What a long, crazy, thrilling, emotional and unbelievable year it’s been for the Oz Roller Girls. The debut season ended with a 10-2 record, so many new friendships, countless feats many participants never thought possible. How to recap such a year?
I decided to look back at the action itself, compiling five bouts to remember. Of course every bout was memorable, filled with so many marvelous teams and skaters, and this is just my perspective. Others may have different opinions, and everyone is more than welcome to share their top moments in the comments.
5. Taking it on the chin: Oz vs. Enchanted Mountain, 6/11. In terms of bouts, this may have been a low point of the season, but it’s memorable in lessons learned. It’s the only loss I’ve seen Oz take (I missed their first bout, a loss to the Hellions of Troy, where many skaters said they felt like deer in headlights). Enchanted Mountain came out physical and Oz had to play catchup. EMRD’s 130-98 victory broke a three-game win streak and our teamwork had breakdowns … but this low point set up high points to come and a seven-game win streak.
4. A winning note: Oz vs. ACRD, 9/10. Assault City in Syracuse, only about 35 miles away, is our nearest competition, an established league and a great bunch of ladies. In a way, this bout vs. their B team, the Battery Brigade, was an opportunity to make a statement that Oz had arrived. It had its somber moments, taking place in the shadow of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and we let all veterans, active-duty service members and first responders in free. And Oz did some of its best wall-building in a very team-oriented 145-74 victory.
3. Welcome to Oz: Oz vs. Crown City, 4/23. The debut of roller derby in Oswego, a seemingly impossible dream come true, brought in a large, loud crowd that was itself a victory for the new sport. We suffered a few technical glitches with the arena, but Oz, the visiting Crown City Royal Pains and many volunteers worked hard to make things work. And the roar that erupted when Certified Public Assassin and Masso-Kiss-Tic Mandy combined on a breathtaking flying waitress star pass punctuated the 161-76 victory, the first win in Oz history.
2. Lows and highs: Oz vs. Black River Rollers, 5/14. This game changed the course of our season in a few ways. The low came with Von Diesel, our captain who bleeds Oz blue and green, suffering a season-ending knee injury in the middle of the bout. The Black River Rollers’ black and blue style battered but did not break the Oz Roller Girls, setting up a final jam with Oz leading 185-183. Oz showed, for the first time, a trademark ability to step up in the clutch, as every blocker did her job perfectly, Certified Public Assassin grabbed lead jammer and called off the jam to let time expire for the big win.
1. The Great Escape: Oz vs. Bluestockings, 7/31. I still get goosebumps thinking about the end of this title game of the inaugural Triple D Tournament. A very talented Bluestockings team held a 126-117 lead with 40 seconds left, and Oz would need to channel Houdini for any chance of escaping with a win. Oz even started a skater down with a blocker in the box, but with Mass0-Kiss-Tic Mandy jamming and a steely resolve. When Rock’Em Sock’Em made a key move to take a back block that sent the Bluestockings jammer to the box, Oz seized the opportunity. Mandy made the initial pass for lead jammer, then another, then another to tie the score. The crowd noise grew louder and louder, to a deafening din as the blockers cleared a path for Mandy to get through one more time, grab a 130-126 lead and call off the jam with no time left on the clock. Chawn Crawley’s photo of the Oz Roller Girls celebrating as the scoreboard results came up (above) remains an iconic image of the season.
What’s next for the Oz Roller Girls? Too soon to know, but here’s to the exciting moments and memorable bouts of 2011 … and the prospect of many more in 2012.