Season Preview by Rex Blocker: Richmond Wrecking Belles

For anyone who’s followed the B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls’ home teams for a few seasons, last year’s League Championship bout must have seemed a little strange compared to previous years. It was a great game with two powerful, hard-hitting, talented teams but…something was different. The rules have changed pretty dramatically since 2012, but…no…that wasn’t it. There was something familiar missing…

…ahh, that’s right. For the first time in league history, the last bout of the season didn’t include the Richmond Wrecking Belles. Though they haven’t won every year – it just seems like it – the Belles have been in the the final intraleague game in each of the previous six years (going 4-2, if you’re scoring at home), and were two-time defending champs coming into the 2013 season. So what happened?

That was the first question I asked Belles’ coaches #381 Razor Grrl and #FU2 Kutya Cackoff, in the second of our season previews.

Richmond Wrecking Belles Season Preview
2013 Record: 1-2
All-time League Record: 18-6
Key Roster Losses: Chiquita Bonanza
Key Roster Additions: Angel Maker, Liza Machete, Nina Beretta, Sterling Archer, Biggie Brawls, Val Curry

“We lost about half of our roster of starting skaters,” said Kutya, to which Razor added, “We knew going into it that it was a development year.” Among those lost, however, three have come back: #11 Angel Maker, #1 Liza Machete, and #9mm Nina Beretta. In addition, they’ve added new draftees #925 Sterling Archer, #77 Biggie Brawls, and have been developing #512 Val Curry “to be an Amazon on the track.” Finally, Richmond will have #26 Chantilly Mace, who suffered a broken leg early last season in an All-Star Team bout, available for the entire campaign. It may be safe to say that Richmond are back, and stronger than ever.

So how is this talented group of pirates (we’ll explain later) prepping for the season, one in which they hope to reclaim their spot as the league’s top team? This is a team that works hard, that gets togetherto practice, not just to hang out. It’s a competition to even make the roster, never mind to become one of the blockers that’s relied on to be on the track every other jam. As Kutya says, “It always has been tough to walk on and get a roster spot. You expected to fight for it.”

“Everyone holds themselves and everyone else accountable,” said Kutya. “We have very high standards for attendance and off-skates practice.” When asked how this accountability manifests on the team, Razor cited the Belles’ nautical theme. “It’s a team of pirates,” she says. “Show up, do excellent, or walk the plank,” but ultimately, “they have your back.”

But with all this hard work, how do they stay cohesive? Did they do a lot of team-building activities in the off-season? Turns out that’s not really a Richmond thing. “We’ve never been the kind of team to do group outings,” Kutya said. “We’re just not touchy-feely.” “Things were scheduled,” added Razor, “but no one showed up…”

They’re not all competition and pushing each other, but it’s “rough pirate love,” says Razor. “If you’re showing up and you’re putting in the work, people forgive you.” Kutya adds, “There aren’t a lot of factions on this team. There’s a healthy level of competition, but there’s also a very healthy level of support.”

The Belles’ strength comes not just from this support and work ethic, nor is their strength the oft-used “teamwork,” but specifically from being “derby smart,” which keeps people on the track (“Four on the floor is the best thing ever”). As coaches, Kutya and Razor have been working hard to mold their players’ individual strengths and skills into a beautiful whole. “Everyone knows how to play their violin or their trumpet or their timpani,” says crazy analogy person Razor, “but now you’re doing it in sync, and that’s how music is played.”

The lead pirates this year will be will be Liza and #238 Baron von Punchausen, but there’s so much experience on this team that anyone on the track can call a play. Kutya points out, “we empower everybody to be a leader.” When someone on the track reads the situation and calls a play, says Razor “you echo it and you obey it.”

With so much talent, who’s going to be the go-to jammer for Richmond? Razor says that’s always a situational call. #9 Amanda Jamitinya has the artistic skating skills to “pirouette that body of hers, and it’s kind of amazing to watch,” but “each jammer brings [her] own flavor.” Mace “knows how to read a power jam and rack up points,” and in a “rough-and-tumble” pack, #000 Demanda Riot can “tank her way through.” Generally, you can look for the jammer star to be shared among Mace, Demanda, AJ, and #140 Abominatrix. In addition, there are always players they’re grooming for future seasons who will get their turns at the position.

So at the end of it all, how will the Belles measure success? Besides the obvious – finishing the season undefeated, finishing as champions – Kutya wants all this hard work to pay off. As she says, success is when “any of your players could try out and be successful for Travel Team next year.” But really…platitudes aside, Kutya, what’s your prediction for the season? “We’re going undefeated.”

First test is March 1st against the defending league champs, the Oakland Outlaws. To add some spice to what already promised to be a great game, this is the bout Richmond are most looking forward to. Says Razor, speaking of last year’s bout, “It was the low point on our distribution.” Or, as Kutya put it, “We should’ve won.”