Battle on the Bank IV Preview

It’s the month of June. For banked track roller derby, that means only one thing.

Battle on the Bank IV, the fourth edition of the national banked track roller derby tournament, is set for the weekend of June 10-12 at the Veterans Memorial Colosseum in Phoenix, Ariz. In the event’s biggest field ever, nine teams will face-off for the right to be called the best banked track roller derby team in the country—Rocky Mountain not withstanding.

The 5280 Fight Club won’t be there, but seven permanent banked track leagues will be represented, including two-time defending champs, the San Diego Derby Dolls. The always-dangerous Team Legit and the veteran Tuscon Roller Derby all-star team will also be competing to carry the flag for the flat trackers.

The tournament will feature 14 games over three days. Preliminary games on Friday and Saturday will be half the usual length, or two 15-minute periods totaling 30 minutes of game play. The third place and championship games on Sunday will be the full length, with four 15-minute periods totaling 60 minutes.

While billed as a double-elimination tournament, it’s not truly one, as one loss during the preliminary rounds means the best that a team can do is third place. Before the final BotB schedule was released, a preliminary format contained 16 games and balanced seeding match-ups throughout. However, nine teams does not a fair and balanced bracket make.

To accommodate a fair amount of rest to teams needing to play multiple games on the same day—and to avoid a situation where one team needed to play two full games on Sunday—the hosting Arizona Derby Dames retooled the brackets to allow for four teams to fight for the top three places on championship Sunday.

(Want to see the tournament format and print out your own Battle on the Bank IV bracket? Grab your pencil and click here to grab it.)

Of the nine teams competing in Battle on the Bank this year, seven have previous experience at the tournament. Who has the best chance of winning it all in 2011? Find out in our team-by-team analysis and breakdown, after the jump.


But before we get to that, let’s go over the major rules differences between flat and banked track roller derby, for the benefit of those not lucky enough to have regular access to a banked track league. Battle on the Bank uses the WORD Version 2.0 interleague rulebook, which borrows many rules from the official WFTDA rule set.

Jams in banked track play are 60 seconds long, and the jam time does not start until the jammers are released. Lead jammer status is awarded to the jammer that is physically in front of the other jammer on the track, so lead jammer status can change if a jammer swap position on track. This puts a premium in getting the jammer out of the pack first at all costs, as a jammer that commits a penalty on her way through the pack will still be lead jammer, as long as she is ahead of the other jammer on the track.

Penalties are called during jams, but skaters committing them remain on the track only to serve their penalty during the next jam. For this reason, the last jam of a game is skated under different rules. A jammer committing a penalty during the last jam is removed from the track immediately, and a penalized blocker instantly becomes a ghost point (but remains on the track) if penalized during the last jam. Speaking of penalties, it’s illegal to stop or skate backwards on the track while within in the confines of the pack.

There are a few other wrinkles, but that’s banked track derby in a nutshell. Roller derby is roller derby regardless of the surface, though, and general play in banked track is similar to that in flat track. The biggest difference is the faster pace and harder hits inherent to the nature of the highly banked skating surface.

So those are the rules of the banked track game. Which team will rule the banked track tournament and raise the championship trophy on on June 12? Of the nine teams coming in, four have a legitimate chance at taking it all, but all of them are capable of coming away with at least a win. The team that wins all of their games will leave Arizona a champion. The one that’s got the best chance is the two-time defending champion…

San Diego Derby Dolls
San Diego, Calif
BotB History— 2008: 4th | 2009: 1st | 2010: 1st
2011: 1st Seed

Since spinning-off of their Derby Doll sisters up Interstate 5, San Diego has quickly established itself as the powerhouse in banked track roller derby. Two straight Battle on the Bank championship trophies can do that for you. San Diego also doesn’t mess around on the flat track, don’t forget, meaning they’ve got the talent to take it to anyone on any surface.

Of course, the same can be said about Rocky Mountain. The reigning WFTDA champions went on an eventful road trip earlier this year and demonstrated their derby superiority with a SoCal banked track double victory, including a convincing win over San Diego on their home track. Clearly, RMRG is in a class of their own, but it’s not very often San Diego is made to look vulnerable. Can they overcome that loss and get the BotB three-peat, or is this the year another team breaks through as San Diego stumbles?

Player to Watch: #19 Steely Jan — As the top-scoring jammer in the Derby Dolls intraleague season so far for the San Diego Swarm, Steely Jan will need to make sure she keeps racking up the points to make sure the Wildfires offense doesn’t sputter at the wrong time.

Potential Big Game: The Championship Final — Barring disaster, San Diego should find themselves playing for the big trophy in the last game of the weekend, where their likely opponent will be either Team Legit or the L.A. Derby Dolls. Whichever team San Diego faces in the final, should they get there, the game is sure to be a barn-burner. L.A. vs. S.D. rivalry games are always off the charts, and Team Legit seems poised and ready to take the title this year. San Diego will need to save its best for last if it wants to keep its tournament streak going.

Why They’ll Win it All — They’re the best team at the tournament and are the two-time defending champs. They’ll continue to be so until someone takes that away from them.

Team Legit
West Coast All-Stars
BotB History — 2009: 3rd | 2010: 2nd
2011: 2nd Seed

What needs to be said about Team Legit? They’re an anomaly in sports, let alone roller derby. Scattered across the western United States, they don’t practice together and don’t have regular access to a banked track. Yet, they are collectively one of the best banked track teams in the country. That they’ve been a strong team from the start is a testament to the outright skill of their skaters, which is made up of mostly Rat City skaters augmented with some of the best skaters from elsewhere in the country.

Legit has always been a threat at Battle on the Bank for that reason, but now they have something even more dangerous: experience. Even though they’re a pick-up team, they’ve cumulatively played dozens of games, either as a team or as individual skaters with flat track teams (like Gotham and Windy City) who have taken on the bank. As their past results at BotB would indicate, this is a team that’s trending upward…and there’s only one step left to go until they get to the top.

Player to Watch: #27 Sarina “DeRanged” Hayden — If there’s any skater who lives up to her name, it’s DeRanged, who is both insane and insanely fast. Normally one of Rocky Mountain’s top jammers, she’s personally played in more banked track games than a good deal of the skaters playing the weekend of the tournament. If teams can’t slow her down, she’ll score on them faster than they can react. That’s important during a 30-minute preliminary game, where the other team won’t have much time to adjust and recover.

Potential Big Game: Semi-final — Team Legit will almost certainly face the L.A. Derby Dolls in their second game of the weekend. At BotB last year, Legit squeaked out a 66-65 win in the half-length semi-finals. Earlier this year, Legit defeated Los Angeles by the score of 125-96 in a full game. However, L.A.’s squad is now much improved and is ready to put up a fight like never before. Can Legit quiet the Ri-ettes and setup a championship rematch with San Diego in the finals?

Why They’ll Win it AllIt seems that 2011 is the year of the flat track invasion on the banked track. As Rocky Mountain has proven, it’s possible for a flat track team with excellent skaters to beat an established banked track team on their own turf. Team Legit is in the right place at the right time to continue that trend.

Los Angeles Derby Dolls
Los Angeles, Calif.
BotB History — 2008: 1st | 2009: 2nd | 2010: 3rd
2011: 3rd Seed

If there’s one group synonymous with banked track roller derby, it’s the Derby Dolls. Befitting of their Hollywood nature, the Derby Dolls limelight is the brightest in Los Angeles. Their notoriety is part of the reason why WFTDA teams like Windy City, Gotham, and Rocky Mountain wanted to test their mettle against the Ri-ettes, and L.A. more than proved themselves against all comers.

But if past results are any indicator, Los Angeles has been trending downward at Battle on the Bank. The Ri-ettes have always been a team talented enough to win any given year, but they never seemed find themselves on the right side of the scoreboard. The 30-minute format of the preliminary games seems to catch out L.A. before they can really show their stuff.

However, this year’s squad has been overhauled with a lot of new team members. L.A.’s loss to Legit in January was partially due to the new Ri-ettes not having much practice time together beforehand. Their recent win against Gotham and near-win against Rocky Mountain is a much better indicator of how good the current L.A. Derby Dolls all-star team is.

Player to Watch: #516 Long Island Lolita — Los Angeles is going to need a solid, all-around performance on both offense and defense if they want to take the crown, and Long Island Lolita is L.A.’s best at both. She’s the only player in the top ten in both average scoring (10th) and blocking defense (4th) in the Derby Dolls intraleague season thus far.

Potential Big Game: Consolation semi-final — If the semi-finals play out as seeded, Los Angeles and Texas would face-off in a vitally important consolation bracket game. The winner would move on to play for the third place trophy; the loser would leave Phoenix in fifth place, the worst result ever at Battle on the Bank for either team. It would also be a rematch of the third place game during last year’s BotB, a game I highly recommend watching (here’s the link) as a primer for this year’s action in Arizona.

Why They’ll Win it All — This may be the best team that L.A. has fielded for Battle on the Bank since they took the top spot in 2008. If they can get a little luck and find themselves on the right side of the result this time around in the semi-finals, watch out for the silver and black in the finals.

TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls
Austin, Texas
BotB History: 2008: 3rd | 2009: 4th | 2010: 4th
2011: 4th Seed

As we all know, the modern roller derby revival started in Texas. Even though many credit the Texas Rollergirls flat-track team for spearheading the rise of roller derby throughout the world, many people forget—or even don’t even realize—that TXRD, the pioneers of banked track roller derby, was actually the organization that pulled roller derby from the ashes in 2001.

However, once the Derby Dolls established themselves out west a few years later, TXRD never seemed able to keep pace with L.A. or San Diego on a national scale. It may have to do with the fact that, at least until recently, Texas has been relatively isolated from quality banked track competition. They play on a different style of banked track and with different rules than the well-established Kitten Traxx banked track and WORD standardized rulebook, so that could also be a factor.

Whatever the reasons are, time may be running out for the Lonestar Rollergirls to make their mark at Battle on the Bank. With banked track derby really starting to grow and more teams starting to gain meaningful experience, this year may be the last year TXRD has a relatively easy path to the championship game. Look for them to try to make the most of it.

Player to Watch: #5 Kategory 5 — A league as well-established as TXRD has experience on their side, but that also leads to another problem. Four skaters on the All-Scar Army travel team with a collective 24 years of experience are now listed as retired, including former ace jammer Smarty Pants. Kategory 5 is one of TXRD’s best remaining jammers. If Texas wants to be the toast of the town next weekend, she and the rest of Lonestar jammer rotation had better be ready to pick up the slack.

Potential Big Game: Semi-final — Provided Texas can get through an up-and-coming Arizona Derby Dames team in the first round, they’ll likely face an imposing San Diego team. TXRD beat the Wildfires at the inaugural Battle on the Bank to take third place in 2008, but both teams have changed a lot since then, if a 145-47 San Diego trouncing of TXRD during last year’s semi-final is any indication. If the Lonestar Rollergirls still want to be considered an elite banked track team, a strong showing against San Diego this year is critical.

Why They’ll Win it All — Of the top four seeds, TXRD has the slimmest chance at the championship trophy. But like their flat-track counterparts, Texas is still plenty good enough to earn a win should their opponents give them the opportunity. The question is, are they going to need to rely on that for more than one game?

Arizona Derby Dames
Phoenix, Ariz.
BotB History — 2009: 5th | 2010: 5th
2011: 5th Seed

Starting life as a flat-track team in the early days of the modern roller derby revival, the Arizona Derby Dames officially turned banked track last year and haven’t looked back since. After setting attendance records and having a deeper skater talent pool than they’ve ever had in their history, Arizona wants to show the derby community that they mean business. Two out of the three Battle on the Bank tournaments have gone to the host team, and Arizona would love it if that trend were to continue in front of their home crowd.

At Battle on the Bank last year, Arizona lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to and beat the teams they were supposed to beat, finishing where they started (5th place). While performing as expected is never a bad thing, if AZDD wants to let everyone know that there’s a banked track league worth watching between Southern California and Texas, they’ll need to outperform. Will the home crowd will them towards a better showing this year?

Potential Big Game: First round — They’ll get the chance to find out in their first game, in what has the potential to be Friday’s best. TXRD beat Arizona quite easily in the opening round last year, 100-42. However, Arizona has surely improved since then; Texas is the unknown in this match-up. If AZDD can make a strong showing—or dare I say it, even beat the Lonestar Rollergirls—there’s a possibility that it could set off a derby rivalry much like as is enjoyed between SoCal’s banked track powerhouses.

Why They’ll Win it All — Realistically, they won’t. However, should the bracket seeding hold and the higher-ranked teams beat the lower-ranked ones throughout, AZDD will be guaranteed a place in the third-place game. There was a bit of gerrymandering going on with brackets to make that happen, but we’ll give them a pass since it’s their big chance to put on a show in front of their home crowd.

Tilted Thunder Railbirds
Seattle, Wash.
BotB History — 2010: 8th
2011: 6th Seed

Not much was expected from Tilted Thunder last year, and rightly so. Their first Battle on the Bank appearance was, in fact, their first real game experience in their league history. Until losing two games in San Diego last summer, they had never played a game. Period. Not against another league. Not even intraleague games against each other. They didn’t even have a banked track to skate on at that point, for heaven’s sake. So you can understand why they came stone-dead last in 2010.

Since then, the Railbirds have built their track, played a few games, and have established a solid following in the talent-heavy pacific northwest. As such, they’re much more experienced and a lot more ready for battle this year. They’ll need to use that new-found experience if they hope for a good result, as they’ll still need a win sometime this weekend to pull themselves out of the rankings basement.

Potential Big Game: Consolation first round — As inexperienced as Tilted Thunder is in banked track interleague play, they have the benefit of potentially going up against one of two teams that have even less of it. Should they fall to Los Angeles in their first game, TTRB will find themselves opening play on Saturday against either Southside Roller Derby or Tuscon Roller Derby, two teams that few expect to make a mark at the tournament. There would be no better time for the Railbirds to make a mark of their own.

Why They’ll Win a Game — With a year of knowledge under their belts, three seeds under them on the brackets, and favorable match-ups in the consolation bracket, Seattle’s banked track team can potentially go 2-2 this weekend. But they shouldn’t look too far forward, since they can’t win their second game before they get their first. Tilted Thunder is capable of getting that first win, though.

OC Rollergirls
Anaheim, Calif.
BotB History — 2008: 6th
2011: 7th Seed

As one of the teams invited to the original Battle on the Bank in Los Angeles four years ago, the OC Rollergirls are looking to re-establish themselves in 2011. Their 2008 mark isn’t a good data point to refer to for comparison’s sake, however. The first tournament only featured six teams from four leagues, which means not only did the OC Rollergirls come in last, they were beaten by B-teams from L.A. and San Diego.

But that was a long time ago. Back then, Orange County was a fledgling flat track league. Now, the OC Rollergirls are a breakout banked track league, having built their new track in record time. They’re ready to play their first banked track game this weekend, as a matter of fact. That doesn’t give them much time to prepare for Battle on the Bank, but this is The OC we’re talking about. They do things a little differently.

Player to Watch: #360 Krissy Krash — Namely, OCRG has drafted the help of two former L.A. Derby Dolls all-stars, P.I.T.A. and the aforementioned Krissy Krash, as permanent members of their roster. Although the team doesn’t have much banked track experience, these two ladies have all of that and more. Look for them to make an impact in Phoenix, because we know Krissy Krash is capable of making an impact on the track—as this clip from last year’s tournament will demonstrate…

Potential Big Game: Consolation second round — If the seeding holds true, the OC Rollergirls will face Tilted Thunder in the third game of the consolation bracket. The winner of this game would be guaranteed no worse than fifth place, while the loser would settle for seventh. Since OCRG will have not had much time to adjust to the banked track in real game conditions, it’s an unknown in how they’ll play against a team with more experience. We’ll find out in this game, should it happen.

Why They’ll Win a Game — Because Krissy Krash will scare the hell out of whichever lower seed OCRG plays against in the first game of the consolation round.

Southside Roller Derby
Houston, Texas
BotB History — First Appearance
2011: 8th Seed

The ladies of Southside Roller Derby have been around since 2006, have been playing on the banked track for just as long, and have over 100 skaters and eight full teams playing regular intraleague games. Despite all of that, they haven’t had much experience at playing teams on the national scale. Their maiden voyage to Battle on the Bank will give everyone an opportunity to get to know Texas’ other banked track roller derby league.

Potential Big Game: Opening Round — Although Southside comes in as the #8 seed, there are nine teams in the tournament. Apparently the seeding gods think Southside is good enough to take an opening win on Friday against Tuscon. Going by the numbers, their first game is their best chance to come away from Battle on the Bank a winner.

Why They’ll Win a Game — Although they’ve never been to Battle on the Bank, they have more banked track experience than Tuscon, their opening round opponent.

Tuscon Roller Derby
Tuscon, Ariz.
BotB History — First Appearance
2011: 9th Seed

Without question, there is no WFTDA team more traveled and experienced than Tuscon Roller Derby, one of the original flat-track roller derby leagues. TRD is no stranger to big-time derby tournaments, as they host the venerable Dust Devil each April and are regular participants in the WFTDA regional tournament. But Battle on the Bank is an altogether different beast. The banked track game is faster and the track surface is tilted. The Tuscon of old played TXRD on the banked track here and there, but they were two of only three derby leagues in existence at that time (AZDD being the other).

But that was then. This is now. Now, there are hundreds and hundreds of derby leagues across the country and throughout the world, almost exclusively those of the flat-track variety. Tuscon is the last of the original three to stay on the flat track, and there’s something poetic about that. If you’re a flat-tracker for life, then here’s the team you want to root for next weekend.

Potential Big Game: Consolation First Round — With a win or a loss against Southside, Tuscon will still wind up in the first round of the consolation bracket and face either OCRG or Tilted Thunder. If they lose to Southside, they’ll face he OC Rollergirls in the Friday finale. This would be Tuscon’s best match-up, as OCRG’s relative inexperience on the banked track may work to Tuscon’s favor. Or at least, make for a more fair fight.

Why they’ll win a game — Despite the current Tuscon roster having little knowledge on the ways of the bank, their potential opponents would be unwise to discredit their experience as a team. If Tuscon is going to win at Battle on the Bank, they’ll do it with teamwork. A lot of luck wouldn’t hurt, either.