COLUMBIA, SC >> It was déjà vu for the Boardwalk Bombshells in their second showing at the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Division I Playoffs in Columbia, South Carolina.
In their previous D-I playoff appearance in 2014, the Santa Cruz Derby Girls’ All-Star team was seeded sixth and placed seventh. Sunday, playing their fourth and final game of the tournament against the host Columbia QuadSquad, the Bombshells had to dig deep to earn a 174-141 win and secure seventh place in the playoffs.
Claire McCoy, also known as Ace Wenchura, was a standout jammer for Santa Cruz all weekend, despite spending most of the season blocking after returning from an injury.
“If someone told me a couple months ago I would be jamming in the D-I playoffs, I would have laughed!” McCoy said. “I’ve never come into a tournament feeling so physically unprepared, because of recovery and blocking most of the season, so I had to rely on experience and the amazing offense and defense our team provides.”
Unlike previous matchups with slow defensive packs, Sunday’s tilt started off with fast packs and frenetic energy.
Through 20 minutes of the first period, Santa Cruz led by as many as 10 points. Columbia continued to hold Santa Cruz to within one scoring pass per jam, making it difficult for Santa Cruz to open up the margin.
That is, until a power jam for Santa Cruz allowed McCoy to rack up 20 points in the highest scoring jam of the game to give the Bombshells a more comfortable 92-56 lead going into halftime.
“Columbia is a very physical, very talented team and we had to really play smart and dig deep,” McCoy said. “It was a tough game and I’m super proud of our team for maintaining the lead and playing our hearts out.”
Santa Cruz’s defense came out in the second half with renewed energy and the ability to shut down Columbia jammers, keeping them stuck in their tight packs and allowing Bombshells jammers to run up the score. A few bad jams for Santa Cruz allowed Columbia to fight back and close the gap, but it was never enough.
“Overall, we did not meet the goals we had set for ourselves before going into the tournament. We had to adjust our goals and expectations throughout the weekend to achieve success,” said Regan Eymann, co-captain of the Bombshells who skates under the name Shamrock N. Roller.
The Bombshells dropped their first match on Friday against No. 3 Denver, 314-127. Santa Cruz split its next two matches on Saturday, defeating Ann Arbor 216-107 and falling to Rainy City Roller Derby of Manchester, England 166-104.
But the Bombshells wrapped up their four-match slate with a victory to cap the 2016 season.
“The team played the best it has played all season. We are ending our year on a high note and are already looking forward to all the hard work we have ahead of us to move up in the rankings in 2017,” Eymann said. “We are ready!”
The Santa Cruz Derby Girls’ home team skaters will compete for the championship at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium on Oct. 29.
**Article by Eileen Hill as printed in the Santa Cruz Sentinel**
**Photo Credit: Louis Keiner ©2016**