A high octane double header will feature two of the country’s biggest superpowers, as well as a key in-house league matchup vital to the pursuit of the Philadelphia Warrior Cup. In other words, this powder keg could blow the roof off.
Doors open at 5 p.m. and the first bout starts at 6 (get your tickets here or at the door).
The first half of the double header will garner national attention as the Philly Roller Girls’ A-squad Liberty Belles will host the Gotham Girls Roller Derby All Stars. These bitter rivals have held the top two spots in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s Eastern Division since 2008, when the league started its ranking system. Gotham has been No. 1 in the East every quarter except for a three-month spurt in 2009, following Philly’s lone victory over the squad from New York City. It was arguably one of the proudest moments in PRG history and the Belles are hoping to get another taste of that glory on Saturday.
“Believe me, it’s our ultimate goal to beat Gotham,” said Belles’ co-captain Castro. “Not only are they our sister rivals, but they’re plainly the team to beat. Who doesn’t want to see New York lose?”
Pictured: Liberty Belle #06, Castro, holds back Gotham's jammer #340, Bonnie Thunders
The team traveling down the Turnpike sure doesn’t. Gotham is on a 16-game winning streak dating back to November, 2010. They have lost only once in their last 27 bouts, which has included a run of four straight wins over Philly, according to the Flat Track Stats website.
This year, Gotham has reached unprecedented grounds, winning their first two matches over the Long Island Roller Rebels and the Connecticut Roller Girls by a combined 1,051 points — two of the most lopsided victories in WFTDA history.
“I think our hard work is testament to these two huge wins,” said Gotham’s Bonnie Thunders. “We hit the ground running at the beginning of the season, right where we left off in November.”
Castro, however, was quick to point out Philly’s impressive start to the season, with a 241-96 win in Montreal and a 180-79 victory over Nashville. Both were strong opponents and it was just the third time in PRG history that the Belles won back-to-back games by more than 100 points, according to Flat Track Stats.
Castro said the Belles will be ready for the challenge and are expecting to do better than simply keeping the score respectful against Gotham.
“Their opponents were drastically under-matched and while we haven’t beaten them in some time, I feel confident that we have the individual skill and teamwork to pull it off,” Castro said. “We started the year strong with two solid wins over strong teams and our energy is very positive. While we recognize they are a formidable opponent, we’re focused on our own execution.”
Gotham captain Suzy Hotrod said Gotham isn’t taking Philly lightly despite winning nine of 10 contests since the two teams initiated contact in 2006. A new season brings a whole new cast of characters as the Belles have been hit hard by injuries early losing Goldy to a back injury. Mo Pain has also yet to suit up in competition this season. But those injuries have opened doors for a young and talented Philly cast eager to make its mark against a tough opponent.
“Every year, all the teams are always changing and growing and you can’t expect anything or take anything for granted,” she said. “We’re always anticipating a hard hitting tough bout vs. Philly and also a fun game. I love playing them. We’re lucky to have such a good team so close to us.”
Castro believes a Belles’ victory is possible if the team doesn’t get caught up in Gotham’s strategies and tactics.
“Gotham has a very specific game-plan that they have perfected over the years and trying to beat them at their own game hasn't worked for us,” Castro said. “Going in with our own plan and executing our strategies as a team, while maintaining individual focus and aggression, is our goal for this game.”
Bonnie Thunders said Gotham is taking every precaution to make sure the Belles don’t get any ideas of pulling off an upset.
“Philly is always a threat to us,” she said. “Regardless of the outcome of games in the past they always put up a tough fight to the last whistle. We’ve seen them finish up games with 50-plus unanswered points on more than one occasion. We won’t be taking them lightly for Saturday.”
In the second half of the double header, the 2011 Warrior Cup champion Philthy Britches will take on the vastly improved Heavy Metal Hookers for the first time this season.
The Britches (0-1 in league play) can not afford another loss if they hope to defend the Warrior Cup crown. The Britches were upset by the Butchers in April and have had two months to regroup.
“It’s been a good two months with a lot of our new girls getting ample playing time in any interleague match they could get rostered for,” said Britches co-captain Belle Diablo. “That enthusiasm and want to improve their skills has really been rejuvenating after our devastating loss.”
The Butchers (1-1) were then upended by the Hookers (1-0) in another surprise bout last month, leaving the fluorescent green squad as the only undefeated team remaining in league play.
The Hookers, who have never won the Warrior Cup, are now in the driver’s seat early in the season.
“It felt great to beat the Butchers because historically we haven’t won many games,” said Hookers’ blocker Heavy Flo. “But we bring grit and the crowd loves us, we use that to our advantage.”
Belle Diablo is expecting another strong performance from the Hookers, but she said the Britches can certainly make a statement on Saturday.
“We know the Hookers team is stacked with amazing and seasoned players and their teamwork is fierce, but people expecting a blowout are in for a surprise,” she said. “I think some people have already dismissed us for this season but the heart on our team is pushing us to prove them wrong.”
The first bout is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. and doors open at 5.
Tickets are still available through the Philly Roller Girls website for $10 GA/$15 Floor or at the door on Saturday for $15GA/$20 Floor.