SANTA CRUZ, CA >> Santa Cruz roller derby goes international this weekend at the second annual Boardwalk Empire tournament.
The Santa Cruz Derby Girls are hosting a three-day series of roller derby games with a highly competitive line-up of teams from Finland, Maryland, Michigan, Arizona and the Bay Area. The tournament is being held privately at the league’s practice facility.
Santa Cruz’s All-Star skaters, the Boardwalk Bombshells, seized a triple victory in the tournament’s first two days, winning games against the Kallio All Colours (hailing from Helsinki), the Arizona Tent City Terrors (Phoenix), and the Charm City All Stars (Baltimore).
The wins are Santa Cruz’s first games of 2017 that count toward rankings assessed by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the sport’s governing body. Santa Cruz headed into the weekend invigorated by the latest WFTDA rankings that place them at No. 21 internationally — the highest ranking the league has ever achieved.
With the Ann Arbor Brawlstars ranked at No. 26, Kallio at No. 29, Arizona at No. 30 and Charm City at No. 37, the Boardwalk Empire tournament pits highly skilled teams against closely matched opponents.
The promise of a challenge is crucial for the visiting teams and their host, explained tournament organizer and Bombshells captain Regan Eymann, who skates as Shamrock N. Roller.
“Being able to bring in teams that are as closely matched as possible is important to everyone here,” Eymann said. “It’s important for us to push the boundaries of what we can do as an organization. Hosting a really solid tournament, with great hospitality, was the focus.”
The emphasis on hospitality was not lost on Santa Cruz’s guests from around the world. Sara Gilbert, who skates for Kallio All Colours, said her league was lured from Finland by the prospect of California in spring, as well as the tournament’s high level of play.
“Everyone has been having fun,” Gilbert said. “We know these are competitive games — sometimes it gets really uptight and nervous. Here, the spirit has been high-fives to the opponent, and I love that. That’s why we play this game — we’re having fun.”
Shelby Crosby, who skates as Feral Kat for the Charm City All Stars, also voiced her league’s excitement to participate. “More than anything, we’re stoked to come here,” she said. “Of course everyone wants to win, but I think we’re trying to take any failure as not a failure but a learning experience that we’re going to take home with us to make ourselves a much stronger team.”
The Bombshells’ first game against Kallio was especially close, with Kallio taking an early lead spurred by nimble jamming. Relentless defensive blocking from Santa Cruz prevented Kallio from capitalizing on several power jams, and the lead shifted several times throughout the first half. Several high-scoring jams pulled off by Santa Cruz jammers TaraIsm and Yeti Or Not, Here I Come launched the Bombshells into a significant lead they maintained to the end. The second half saw Kallio’s determined, strategic blocking well-matched by Santa Cruz, which won 226-158.
The Bombshells later faced Tent City in an extremely physical game characterized by strong defensive walls and persistent jamming from both sides. Despite impressive footwork from Arizona jammer Luz Chaos, Santa Cruz held onto a solid lead throughout both halves for a victory of 184-106.
In their third win of the weekend, the Bombshells bested Charm City 263-113. Multiple high-scoring power jams racked up an early lead for Santa Cruz, with blockers executing a well-coordinated offensive strategy to maximize the points attained by their jammer. Confident in their blockers’ ability to capture the opposing jammer, Santa Cruz jammers approached Charm City’s walls with patience, waiting for the right moment to burst through with grace and speed.
For their last game of the weekend, the Bombshells will go up against the Ann Arbor Brawlstars, the second-highest ranked team of the line-up.
“I’m excited to go into tomorrow with all the confidence and all the momentum that these last three games gave to us,” said Krista Corwin, who skates for Santa Cruz as Skirt Vonna-Gut. “Each player on the team is doing their own job really well. I’m excited to see it all gel into, hopefully, a strong finishing victory.”
**Article by Sophia Booth Magnone as printed in the Santa Cruz Sentinel**
**Photo Credit: Lauren Macadaeg ©2017**