In our penultimate preview of the 2015 season home teams, we bring you The Oakland Outlaws, who finished last year 2nd overall in league play after what was arguably the most exciting game of the 2014 season. With the new season here, Oakland is looking to dig deep and leave their very best on the track.
It’s been a topsy-turvy couple of years for the Oakland Outlaws. Winless in 2012, then undefeated in league play in 2013 (and nearly undefeated overall), Oakland came into 2014 with guns a-bangin’. First up was perennial powerhouse Richmond, but the Wrecking Belles were coming off of a rare off year and looking to return to form. Richmond won a doozy of a game by three, ending the Outlaws’ winning streak. The ladies in black bounced back, though, and ripped off another impressively dominating season, losing only a 19-point game to Sin City. Oakland charged back into the League Championship game, a rematch against Richmond…..and again lost by three.
I spoke to Outlaw coaches #10 Huck Sinn and #40 Val Hella about that rematch, the off-season changes to the team, including the loss of some critical components, and how they got their 2015 slogan: Dig Deep.
2014 Record: 2-2, 2nd place
All-time League Record: 13-12
Key losses: #013 Thrasher, #4×8 Bricktator, #505 Dorato, #51 Cass Warfare, #9 Cat Scrap Fever
Key additions: #243 Scratcher in the Eye, #29 Dual Hitizen, #45 Colt 45
“Oh, so sad when you think about it,” said Huck, of that final game of the season. “Losing to your rival twice by three points is really hard to stomach.” It was hard to watch, too. In the first game, Oakland led for all but twelve of the game’s 49 jams. There were seven lead changes, including one in the last jam, where Richmond turned a one-point deficit into a three-point win. In the rematch, however, Richmond led most of the way. Oakland made a spirited comeback, bringing some excitement to the proceedings and drawing the crowd back into the game, but the Belles held on to retake the league title.
“The first game was a damn fine game, and they got it at the end. Champs was theirs the whole time.” Huck Sinn
So how are the Outlaws bouncing back from that? “We want to get back to basics,” said Huck. “We’re gonna try some new things, try some new defensive strategies, some new skating skills. We’re really evolving into a more 360 style,” taking a page from some of the more successful teams from the WFTDA playoffs last season.
They’re also working this offseason to fill some notable holes. Gone from the team are All-Stars #505 Dorato, a powerful blocker (“cool calm demeanor, huge skates to fill,” said Huck) and #4×8 Bricktator, an unparalleled jammer (“an impossible jammer hole to fill, and a really positive person”). The roster has also lost team mainstays, #9 Cat Scrap Fever, jammer and blocker (“verbal force on the track, good communicator”), #51 Cass Warfare (“a beautiful combination of skill and heart,” says Hella), and #013 Thrasher, a slippery jammer with good speed, who is recovering from an injury. “We’re not as deep, with some last-minute retirements,” says Huck.
But they’re not bereft. This off-season has brought a number of transfers to the Bay Area Derby Girls, and three of them have found their way onto the Oakland roster. Your newest Outlaws are #45 Colt 45, a jammer from Sacramento’s Sacred City Derby Girls, #29 Dual Hitizen, a jammer/blocker hybrid from DC Rollergirls, and #243 Scratcher in the Eye, a jammer from Portland’s Rose City Rollers. “We’re super excited to have three experienced, powerful, smart, aggressive, dynamic players like these,” says Hella. She adds that she’s “intrigued by this huge pool of skaters we’ve got coming up for draft in March.” There’s always room for more.
These new skaters are now being added into the mix. The jammer rotation is currently expected to include Huck, maybe #64 Mary Prankster, #42 Esteemed Bun-Bun, #777 Jane Hammer… “Maybe Dual, maybe Colt, maybe five or six other people…we’re still working it out,” says Huck. And who’ll be their go-to jammer, when points are needed? Both coaches are in agreement: it’ll be Huck. But whereas Coach Huck is reluctant – almost sheepish – to name Skater Huck as her go-to, Coach Hella is not so reserved. “This is her year,” she says. “She’s a neutron bomb.”
When it comes to the packs, both coaches make one point clear: The Outlaws run deep. When asked about their most dependable pack, the one they’ll turn to in a pinch, several names were tossed out: #8 Fatal Dreidel, #320 Sheer Luxe (who will also be the captain on the track), #105 Strawberry Killz, #7 Murderyn Monroe, #8380 Hazel-Raw, Scratcher, Dual, Hammer… Says Hella, “Trying to jam your way through Murder, Hazel, Fatal and Hammer is much like trying to skate through a brick wall. Berry and Luxe are understated ninjas – they’ll knock you the [heck] out when you least expect it. When they’re not jamming, Bun, Dual, and Scratcher will easily hand you your ass on a platter.”
Huck singles out Hazel in particular for praise. “Hazel’s got swing, she has swagger, she’s fun to watch one-on-one. As her jammer, you feel so good and so protected.” On the line, before the jam starts, “she gives you a wink and her chin goes up…if you want anyone looking out for you, it’s Hazel-Raw. We missed her at champs.”
“Work hard. Dig deep. Play good derby.” Val Hella
Keeping everyone in control on the track will be Murderyn Monroe. “It’s in her blood,” Huck says. “Murder says a lot. You don’t really hear her [from the stands], she speaks under the noise. She IS a leader, whether she tries to be or not.”
The coaches plan to rely heavily on her and these blockers as they enter home team play. They think they’ll have their work cut out for them this season. When asked who they’re looking out for among the other home teams, which matchup they’re most anticipating, the coaches were circumspect. “Berkeley is coming on hot,” says Huck. “It’s their time to rise to the top, and they’re positioned correctly for it. ShEvil have been rebuilding. They’re going to evolve a lot and it’ll be good to see what they become.” As for Richmond, against whom the Outlaws once again open the season? “It’s hard to say,” she says. “Meeting Richmond in March is different from meeting them in July.”
And when all is said and done, Hella says their goals as a team come down to something quite simple. “Work hard. Dig deep. Play good derby. We do that, we will have had a successful season.” Huck elaborated by telling the story of a trip to Los Angeles last season, where the Outlaws played three full-length games in a single day. “We had to dig so frickin’ deep that day. I saw people pull something out of them they hadn’t pulled out before. I would like to see something like that for 2015. It’s not necessarily the win, it’s that we did everything right and buckled down and dug deep.”