WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs: Action Jacksonville

Wftda logo smallThe 2015 WFTDA Division 1 playoff season has been a little weird, hasn’t it?

Through the four tournaments of the Division 1 playoffs last year, there were seven games that finished with a score difference of less than five points, and a handful more that were competitive until the dying seconds. Halfway through this year, you could count the close finishes on a hand that’s missing a few fingers. (The closest D1 game so far this year ended with a 15 point margin.) There have been quite a few competitive games, sure. But not to the point where they have stayed super-close through the final four whistles.

That’s a trend that is very likely to be reversed this weekend in Jacksonville, Fla. Due to a combination of seeding rearrangements, new teams shooting up the rankings to qualify for the playoffs, rematches of previously played games, and good ol’ statistical likelihood, the third D1 tournament of the year looks like it will feature a lot of tight games on all three days.

Top seeds London, Denver, and host Jacksonville will look to finish where they started so they can get to St. Paul, Minn. and the 2015 WFTDA Championships. Rose City, Texas, and Rat City secured their spots in the Dallas playoff last week, joining Victoria, Bay Area, and Arch Rival in the half-full Champs field. The last three spots will be filled two weeks from now in the final divisional qualifier in Omaha, Neb.

If you’re interested in watching the playoff action live and in color, you will need to oscillate your Internet appendage to There you can purchase a PPV weekend streaming pass for $15. (It’s too late to save money with the $60 Division 1/Championships bundle, but the WFTDA is still offering it in case you’re terrible at math!) If you’re cheap and stingy, carries the live audio feed for free. More information about the tournament can be found direct from the WFTDA on the Jacksonville tournament website, here.

Here’s who will be taking part in what may be a very action-packed weekend.

WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs – Jacksonville

September 18-20
All Times Listed in EDT

#1 Seed – London Rollergirls
WFTDA Rank: #4
FTS Rank: #2
2015 Record: 7-0
2014 Tournament: WFTDA Championships, 4th Place (4-2)
First opponent: Steel City/Pikes Peak winner, 4:00 p.m. Friday

Of all the teams at the tip-top of the WFTDA, the one with the best chance of taking it to Gotham at Championships in Minnesota appears to be the London Rollergirls. Though ranked fourth in the official tally, the eggheads at Flat Track Stats rank them second, giving them the title of “The Best Team in the World Right Now That Isn’t Gotham.”

London got there with an impressive season, opening in June with a 150-74 win over #6 Bay Area…the same Bay Area that beat them by 90 points for third place at Champs last year. A few days later, they came down the California coast to Los Angeles and swept through Pac Destruction, pummeling host #8 Angel City by 100 points and fending off a spirited effort by #7 Texas in a 166-134 slugfest.

But it was London’s 193-129 win over #2 Rose City last month in the U.K. that signaled to anyone paying attention that London’s championship aspirations are real. Rose looked very strong last week in Dallas, and for London to make them appear relatively ordinary in comparison is extraordinary. Like the other playoff #1 seeds, they’ll make it to Champs with a bye rather easily. Also like the #1s, their real test won’t start until November.

#2 Seed – Denver Roller Derby
WFTDA Rank: #5
FTS Rank: #7
2015 Record: 9-4
2014 Tournament: WFTDA Championships, Quarterfinal (3-2)
First opponent: Glasgow/Charlottesville winner, 6:00 p.m. Friday

Denver’s WFTDA ranking is pretty indicative of their 2015 season. All four of their losses are against teams ranked higher than they are. Gotham gothammed them twice (-135 points in May, -213 in August). #2 Rose City blazed them with a 250-161 win. #3 Victoria was the victor in a 150-115 game. Denver’s closest wins of the year were against #6 Bay Area (+24), #7 Texas (+23), #10 Philly (+28) and #15 Rat City (+57). Based on those results, Denver is definitely ranked where they should be.

Still, that Philly game—a 199-171 win on the east coast just last month—doesn’t look so great given what happened in Dallas. If you’ll recall, Rat City captured an invite to Minnesota in an upset over Philly by 24 points, a margin similar to what Denver beat Philly by. Given Denver’s ranking, that’s not a very strong win against a team that ultimately wasn’t good enough to make it to Championships.

Basically, Denver needs to be careful this weekend. Though they’re in little danger of falling out of the top three, they may not get to Minnesota in the way that they would like to. There’s a decent chance they’ll wind up in the third place game, given who they’ll more than likely run into on Saturday.

#3 Seed – Jacksonville Rollergirls
WFTDA Rank: #9
FTS Rank: #8
2015 Record: 9-1
2014 Tournament: WFTDA Division 1 Playoff, 4th Place (1-2)
First opponent: Detroit, 8:00 p.m. Friday

As a playoff tournament host, Jacksonville was allowed to swap places with another team in a different bracket so it could stay and play at home. The swap was both a blessing and a curse, it turns out. The good news is that the team gets to play at home. The bad news is that as a result of this seed rearranging, Jacksonville must face teams ranked higher than they would have faced if the brackets weren’t fiddled with.

But maybe that’s also good news? Though the WFTDA ranks them #5 and #9, Denver and Jacksonville are pretty much equal in the eyes of Flat Track Stats, which respectively ranks them #7 and #8. It is pretty much a given that the two will meet and play for a guaranteed spot at Champs, but that’s okay with Jax. FTS actually has them as a 3-to-2 favorite to win what is predicted to be a very close game between them and Denver.

Securing a berth early would be most ideal for Jacksonville, because a little bit of bad news will creep back into the picture if they don’t. Their 2015 schedule hasn’t been particularly challenging, only seeing losses to Angel City by 61 points and Magic City by 95 in a MRDA vs. WFTDA game. However, Jacksonville went up against #13 Atlanta and baaaaarely won 173-170. That same Atlanta is seeded #4 this weekend and could face Jacksonville again for a spot at Champs. (Jax might also run into #5 seed Tampa, who they beat by 69 points in June.)

Even if the Flat Track Stats predictor says Jacksonville is likely to destroy Atlanta in a rematch, I wouldn’t want to go up against a team that I barely beat earlier in the season when everything is on the line. You can bet that Jacksonville would love to beat Denver and avoid double jeopardy.

#4 Seed – Atlanta Rollergirls
WFTDA Rank: #13
FTS Rank: #16
2015 Record: 3-7
2014 Tournament: WFTDA Division 1 Playoff, 4th Place (1-2)
First opponent: Tampa, 2:00 p.m. Friday

So how about Atlanta? They were fortunate enough to be scheduled against some of the WFTDA’s best teams. (If you can call triple-digit losses “fortunate.”)  At The Big O in May, Atlanta fell to #2 Rose City 242-56, #3 Victoria 228-87, and #6 Bay Area 205-125. They were also hit with losses on either side of 100 points by #7 Texas and #8 Angel City.

And the 3-point loss to #9 Jacksonville, of course. It should be noted that the Atlanta-Jacksonville game happened way back in March, so it may not be the best marker to say where Atlanta is right now. Atlanta will be praying that logic also applies to their May game against Tampa, where they lost 150-132; Tampa and Atlanta will be playing each other in their respective first games of the tournament.

#5 Seed – Tampa Roller Derby
WFTDA Rank: #18
FTS Rank: #18
2015 Record: 6-5
2014 Tournament: WFTDA Division 1 Playoff, 5th Place (3-1)
First opponent: Atlanta, 2:00 p.m. Friday

That win over Atlanta was Tampa’s only genuine-quality win of the season, however. Tampa also beat #34 Ohio and #35 Madison, as well as a slew of Division 2 and local teams, but was at no point actually challenged in them. (Example score from Franky Panky 2015: Tampa 625, Richland County 30.)

As is usually the case with teams in the #10~#20 zone of the D1 playoff field, losses can tell you more about the level a team is playing at. Jacksonville beat Tampa by a larger margin (+69 points) than they beat Atlanta (+3). The same with #8 Angel City, though much closer to being equal (+79 vs. +83). That gap is even wider against another common opponent, #7 Texas; Tampa was crushed 377-54, where as Atlanta’s recent 222-88 loss looks very respectable in comparison.

Still, Tampa can go into Friday’s crucial game knowing that they got the better of Atlanta when they went head-to-head. If Tampa can break through to the next round on the winner’s side of the bracket, it’s going to have a very tough time of playing up to the higher seeds, however.

#6 Seed – Detroit Derby Girls
WFTDA Rank: #21
FTS Rank: #20
2015 Record: 10-3
2014 Tournament: WFTDA Division 2 Champions (4-0)
First opponent: Jacksonville, 8:00 p.m. Friday

Detroit has always been a team with Division 1 talent. But last year, some injuries caused them to slip down the rankings and fall into Division 2. The team recovered and started firing on all cylinders just in time for the playoffs—where they destroyed everyone they faced. Their closest game of the D2 playoffs was a 119-point win over Rideau Valley in the D2 final, a result which should be impossible given how tight the field normally is in Division 2.

The rankings got all sorted out, however, and Detroit is back about where it should be. Although, the team’s tightest games were against opponents ranked a number of spots below them. Detroit’s closest win was a 171-169 nailbiter against #29 (and #8 seed) Steel City.  Their next-closest, a 178-154 victory over #35 Madison.

But if you look back to August, Detroit battled Arch Rival and only lost by 48 points. That makes Detroit one of the very few mid-range teams to stay that close to Arch Rival, which should be a victory given that Arch is on their way to Championships. It’s a nice confidence boost for Detroit as it looks to maintain a top placing in the consolation brackets.

#7 Seed – Glasgow Roller Derby
WFTDA Rank: #26
FTS Rank: #50
2015 Record: 3-1
First WFTDA Tournament Appearance
First opponent: Charlottesville, 12:00 p.m. Friday

Great Scot!  The top-ranked team in the UKRDA will try their luck in the premiere division of the WFTDA. Glasgow is the second team from the United Kingdom, and the first from Scotland, to be represented at the WFTDA Playoffs.

A look at their record this year, however, may make you wonder why Glasgow’s debut comes at such a high rank. Check out their 2015 schedule and results:

  • 116-152 loss (-36) vs. #61 Bear City (ranked #49 at the time)
  • 280-54 win ( +226) vs. #89 Tiger Bay (#67 at the time)
  • 206-90 win (+116) vs. #63 Auld Reekie
  • 185-119 win (+66) vs. #63 Auld Reekie (again)

…tell me again how that’s a season worth a #26 ranking and tournament 7-seed?

In any event, when the numbers were inserted in to the calculator for the May WFTDA rankings, Glasgow shot up 42 ranks in a single month on the back off their first three games. (Did the WFTDA’s new strength factor challenge came into play at some point during this?) Getting assigned that high of a ranking seems…well, a little hard to believe, honestly.

Flat Track Stats has Glasgow ranked #50, which would put them in the Division 2 playoffs if the FTS made that determination. With WFTDA saying they’re a Division 1 team ranked #26, we’re left with a very large rankings discrepancy that suggests Glasgow is overvalued. Winning a game this weekend in Jacksonville would dispel that notion very quickly, however.

#8 Seed – Steel City Roller Derby
WFTDA Rank: #29
FTS Rank: #23
2015 Record: 7-7
2014 Tournament: WFTDA Division 1 Playoff, 8th Place (1-3)
First opponent: Pikes Peak, 10:00 a.m. Friday

The team from Pittsburgh has been involved in a lot of competitive games this year, though more of them have been losses than wins.

Twice, Steel City lost by two points. In April, #23 Boston beaned them 196-194. (Boston won by 42 points three weeks beforehand.) As mentioned before, #21 Detroit won 171-169 at Brewhaha.  Steel’s closest win was a 10-pointer at #33 Queen City, though that was cancelled out with a 44-point loss at the hands of #32 Toronto and a 23-point stumble against #41 Rideau Valley.

Steel City did have a few big wins, though. Last month they beat #34 Ohio 249-117, and the month before they overcame Division 2 finalists Demolition City 167-108. Charlottesville, this weekend’s #10 seed, was also downed by Steel City 215-154 in a game early this year.

Though Steel City’s year has been somewhat inconsistent, their recent game against Ohio does have them appear to be entering the playoff season on the right foot. They’ll be looking to improve upon last year’s 8th place finish in their playoff bracket this year.

#9 Seed – Pikes Peak Derby Dames
WFTDA Rank: #36
FTS Rank: #41
2015 Record: 7-7
Last WFTDA Tournament Appearance: 2009 (Regionals)
First opponent: Steel City, 10:00 a.m. Friday

At the beginning of 2015, Pikes Peak was ranked #93 in the WFTDA. Today, they are #36, an unfathomable 57-place jump in the rankings. Unlike Glasgow’s rise, however, there’s a pretty obvious reason why the Dames are in the Division 1 playoffs this year.

Yup, Melissa “Psycho Babble” Hayden has returned to the roller derby scene. After capturing a WFTDA Championship with Rocky Mountain (and with her sister, Sarina “DeRanged” Hayden) in 2010, then skating with the Oly Rollers and picking up a USARS Roller Derby Championship, she took a few years off. Now she’s back, and Pikes Peak has benefited big-time.

The team opened the season with an unsanctioned with against #51 Wasatch, and only lost to #44 Sacred City by 47 points in a sanctioned game. Those two results alone made PPDD a Division 2 playoff contender. Four blowout wins in April and May over lowly teams (of similar lowliness that Pikes Peak was a year ago) propelled them straight into the Division 1 tournament.

With Psycho Babble on your team, you will always have a chance to win a game no matter who you face. There’s a great chance Pikes Peak will do that at least once this weekend, given how overranked one or two other teams are in Jacksonville.

#10 Seed – Charlottesville Derby Dames
WFTDA Rank: #38
FTS Rank: #43
2015 Record: 8-2
First WFTDA Tournament Appearance
First opponent: Glasgow, 12:00 p.m. Friday

Not to be outdone by Glasgow or Pikes Peak, Charlottesville also rocketed up the rankings in 2015 having started the year down in the #74 spot. Now they’ve made it in to their very first WFTDA tournament.

Their only two losses this year were to Steel City 215-154, and #30 Crime City 269-135. Other than those games, all Charlottesville has been doing is winning, and winning big. The game that set things in motion for them was against Division 2 Champs qualifier Nashville, where Charlottesville won 204-143. A 98-point win over #78 DC, a 125-point win over #65 Calgary, and a huge 158-point win over #69 Blue Ridge are among the other victories the team can hang their helmets on.

Charlottesville won’t be winning any games by margins that large this weekend. With the quality of opponents they’ll be facing over the next three days, they’ll probably be over the moon with a victory of any margin.