WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs: The United Nations of Dallas

This is an "international" playoff you can really and truly call international! See if Rose City, Texas, and Philly can keep America in the running for the Hydra.

Since the WFTDA started including teams from outside of North America into its playoff tournaments—specifically when the London Rollergirls made it to Championships in 2013—the organization was quick to re-brand its tournaments and championships as “international,” even if they didn’t necessarily have any teams from outside of North America playing in them.1

But this weekend in Dallas, the second International WFTDA Division 1 Playoff tournament of 2015 can properly live up to the moniker. The ten teams in the field represent five distinct nations, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden…and of course, Texas.

The top four seeds, all domestic teams, look to be the favorites to finish in the top 3 and advance to the WFTDA Championships in St. Paul, Minn. this November. Last weekend in Tucson, Ariz., Arch Rival, Bay Area, and bye-winner Victoria of Australia qualified for Champs, and are awaiting the entrants here and in the two upcoming playoff tournaments in Jacksonville, Fla. and Omaha, Neb.

Four of the bottom six seeds aren’t from around these parts. As the WFTDA is still growing internationally, many of the foreign teams participating haven’t had a very consistent or challenging gameplay schedule. For readers playing the bracket home game, that means a lot of these teams may be misrepresented by their ranking and seed—which is going to lead to a lot of unpredictability down in the consolation brackets.

If you want to watch the chaos unfold, WFTDA.tv has you covered. It’s not free, of course—a single streaming pass costs fifteen of our American dollars. (The live audio feed is free.) Though we’ve already gone through one of the tournaments, you can still save a bit of money by buying a $60 season pass if you are plan on watching the rest of the WFTDA tournament season.

Let’s take a look at how each team will try to navigate the shark-infested international waters that is the Dallas bracket.

WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs – Dallas

September 11-13
All Times Listed in EDT

#1 Seed – Rose City Rollers
WFTDA Rank: #2
FTS Rank: #4
2015 Record: 8-1
2014 Tournament: WFTDA Championships, 2nd Place (5-1)
First opponent: Crime City/Ohio winner, 5:00 p.m. Friday

Last year, Rose City was thiiiiiiiiiiiis close to doing the impossible. In the 2014 WFTDA Championship final, they had Gotham beat…until the last seconds of the game. A helpless Scald Eagle could only watch from the penalty box as Bonnie Thunders scored 15 points on a last-gasp power jam to steal a thrilling—and heart-wrenching—147-144 victory for the five-time champs.

A game like that will stay with you forever, let alone over the course of the following season. With something to prove this year, Rose came out charging during their first sanctioned games in April and May. The Rollers easily dispatched #14 Rocky Mountain, #13 Atlanta, and #10 (slash Dallas 3-seed) Philly with blowouts in the 200-point range. In June, #27 Terminal City and—would you believe it?—#6 Bay Area were also destroyed by high triple-digit margins.

Rose City’s other games are much more indicative of how they’ll do this weekend. Winning the Dallas playoff and securing a bye is the most likely outcome for them, with Rose having already comfortably beaten their likely semifinal (Rat City, +83 points) and final (Texas, +46) opponents.

As for their one and only loss of the season?

Keep that in mind for Champs. But in Dallas, Rose City should face moderate to little resistance getting to Minnesota.

#2 Seed – Texas Rollergirls
WFTDA Rank: #7
FTS Rank: #5
2015 Record: 6-4
2014 Tournament: WFTDA Championships, Quarterfinal (3-2)
First opponent: Sun State/Rideau Valley winner, 7:00 p.m. Friday

Speaking of Gotham (we’re going to be doing that a lot more in the next few weeks), Texas was bounced out of Championships last year by the New York juggernauts. The biggest off-season move Texas made was picking up a recently-relocated Jackie Daniels from Windy City, bolstering an already-strong roster.

However, things didn’t quite gel with the Texecutioners right away. They dropped all three of their games at The Big O, against #3 Victoria (-70 points), #5 Denver (-23) and Rose City. A trip down to Los Angeles for Pac Destruction in June was better, taking easy wins against #8 Angel City (+64) and #14 Rocky Mountain (+129), but losing to #4 London 166-134 despite jumping to an early 30-point lead.

Texas finished their regular season with another win over Angel City (+46), as well as a win over Golden Bowl host #6 Bay Area in a tight one, 157-144. If you consider the London loss a “win” compared to how much Rose City lost to them by, you could argue that Texas is coming into the playoffs on a hot streak. But can they take it to Rose City head to head?

#3 Seed – Philly Roller Derby
WFTDA Rank: #10
FTS Rank: #11
2015 Record: 4-5
2014 Tournament: WFTDA Championships, 1st Round (2-2)
First opponent: Dallas, 9:00 p.m. Friday

Like Texas, Philly also went 0-3 against the top of the WFTDA at The Big O. Though they did better against each opponent they faced, they also were facing progressively weaker opponents. After Rose City ka-blooied Philly by 226 points, Denver beat them by 134 and Bay Area by 42.

Philly finished off the month of May on a positive, however, beating #12 Minnesota 191-106. The next month, hosting ECDX, Philly played their old rivals Gotham. (Them again!) In a result that shocked absolutely no one, Gotham won 316-82. Philly won by a similar margin against #21 Detroit, though.

Unlike many other top-ranked playoff teams, Philly continued its interleague season deep into August, playing three games. The two most significant of those were a 12-point win over #16 Montreal, and a big improvement in a rematch against Denver, only losing by 28 in a 199-171 contest. That extra work will come in handy this weekend as the team looks to get back to Championships, likely via the third-place play-in game.

#4 Seed – Rat City Rollergirls
WFTDA Rank: #15
FTS Rank: #16
2015 Record: 4-5
2014 Tournament: Division 1 Playoff, 4th Place (1-2)
First opponent: Stockholm, 3:00 p.m. Friday

Rat City finds themselves in a similar position to where they were last year. Again, they’re a tourney 4-seed that has had a good season, but with a few missteps along the way. One of those missteps came very recently, a 1-point loss to #27 Terminal City last month in Vancouver. (Rat beat Terminal by 95 earlier in the year. Ouch.)

That’s not a good misstep to have when you need to beat the #17 seed (Stockholm, see below) just to have a chance to stay in the running for a Champs berth. A 47-point loss at Besterns against #16 Rocky Mountain doesn’t help your case.

On the other hand, Rat City did look quite good against Denver, losing to them by a respectable 57. Their 179-96 loss at home against Rose City also exceeded expectations. In the end, though, if you’re looking to advance in the playoffs, there’s no such thing as a good loss. Ray City will need a good win, and possibly two, to make their way to Champs.

#5 Seed – Stockholm Roller Derby
WFTDA Rank: #17
FTS Rank: #20
2015 Record: 4-1
First WFTDA Tournament Appearance
First opponent: Rat City, 3:00 p.m. Friday

Sweden! This is Stockholm’s first experience with the WFTDA playoffs, but it isn’t the first time the team has participated in an official WFTDA tournament. At the first WFTDA European Tournament held last year in their home country, Stockholm easily went 3-0. This year, they opened up their WFTDA season with a 252-147 win over Finnish rivals Helsinki.

But Stockholm didn’t really get their 2015 campaign started until it made the arduous (and very expensive) trip to the United States to face North America’s best. Their trip to ECDX paid big dividends, with wins against #21 Detroit by 97 points and #19 Charm City by 63. Though they lost to #16 Montreal on the scoreboard by 32 points, Stockholm ultimately won out on the WFTDA rankings calculator to the tune of a 14-rank increase in the span of a single month, putting them at their current WFTDA rank of #17.

Whether or not that rank comes with an asterisk will be determined in Dallas this weekend. You can never quite trust the ranking of European teams, even if they happen to have recent score data to judge them by. It’s really hard to know how well a team travelling so far for a tournament will do, especially in the 4/5 game right out of the gate.

#6 Seed – Dallas Derby Devils
WFTDA Rank: #24
FTS Rank: #22
2015 Record: 9-1
2014 Tournament: Did not qualify (Ranked #66)
First opponent: Philly, 9:00 p.m. Friday

It’s amazing what the right kind of motivation can do. Missing the playoffs altogether last year, not even qualifying for Division 2, Dallas had every incentive to do well this season. If the team could get into the top 40 and make Division 1, it would get to stay at home and play in the tournament they were to host.2 And boy did they!

The only team that beat Dallas in 2015 was Arch “We’re Going to Champs” Rival. Everyone else Dallas faced was blasted away. In March and April, they toppled D2 playoff contenders, including a 213-107 pasting of Champs-bound #45 Kansas City. Through the summer, they beat #32 Toronto 167-127 and shocked #31 Arizona 243-99 at RollerCon. Those big wins propelled Dallas past Division 2 and right into the middle of D1.

With the season Dallas has had, getting rewarded with a home playoff means this year is a rousing success for them no matter what happens this weekend. In most circumstances, this would make Dallas The Team With Nothing to Lose. The other teams in the bracket may prevent them from going anywhere with that mentality, however.

#7 Seed – Sun State Roller Girls
WFTDA Rank: #28
FTS Rank: #15
2015 Record: 3-0 (6-0 since December 2014)
First WFTDA Tournament Appearance
First opponent: Rideau Valley, 1:00 p.m. Friday

Australia! The Queensland squad comes into Dallas ranked #15 at Flat Track Stats, which is great! Realistically, however, that ranking is inflated. Sun State’s very first sanctioned game event was a 654-6 win over Assassination City, ranked 260th in the WFTDA.3 That put their initial FTS ranking very high, with not a lot of games to dial-in any corrections.

The best yardstick (metrestick?) to test Sun State against is the recent results against common opponents. Or in this case, a very recent result against an opponent common to the team. In their second sanctioned game back in December, Sun State beat #53 Houston 239-82. In their last sanctioned game, which just took place hours ago on Wednesday night, Sun State beat Houston by only 26 points, 172-146. That’s a big, big difference.

It looks like we have a case of another international team that hasn’t played very many useful games for ranking purposes, potentially creating a team ranked higher than they maybe should be. Lucky for Sun State, they’ll be going up against 10-seed and lowest-ranked Division 1 playoff qualifier Rideau Valley in their WFTDA tournament debut. If Sun is as good as their ranking indicates, there’s no better opponent to prove it against.

#8 Seed – Crime City Rollers
WFTDA Rank: #30
FTS Rank: #26
2015 Record: 4-0
First WFTDA Tournament Appearance
First opponent: Ohio, 11:00 a.m. Friday

Sweden…again! Crime City is the country’s second entrant into the Dallas tournament. Though it’s unlikely they’ll meet Stockholm on the track this weekend, you can bet that they’ll be conversing with and cheering on one another in their native tongues off the track. (Crime City and Stockholm did play in an unsanctioned game in 2015, Stockholm winning 214-137.)

Although by now, Crime City should speak some decent English. This will be their third trip to the States, having played at ECDX last year and at Beach Brawl earlier this year. Their most significant sanctioned win in 2015 was against #38 Charlottesville, 269-135; the others were larger spreads against weaker opponents. That sounds like another one of those results where you can’t be quite sure the team is seeded where it should be…right?

#9 Seed – Ohio Roller Girls
WFTDA Rank: #34
FTS Rank: #29
2015 Record: 11-8
2014 Tournament: Division 1 Playoff, 9th Place (1-2)
First opponent: Crime City, 11:00 a.m. Friday

In a tournament that’s filled with a lot of international teams, misleading ranks, and unknown abilities, the one and possibly only team you can set your ranking-watch to this weekend is the Ohio Roller Girls. The team abides by a simple principle: Play every goddamn weekend. With 20 games under their belts in 2015, 19 of which were sanctioned, Ohio should be ready for just about any situation that might get thrown their way in Dallas.

They’ve had big wins. (+200pt range vs. #92 Gold Coast, #83 Maine, #77 Ft. Wayne.) They’ve had big losses. (-350pt range vs. #9 Jacksonville, #11 Arch Rival; -200pt range vs. #12 Minnesota, #18 Tampa.) Six of their games have been competitive. (Among others: +20pts vs #19 Charm City; +33pts vs. #50 Demolition City; -50pts vs. #48 Naptown.) They’ve been through it all.

Ohio will want to avenge a disappointing 2014 playoff season, where they finished 9th in Evansville after having went into the  bracket seeded 5th. Reversing that for this year will hard, but Ohio should be good for at least one win this weekend.

#10 Seed – Rideau Valley Roller Girls
WFTDA Rank: #41
FTS Rank: #53
2015 Record: 3-5
2014 Tournament: Division 2 Championships, 2nd Place (3-1)
First opponent: Sun State, 1:00 p.m. Friday

Canada! Your 2014 WFTDA Division 2 runners-up might have been champions if not for a horrendously underranked Detroit and them gothamming their way through the D2 field on their way to the title, dispatching Rideau Valley in the D2 final 244-125. Still, Rideau followed up their D2 divisional playoff win with a trip to the D1 playoffs this year, which isn’t a bad upgrade. The team’s results in 2015 haven’t been too shabby, either.

Wins against #29 Steel City (+23 points) and #40 Tri-City (+30); along with very fair losses to #16 Montreal (-26), #23 Boston (-23), and #32 Toronto (-32), got Rideau ranked as high as #34 during the year. However, they come into Dallas having lost their last two, including a 233-132 trip-up against #33 Queen City.

A loss that big against a team ranked that near to them damn near knocked Rideau back into Division 2—but they just managed to hold on (by 0.59 WFTDA ranking points) to the last Division 1 spot. In what looks to be an extremely volatile bracket, what can they do from there?