Lake Effect Furies D1 Playoff Preview

On October 2nd QCRG’s Lake Effect Furies (9th seed, 33rd overall in WFTDA) will burst into Omaha, Nebraska for their WFTDA Division 1 Playoff debut.

Division 1 is determined by a team’s ranking by June 30. Generally speaking, the top 40 teams who qualify for a Playoff spot are invited to one of the four WFTDA D1 Playoffs. Then WFTDA does an S-seeding which is a somewhat non-complicated way of spreading out the teams throughout the four Playoffs. This is the third year WFTDA has run Divisional Playoffs. Previous years were regional.

Let’s take Omaha game-by-game and opponent-by-opponent:

The Furies’ first game, will be the first game of the tournament (Oct. 2, 10 a.m. CST) against long-time “rival” and sister league, Toronto’s CN Power (8 Seed, #32). The teams sit right next to each other in seeding and WFTDA ranking (as of June 30). This game should be a tremendous kick off to WFTDA’s final D1 Playoff tournament of the 2015 season.

Photo by Jim Bush
Photo by Jim Bush
The Furies and CN Power scrimmage each other once or twice a year. But the last time they met in sanctioned play was in 2013, the inaugural year of TORD’s Quad City Chaos tournament, when CN Power won 230-178. But that was a while ago and both team have fine-tuned their game and climbed up the D1 ladder.

CN Power went to their inaugural D1 Playoff in 2014 at Salem, OR as the 10th seed and came out in 6th place. They had an impressive 2015 season with wins against bracket-mate Boston Derby Dames (6 Seed, #23), as well as Steel City Roller Warriors (#29), Rideau Valley Roller Girls (#41), and a last second win over the Naptown Roller Girls (#48). In another close game, they barely lost to bracket-mate Montreal Roller Derby (4 Seed, #16) (180-171).

The first game of these Playoffs is critical. If you lose, you head into the consolation bracket. If you win, you move on to play the #1 Seed, Gotham Girls Roller Derby (1 Seed, #1).

Yeah. Gotham.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

The second game of the tournament will be Helsinki Roller Derby (7 Seed, #25), the only non-North American team of the Omaha Playoffs, against No Coast Derby Girls (10 Seed, #39). This game is a bit of an unknown. Neither team has met each other in sanctioned play before and they haven’t played the same teams in their 2015 season to give us any way to compare them.

Photo by Jim Bush
Photo by Jim Bush
Generally, European teams are at a disadvantage in the rankings and frequently come across as under-ranked (think last year’s 10th seed at the D2 Kitchener-Waterloo Bear City Roller Derby#61, who plowed through almost all of their opponents and went on to play at the D2 Champs).

Unless they have the opportunity for a lot of travel to North America, they are limited on who they can play during the season. Helsinki did fly over for The Big O tournament and played, and lost to, bracket-mates Boston (160-148) and Montreal (258-175). They lost to London Roller Derby (#4) during the season (397-33) and won over Bear City (239-118) and Stockholm Roller Derby (#17) (203-168).

No Coast comes in at the tail end of D1 (ranked 39th), but like Helsinki, they are not to be underestimated. While this is Helsinki’s first D1 Playoff, No Coast is no stranger to D1 Playoffs having attended in 2014 (7th place) and 2013 (10th place).

No Coast played some tough opponents this year including Arch Rival Roller Girls (#11) (lost 80-349), and Team United Women’s Roller Derby (#22) (lost 113-162 and 153-162).

So, if the Furies win their first game over CN Power they advance to take on, oh, you know, just the highest ranked team in the world: Gotham.

As of June 30, Gotham had earned 829.88 ranking points. They sat on the tippy top of the entire pile of WFTDA derby leagues. As of June 30, the Furies had earned 340.79 ranking points and as of June 30th were ranked 33rd.

Gotham trounced several teams in their 2015 season. Not one of those teams managed to score over 100 points against them. They beat the Denver Roller Derby (#5), Rocky Mountain Rollergirls (#14), Philly Roller Derby (#10), Minnesota RollerGirls (#12), and Tampa Roller Derby (#18). Denver managed to hold Gotham to 202 points.

Photo by Jim Bush
Photo by Jim Bush
It’s a well-known fact that a derby team can be down by 100 points at the half and it’s possible for them to come back and win the game with a few good power jams and penalties in their favor. Lower ranked teams can surprise a much higher ranked team and there have been upsets in Playoffs over the years. It can be done.

However, it isn’t done much in Division 1 Playoffs. Typically the higher seeded teams predictably (and often soundly) beat the lower seed teams.

But you never know.

The third game of Omaha will be between Montreal Roller Derby (4 seed, #16) and Windy City Rollers (5 seed, #20). Montreal and Windy met at ECDX this season and Montreal overpowered Windy 303-97.

Windy took a huge hit earlier in the season with the loss of several veteran players including Jackie Daniels, Varla Vendetta and former Lake Effect Furie/Alley Kat KonichiWOW. Windy has struggled this season. They lost to long-time rival and bracket-mate Minnesota RollerGirls (3 seed #12) for the first time ever (at least in sanctioned play) in April (283-78), as well as losing to Montreal (where KonichiWOW is rostered to play), Charm City Roller Girls (#19), Jacksonville Rollergirls (#9) and Atlanta Rollergirls (#13).

So, if the Furies beat CN Power and then beat Gotham, they will move on to play Montreal.

The Furies have played Montreal twice so far, with Montreal coming out on top both times. The first time the Furies played Montreal was way back in 2011 in their first year as a fully chartered WFTDA team. Montreal spanked them soundly (302-24). In 2012, the teams met again with a similar outcome (326-62). But the 2015 Furies are a much different team in skill, strategy and players. If these two teams do meet, the score will likely be much closer and it’s not certain which team will come out on top.

Minnesota and Boston Derby Dames (6 seed, #23) meet up in game 4 of the Omaha Playoffs.

Photo by Jim Bush
Photo by Jim Bush
Boston played against several of the teams playing in Omaha. They lost against Montreal (94-213), won over Helsinki in a close game (160-148) at the Big O and Toronto beat them at Quad City Chaos in March (178-233).

Minnesota played two bracket-mates during the 2015 season including the aforementioned win over Windy and a loss to Gotham at BrewHaHa (57-281). If Minnesota meets Gotham again it will be in Sunday’s final game.

Angel City Derby Girls (2 seed, #8) will play the winner of the No Coast-Helsinki game. This team has been steadily climbing the D1 ladder and had some serious games during the 2015 season. They only lost to London and Texas Rollergirls (#7) but collected wins over Rocky Mountain, Jacksonville, and Atlanta, among others.

Whether the Furies advance through the winners’ bracket or the consolation bracket, the games are sure to be high-powered and exciting. If you aren’t able to make the trip out West to watch it in person, you can tune in to WFTDA.TV and follow the action on social media.

~ Vile Love-It