by Dylan Powell - posted 9:28 pm, March 4, 2016
After a thrilling last jam victory over long time rivals CN Power (Toronto Roller Derby) in their game at Division 1 Playoffs in Omaha, NE last year, their first ever D1 Playoff appearance, the Furies were elated.
That win gave them the chance to play Gotham Girls Roller Derby, the roller derby dynasty that to that point hadn’t lost a bout in 5 years. Predictably, the Furies lost big. The experience gained from that bout and playing the best in the world, will hopefully fuel this years playoff run. However, it also put this team in a tough spot to start this year.
The result of that bout alone is the difference between the Furies current ranking (46th) and the low 30’s where they would sit without it. They scored just 95 WFTDA points in that bout, well below their average of 340 at the time. (WFTDA scores are a math equation made up of percentage of total points scored, divided by 3, times the weight of a given team – then the result averaged from your sanctioned bouts over the last year).
The Furies battled through the rest of the weekend coming out with a higher seed than they entered (9th to 8th), but that in seeding bump doesn’t get reflected in their ranking.
The Furies current position at 46th has them only 6 spots and 12 points out of that 4oth spot – the cut off for Division 1 Playoffs – but the log jam around that cut off will make things tough. They will have to climb 6 spots without being leap frogged by other teams in the process. The level of talent they have on the roster is enough to do it, but it won’t be easy.
At this level the mantra of “every jam counts” is constant, but the focus for the Furies will be playing dominant roller derby for 60 minutes, every game, without any let up or panic. They will need to consistently hit their all time top end of WFTDA scores this year to get back to where they want to be – representing Buffalo in Playoffs against teams from all over the globe.
Their first opponent, the Roc City Roc Stars from Rochester Roller Derby, will be a tough first challenge. Ranked 76th with a weight of 1.76, the Furies need to beat Roc City in convincing fashion. To just play to their average they will need to score 63% of the total points in Sunday’s bout. To get back into D1 Playoff position though, they will have to aim even higher.
Since Win-Loss records are not the determinant for WFTDA rankings this creates an in game battle that is purely mental – how do you not let up, how do you stay focused and dominant? The Furies got to experience the other side of this in their Playoff loss last year to Gotham, the team with the best killer instinct in the history of women’s flat track roller derby. If there is one main thing they need to take away from that experience, ironically, it will be that. That is what they will need to tap into in order to get back into Division 1 territory.
With very little roster turn over and a full returning coaching staff – long time veteran B’Kini Whacks has taken a year off while two rookies join the roster, Niagara Roller Girls transfer Dana Scullcrusher and Queen’s Court graduate Rosi – the Furies should benefit early from the continuity of the roster. They can also expect the return of blocker Head Huntress from injury this year, which should shore up their blocking core even more.
With a jammer rotation that is deeper and tighter than last year – Librawlian, InSINerator, Miss Fire and Murphy – the Furies have more options this year shifting hard hitting jammer Low Hits Griffin to more of a blocking role and having three alternate jammers to call on for relief on top of her – Ashes t’ Ashes, Rosi and Dana Scullcrusher. Penalty trouble or off games will be that much easier to bear in the jammer rotation this year as a result.
The Furies have also re-doubled their efforts at cross training this off season, joining with trainer Matt Crawley at Impact Training at the Harborcenter in hopes of adding to their strength, endurance and overall fitness. Impact also trains members of the NLL Buffalo Bandits, as well as members of the NWHL Buffalo Beauts.
These are all great signs going into the 2016 season. With just 5 home games scheduled for this season, and only 4 of them sanctioned (meaning counting towards their WFTDA score and rank) packing Riverworks and having a large supportive crowds will be a priority. They have already sold out front row tickets and tables for this Sunday, and matched the pre sale levels of the leagues home opener in January, so along with the decent weather forecast for Sunday they are set up nice for this Sunday double header that will see the B Team Sirens take on Roc City’s B Sides following the Furies bout.
By the end of this month the Furies will have played 3 total sanctioned bouts – Rochester at home and then CN Power (Toronto Roller Derby) and Tri City Thunder (Tri City Roller Derby) at the Quad City Chaos tournament in Toronto. How these bouts go should give a good read on the direction the team will take this year. Coaches and skaters will be hoping to make March a statement month.
Things to Watch
Penalties: The Furies were great 5 on 5 last year against whoever they played, but creeping penalty trouble and panic would decide games last year (Steel City, Ohio, Tri City). With so much continuity and a dedication on the part of skaters to study their penalties and the rule set, they should see those numbers go down. Beyond that though fans should watch to see how the team reacts when they do still take penalties. Calming down and digging in can be the difference between giving up one manageable powerjam and allowing the other team to gain momentum and go on a run.
Start and End of Half: The Furies did a great job last year of dominating against New Hampshire at home, beating them 518-29 and setting a new club record for positive point differential at +489. A lot of developing that killer instinct relies on starting and ending well in each half. No let up to start and no letting light creep in near the end of a half to give the other team hope. Mental toughness.
General Admission tickets are still available for presale online. The Box office opens on Sunday at 1pm. Furies play first. Tickets – https://www.facebook.com/events/220103121672762/