The women of roller derby are terrifying athletes. The bouts are frenzied rushes of skaters racing around a tight circular track. Pumping their bodies to speed on the quick straight-aways, the racers push and grease their way around defenders to score points as they pass opposing skaters. Last Saturday night at Redwood Acres, a packed house got a chance to watch two Eugene teams face a pair of Humboldt roller derby teams: the Home Team All-stars and the Redwood Rollers.
The first clue that Eugene's Emerald City Roller Girls had come to scrap was the high-scoring, almost out-of-control opening bout between the Eugene Exhibitionists and the Home Team All-Stars. Within a few minutes of the kick-off scrum, it was evident that neither team was interested in losing. Body slamming defensive hits, scrambling and clawing were the tactics.
Eugene managed to take a victory using a combination of lightning fast jammers (the quick scoring skaters who wind through the pack and can end the jam) and good blocking. Again and again the Eugene Exhibitionist skaters zipped around the stalwart Humboldt defenders and the score climbed.
The opening bout was dominated by the defensive star K-911 (roller derby necessitates a funky nickname), whose flame red hair usually pointed to the most intense fight in the crowd of skaters. Most likely to get past Eugene defenders was the Humboldt superstar Sissy Jr. -- blazing fast on skates and quick to defend her teammates. Despite scrapping hard in the final 10 minutes and closing to a few points, the Humboldt All-stars couldn't grab the crown.
The headlining bout was a whole ’nother level of skating featuring the ’A' teams: Eugene's Skatesaphrenics and Humboldt's Redwood Rollers. Speed increased, and defense tightened. Eugene anchored a trio of defenders in the center of the pack and gracefully pushed rushing skaters out of bounds. The Humboldt defense centered on precise tackles and a zone defense.
Offensively the Rollers careen around the track with low-down speed skating maneuvers. Anya the Bunny Slayer, Guts & Gloria, McNasty, Miller Time and Sockeye are all ripsnort fast. Acrobatics including slingshots and quick crash recovery helped keep Humboldt in the game. Despite the speed, Eugene's tough defense locked up the competition. Bit by bit, their lead grew.
Despite the losses, the Eureka roller derby crowd bumped and jostled joyously. The rough athleticism of body-shaking checks and precise high-speed skating met with yelps and raucous cheering (especially as the crowd figured out how to read the quick breaks of the jammers). Add in a 20-piece horn band and a DJ, and audience members seemed to have a good time. Next bout is September 26 when the North Jetty Betty's face the Widow Makers and the Redwood Rollers square off against the North Bay Bruisers.
-- Maxwell Schnurer