First, a brief recap. The bout began with a fierce showing of defense by both teams. Solid walls, great blocking, just some really killer derby. My eyes were as big as vinyl records as I stared in awe of GNR. They looked so damn good. The Betties drew first blood when SoulFearic ACID finally broke through the pack and put 4pts on the board. GNR's awesome defense held strong for the next 5 jams, which gave Scald Eagle a chance to rocket GNR ahead with a 20pt jam. Supa Sixpack put up 4pts to Acid's 3pts, and Squid Vicious added to GNR's lead with a 9pt jam. Fans were going nuts. The whole crowd was going nuts. We were witnessing such legendary derby. And then the penalties started. GNR proceeded to play all but 5 jams of the rest of the bout without a full contingent of blockers. The Betties started racking up points, and GNR was powerless to staunch the flow. Dekonstructor jammed back-to-back for a total of 24pts to tie the score in the 7th/8th jams, and the Betties never looked back. The first half ended with GNR down 41-90. Long scoreless streaks for GNR, coupled with continuing penalty trouble and consistent jamming by Acid, DK, and Joyride, sounded the death knell for any hopes of a GNR comeback. A 25pt jam by Acid put the point spread into triple digits, and the crowd started calling for the Betties to quit being douchebags and start playing their rookies (the crowd's words, not mine!). But the Betties persisted in racking up as many points as possible, jamming Acid, DK, and Joyride over and over again. Eagle managed a couple of miracle jams while FrankNHurter, Havana Goodtime, and Untamed Shrew showed their blocking chops by holding the Betties jammers scoreless. Finally answering the crowd's yells of "Play your rookies! Blow-outs are boring!" the Betties jammed Northern Lights Out and Winnie the Pow for the last few jams, during which Eagle put up 30pts. The final whistle blew and the torture was over- the Betties beat GNR 172-102.
So what happened? Penalty trouble killed GNR, like it always does. It's as simple as that. And yet it's decidedly more complex when you break it down further. It's not just a matter of less GNR blockers equals a defensive/offensive disadvantage. That's obvious. The other result of constant penalty trouble is the inevitable panic that ensues. GNR gets flustered and confused, which ultimately leads to their downfall, especially against an unflappable team like the Betties. Suddenly, line-ups get sent out without adjusting to the prior jam, like someone isn't paying attention to what just happened on the track. Last-minute changes are called when the blockers are already on the track, which throws the whole jam into chaos. This sort of panicked line-up change has even led to a top skater being pulled, leaving a less-effective blocker on the track. I've seen this happen in bouts and at scrimmage. It's a frustrating pattern.
So there's that. But there's something else that I am still mystified about. When playing a team like the Betties, who skate with the utmost precision and agility, why were there GNR skaters on the track who couldn't get to where they needed to go in an equally-timely fashion? Don't play the skaters who get hit out and take an eternity to get back to the pack! Don't play the skaters who don't/can't do their job because they are constantly getting picked off and trapped by the opposing team! Don't leave skaters on the bench who do possess the skills to get to the front of the pack without help! If a skater is having an off night (or simply lacks the skills to begin with), stop playing them! In case you couldn't tell from my copious use of italics, I'm a little worked up about this. GNR needs to take a hard, objective look at how their line-ups are being determined.
Ok, the rants are over. Here are some good things that happened. One of GNR's strategies was to neutralize Acid (heh, 'neutralize avid') by sending Eagle out to jam against her every single time. I chuckle to myself when I imagine Acid on the jam line with Eagle. 'You again? Really?' And although it may not have been a jam-for-jam wash in terms of points, Eagle did succeed in matching Acid's 66pts with 67pts of her own. Unfortunately, there were no GNR jammers able to equalize Dekonstructor or Joyride, who put up 67pts and 37pts respectively. But Eagle did a hell of a job jamming, as she always does. I hope she never ever stops jamming for GNR. Especially as long as FrankNHurter and Havana Goodtime are around to block, so Eagle can just jam all day long.
And let's not forgot that brief shining moment at the start of the bout when GNR was in fierce control of the pack. If GNR had skated with that same level-headedness and tenacity the whole time, they very well could have beat the Betties. And in case you haven't heard, GNR will play the Betties again in the semi-finals on May 5th. I'm hoping it will be a very different game.
In other news...
Squid Vicious skated her last bout with GNR on March 31st. We'll miss you, Squiddles!
Mel Mangles is back on GNR! Holy crap! Just in time for semis...
Party with GNR! Your favorite ladies in black are hosting a fundraising blow-out on April 20th. Reserve your spot on the exclusive party bus, or come to Blitz Ladd later for drinks, games, and Karaoke From Hell. If you've never seen Untamed Shrew's rendition of Sin Wagon, you need to be there. What am I saying?! You need to be there anyway! Yours truly will be on board the tour bus, video-blogging. Yep, you heard me... Click below for tickets and info.
Rock on! \m/ \m/