The season opener is tomorrow, and we’ve spent the week introducing you to each of the home teams. The final team to meet? Last season’s league champs, The Richmond Wrecking Belles. Rex Blocker spoke to Richmond coaches #T2 T-Wrecks and #2020 Eva Menace about defending their title, and in particular how they’ll bounce back from some significant changes to the roster.
2014 was an interesting season for the perennial powerhouse Richmond Wrecking Belles. After a losing 2013 campaign, they preached hard work and determination, and kept their eyes on the prize: a return to glory as league champions. The first bout offered a chance to settle a score, against the team that replaced them as champs, the Oakland Outlaws. It was a crazy back-and-forth battle, but Richmond won by three.
The Belles seemed to be returning to their winning ways, sweeping the Battle For The Coast tournament, winning all six games by an average score of over 114 points; but a rough loss to Santa Cruz, and a regular-season-ending close loss to Berkeley threatened to derail their progress. It came down to Champs, and a rematch against the Outlaws. Unlike the season opener, however, this one was all Richmond. Though Oakland charged back late to make it close – like the season opener, it came down to the last jam before Richmond won by three – Richmond prevailed, regaining the league title.
Richmond Wrecking Belles
2014 Record: 3-1, League Champions
All-time League Record: 21-7
Key Losses: #26 Chantilly Mace, #381 Razor Grrl, #9 Amanda Jamitinya, #9MM Nina Beretta
Key Additions: #8 Snide Boob
First thing long-time Belles fans will notice is who’s missing: a small dynamo of a jammer, Skater 26. “Mace has been the heuristic ham of our jammer sandwich,” says Wrecks. “Not only was she a foundational part of our rotation, she was able to coach newer jammers.”
But Mace isn’t the only loss. From the pack, the Belles bid farewell to #9MM Nina Beretta, #9 Amanda Jamitinya (who will be skating on the all-star team only this season), and #381 Razor Grrl. “AJ’s loss is a huge one for the Belles,” Wrecks says. “She always lead the other blockers in the back with calm, clear communication.” Nina, one of the first Wrecking Belles, was described as a fearsome hitter, even in practice against her own teammates (Wrecks is a little scared of her), and Razor “was a versatile blocker who was also our nerdy stats and rules guru,” says Eva, helping Richmond keep on top of the sports frequent rules adjustments.
So how are the Belles filling the holes? “The BAD pool is teeming with transfer talent as of late,” says Wrecks, but at the moment, they’ve added only #8 Snide Boob, who Eva says, “is working hard at developing her skills and learning Belles strategy. Keep an eye on her, I think she will surprise you.”
The Belles’ coaches are still working out who’s going to be doing what once the season begins. When asked about a go-to jammer, Eva replied, “Just know, no matter what, you won’t be disappointed.” And their emergency need-a-stop pack? Eva is similarly cagey: “People should fear all of our packs. When we work together, we can be a tough force to stop.”
The coaches aren’t entirely tight-lipped and circumspect when discussing the upcoming season. They’ve got two games in particular circled on their calendars. Says Eva, “Our games versus Oakland are always intense, nail-biters.” But it’s not just Oakland they’re preparing for. Eva goes on to say, “I think we all need to keep an eye out for Berkeley. Their team is made up of incredible vets and have picked up some great skaters this year. Adds Wrecks, “Those hippies have traded in their tie dye for some serious business.”
But the Belles aren’t all serious business. Unlike last off-season, they made a point of enjoying the time off. In addition to working out together doing strength training, a few of the Belles ran a half-marathon together, a team-building exercise Wrecks, perhaps jokingly, calls “the worst,” adding, “I will never understand how running is considered a hobby.”
The Belles have a title to defend, and they’re coming into the season with a balance of focus and irreverence. The other teams in the league will be gunning for them, and though the coaches are preparing for the title defense, they also have another goal in mind: “We are also trying to be the new spokeswomen for the United Colors of Benetton,” says Eva. The Belles are certainly loose and confident, and it’s going to be a great season.