollergirls, and many from Santa Cruz thought the team deserved better and wanted to win the D-II title to prove it. But a rough game against Demolition City, No. 50 in the WFTDA ranks, in the semifinals landed the Bombshells in the third-place game with no hope of moving on the championships this season.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for the future.
“We played a strong game with limited risks and a calm head,” said coach Valerie Andromacha-Atha, nicknamed Valcohol. “Next season we should have most of our skaters return and have our sights set on competing back at the Division 1 level.”
Just keeping from sinking to fourth place in D-II certainly wasn’t easy Sunday.
The game started in Santa Cruz’s favor with a streak of lead calls converted to points. Once again, Cheri Bell, aka Queen Litigious, helped set the tone for Santa Cruz. In hopes of continuing the success Cora Olson, aka CoraZone, had Saturday, she was included in the jammer rotation from the start.
The game included multiple lead changes and momentum swings. Even when Santa Cruz was awarded a lead, Houston’s quick jammers were able to force the call off by escaping the pack. That limited the Bombshells’ gains to a few points at a time.
“Our competitors were classy and fierce and it was a hard-fought win,” Starets said. “Everyone had shining moments, and the best part is that we are 20 strong and our captains and coach reminds us of that every time we play and practice.”
Through it all, Santa Cruz had to battle Houston’s tough defensive walls. Houston preferred a flat — albeit dynamic — four-wall, whereas Santa Cruz found the most success keeping its defensive formations fluid and rotating.
Santa Cruz developed an 11-point lead in the first half, but Houston sliced that down to five, 110-105, midway through the second. The Bombshells responded with a two-jam surge behind Queen Litigious and Tara K., aka Taraism, that gave them a 145-109 lead that all but put Santa Cruz out of reach.
Houston’s Brandi Brown led all jammers with 69 points, including a late 17-point run.
Queen Litigious was able to squeeze through the defense to score a team-high 63 points for Santa Cruz and was the one who called off the jam as time expired on Santa Cruz’s victory. Roasted Pony, a new jammer to the playoff scene, said help from blockers like playoff veteran Regan Eymann, aka Shamrock N. Roller, was invaluable.
“My highlight was working with my blockers today. I realized that the Houston walls were really solid and I needed offense quick, and my blockers listened and adjusted and delivered perfectly times hits to get me out,” she said. “The communication was off the chain.”
Though the season ended earlier than the Bombshells had hoped, they are already preparing for next season.
“We just had a team meeting and are already talking about how we will use our offseason to keep building strength and muscle so we can come back and bring it 20 strong to the tough teams again next year,” Starets said.
The Santa Cruz Boardwalk Bombshells will have one last home game this season. They will play the Bay Area Derby Girls’ home team, the Berkley Resistance, at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
**Article by Kristen Garfield as printed in the Santa Cruz Sentinel**