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“Steal” City Pull Off Late Run to Down the Furies

Credit: Chris Kalisiak (CK Photography)

Credit: Chris Kalisiak (CK Photography)

With 9:03 left in the 2nd half the Lake Effect Furies held a 29 point lead against Steel City. Steel City closed those final 8 jams on a 49-10 run to steal the game and finish with a 10 point lead. The late game collapse for the Furies was heartbreaking in a game where they led almost entirely from the first whistle. Down 15, with one final jam, the Furies put out top jammer Librawlian to pull off a miracle. She gained lead, lapped the pack and the other jammer twice, cutting the lead down to just 5 with over a minute left to get those 5 final points. An experienced Steel City squad saw Snot Rocket star pass to Hurricane Heather and she broke through the pack and then ran down Librawlian knocking her out and pulling her back until time ran out. It was so close. The stunned Riverworks crowd was in disbelief. 

It will be tough for the Furies skaters, coaches and fans to deal with the loss in a game they controlled. However, perspective is important. Last year on February 14 this Steel City team was ranked 14th in world – the Furies were 52nd. In just over a year the Furies have closed a massive gap and came oh so close to beating an experienced and highly competitive Steel City team that is still ranked above them. One of the highest ranked teams the Furies have ever played against, the goal for the bout was to show the rest of WFTDA that the Furies belonged in Division 1 and they certainly did that. I wrote about endurance and experience being the storyline for this game in the bout preview and that held up. The Furies didn’t lose because of skill, they lost because they played against a solid team that had a slight edge in bout experience and endurance. Games like this are all a part of that next step of being a legitimate Division 1 team.

The Steel City team features Team USA Skater Snot Rocket and endorsed skater Hurricane Heather, both veterans, but overall the strength of their team is in their consistency throughout the roster. Instead of stand out players, Steel City waits for opposing teams to make mistakes and then capitalizes. A lot of Steel City’s points came during Furies jammer penalties and that final run was decided in “ghost points” – points that Steel City jammers were awarded while Furies blockers were sitting with penalties. Leeannibal Lector dominated with 53 of SCRD’s 93 first half points, but overall their jamming core did a good job of being solid and playing a complete game. Although Steel City has been trending downwards, they still play with that top tier Division 1 style where everyone plays positionally. Blockers don’t risk moving out of position to land a big hit, leak out, or go out of their way to force opposing jammers outside of the track. They simply stay in position together and fight to stay in front of jammers. Their tight control of their pack is a major reason why penalties were 27 for Steel City and 41 for the Furies. Their blocking should be something the Furies aspire to moving forward.

For the Furies, Brawl, InSINerator and Griff all had great moments but not complete games. Brawl was exhausted, jamming 19 times in the game, and Sin and Griff couldn’t match their 1st half efforts in the 2nd. Furies rookie Murphy struggled with penalties. Veterans in the blocking core Tabrina and Pepper kept a steady ship for most of the game, but endurance and inexperience caught up with them on that final run by Steel City. The Furies shifted to a strategy of defensive jamming in those final 8 jams to try and run down the clock, protect points, and free blockers from penalties – but the inability to gain lead jam over that stretch killed them. Repeat attempts at star passes were another strategy to get around disparities on the blocker line – but even successful attempts couldn’t land lead jam and unsuccessful attempts were a disaster. Matched against a more experienced opponent the Furies started to out think themselves, instead of focusing on the basics and what got them commanding leads earlier in the game. They needed to simplify the game as that lead started to drop, not try and out strategize Steel City. 

The bout recap for this game is really a test of where you see this team going forward. This could have been written in a purely positive tone, acknowledging how close the game was against a higher ranked opponent and it would be just as relevant. However, the season only gets tougher from this point on and the Furies need games like this to remain humble, hungry and focused on continuing that move up in Division 1. Their most veteran jammer has only been playing derby since 2011 (Griff), their blocking core has a bunch of newer skaters as well (by Div 1 standards at least). The improvement in newer skaters, like InSINerator, from last year to this year is remarkable and their veteran core play with a great derby IQ and have amazing leadership skills. Brawl is also an athletic freak and a competitor who can match just about any teams top jammer. There are endless positives to mention about this team, but to me it seems more important to focus on what the Furies need to do to reach that next level – to reach their full potential. The Furies have to rebound from this loss and travel to Ohio next Saturday to play a tougher team, on their track. They shouldn’t be happy they took Steel City down to the final jam as they prepare for Ohio, they should be angry, hungry and committed to not letting another game like that slip through their hands. 

#Doitfor57: Both teams answered the call out for support to mark the suicide of Detroit Jr. Roller Derby Skater Samuel Taub “Casper.” The Derby community, globally, wore turquoise and wrote #doitfor57 on their bodies this weekend in an effort to raise awareness about trans suicide and to fight bullying and transphobia both within and outside of the derby community. Trans Skater Dr. Joseph Simonis from Windy City has written an amazing piece on it here that should be required reading. It was an emotional weekend for a lot of people who know that there are things bigger than roller derby, but also that roller derby can be a refuge and a place to organize for an inclusive and equitable society. 

Stat of the Game: By my unofficial count Steel City scored 82 points off of Furies jammer penalties. If I had stats for how many “ghost points” they scored in the 2nd half that would be the stat of the game as well. 5 on 5 the Furies dominated Steel City, they absolutely have to focus on remaining on the track. The worst blocker in the world is better on the track than one sitting with a penalty. 

Gif of the Game: Those last 8 jams.

Crowd Assist: Jen Koplas caught the start of the final jam as Brawl broke through the pack and Snot Rocket started trying to star pass to Hurricane Heather. It was so close.

#lakeeffectfuries. #qcrg. Good job ladies!

A video posted by Jen Koplas (@jkoplas) on