Rocket Queens Take 2nd Place at Dustbowl

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by Genevieve Berrick

Bakersfield, CA – Crisp mornings, sunny afternoons, and two solid days of roller derby. Who could ask for anything more? That’s right, it’s the 4th Annual Bakersfield Dustbowl Invitational tournament.

The first bout for the Rocket Queens started a little later than expected, with an earlier bout determining that SoCal Roller Derby were to be the opponents for this game.
SoCal had in their ranks the old school derby delights of the Sin City Skate ladies – Trish The Dish and Ivanna S. Pankin’. And that first game, along with Va Va Va Gina, had some old school rock and roll roller derby to it, with big hits, fast skating, clustered blockers controlling the front and rear and jammer chasing being de-rigeur. Though of course, the persistent jamming and blocker recycling that we’ve come to expect of ACDG was visible as the Rocket Queens brought fresh faces to the track. As usual, Stormy Heather and DanZigZag impressed with their jamming talents, with a notable duck and weave for DanZigZag on a scoring pass going all but unnoticed by SoCal.

Trish The Dish seemed to be really THE key pivot and blocker for SoCal, blocking and directing offensive play with enthusiasm and killer focus, while her other half, Ivanna alternated fairly evenly between jamming and blocking.

The Rocket Queens took this game play, and worked for their points, keeping control of their game despite some emphatic opposition, and pulling evenly ahead for a solid win. Stormy took the final ricochet of SoCal blocker hits in the last jam for this 30min bout in impressive stride, to bring her team to victory, 105:71.

The second bout for the day proved to be the last for day #1 at Dustbowl Invitational, as the final two bouts were shifted to the following morning.

This game proved to be a real nail-biter, as a slightly worn ACDG took on the delightfully unexpected formidable talents of UnDead RollerGirls, and gave us a solid half hour of lead switches and come-back powerjams, to keep the heart racing.

The first three points on the board were for ACDG, as Stormy snuck up the outside to put her team in the lead. But that wasn’t to stay as Undead shifted into gear, and added 4 on, with B-Train in hit pursuit. The Rocket Queens then returned with a 7:4 lead, and first Satan’s Little Helper, and then Stormy Heather solidified it as ACDG pushed their end up to 12 points, and then to 17:12. DanZigZag spent some time in the box, and Undead made the most of their powerjam, but Ziggy came through again… Not soon enough to prevent yet another lead change. With 18mins to go, Undead were firmly in the lead, at 49:19, but ACDG kept chipping away with lead jammer gains and adding up scoring passes, and then calling the jams before Undead could add any on. 

Octane Jane impressed both with her blocking and jamming abilities, helping ACDG with their slowly-but-surely climb back to meet Undead, even engaging with the other jammer as she pushed ahead. Booty Ninja and BlackStar also proved their worth to the team with their persistent play and key assists. Undead kept pulling out every trick they had up their collective sleeves with two star passes, and yet it still wasn’t quite enough to hold back ACDG, as they strode into the final jams, both teams well aware that the neck-and-neck differential could make this anyone’s game. Stormy once again brought the final jam home for the Rocket Queens, though Undead’s blockers weren’t quite ready to admit the game was over, and everyone checked and double-checked the score board… Yes, our ladies landed a narrow 73:67 victory! But they still knew they might meet Undead again, as Undead had several more games to potentially yet push their way into the Championship game.

The second day started in the afternoon, again, for the Rocket Queens, playing the #1 seed of the tournament, the Vendolls, in what might be a preview of the championship game. The Vendolls had already recently met the Hollywood Scarlets, who beat them emphatically. But could the Rocket Queens mimic The Scarlet’s success given that their line-up contained some of the key players who made that original Scarlet win possible…? 

The Vendolls started out seeming to feel confident and in control, but were then visibly shaken by the skills and persistence of the Rocket Queens they encountered on the track. Kat Von Dv8er was the one of the key jammers for the Vendolls this tournament, and she took on the deeper jammer rotation of ACDG almost single-handedly, with some key assistance from Chronic Speed. Vendolls started as they meant to continue, putting up points on the board right away, but some persistent jamming, smart lead jammer calls and strong positional blocking from ACDG chipped away at the difference, leaving the teams tied for several seemingly endless breathtaking jams. The difference stayed close enough throughout that a single good powerjam might have overturned the game… Those last few minutes were a bundle of anticipation as the scoreboard, which hadn’t worked all morning, suddenly got rolling, but no one quite knew which side was which, and we had to wait, watching with all digits crossed to see who had won. A close and tightly fought win went to the Vendolls, but ACDG knew they still had the chance to meet them again in the championship game for #1 position…

Next up, the Rocket Queens watched a heavily contested game between UnDead and SoCal, to see who they’d play again to get to the championship game. And Undead came out triumphant, with SoCal suffering as key blockers were ejected from the game.
This opportunity for a rematch between Undead and ACDG proved to be really ACDG’s game, as they openly displayed their learning curve from their meeting the previous day, and put up an unstoppable point after point on the board. Rocket Queens came to a win, with a final score of 131:34. They were moving on to the championships!

The next bout was a full-length bout, against the Vendolls once again. And the Rocket Queens skated their hearts out for this one, despite being at a clear disadvantage, having come directly out of their game against Undead, while the Vendolls had rested since their last round against ACDG.

Vendolls’ Kat Von Dv8er really was the star jammer of this rematch, with our very own Satan’s Little Helper skating right up behind her as jammer-to-watch. And Az Sassin’ for Vendolls blocked her way with heavy hits through this game, making the Rocket Queens really work for their points. Octane Jane really used this time as a chance to shine, proving again and again her merit as an all-round player, alternating impressive jamming against strategic blocking. The score really didn’t reflect the true relentles
sness of the pace in this half, as the teams rounded into a final jam with Blackstar leading a key assist, helping Stormy through… whistle landed us with a Vendolls lead at 86:57 at half-time. 

The second half, with the assistance of Chronic Speed’s jamming, Dv8er dominated the track once again, almost miraculously seeming to only heat up and not flag. The Rocket Queens played a fast-paced, engaged and worked to slowly inch the score up, but they couldn’t reply to the points that Vendolls were adding up. Even a final impressive powerjam by Satan couldn’t even up the score, and the final finished with the Rocket Queens maintaining their seeded #2 spot in the tournament, Vendolls at 177:134.

An exhausted, but shiningly happy, Rocket Queens took the final lap of high-fives around the track with aplomb, knowing that they skated their hardest and really came together as a team for this tournament. Congratulations, ladies, you have so much to be proud of!

Thank you so much, Bakersfield, for making this possible!

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