First We Take the Convention Center

Texas Rollergirls explode into the 2011 season

Welcome to 2011: Vicious Van GoGo of the Hotrod Honeys and Cheap Trixie of the Hustlers
Welcome to 2011: Vicious Van GoGo of the Hotrod Honeys and Cheap Trixie of the Hustlers (Photo by Richard Whittaker)

Some times, the secret to success is just hard work. Take the Texas Rollergirls. Last year, their season opening round robin attracted 962 fans. This year, in their new home at the Austin Convention Center, they better than doubled that figure.

It took a couple of days of calculating, but in total there were 1,724 paying customers (not bad for an underground sport that barely gets any mainstream media love.) Add in the veteran skaters and the kids under 12 that got in for free, and Austin's original flat track roller got the 2011 season off to an auspicious start with more than 2,000 voices in the stands. (In case you missed it, the league was also big enough news to make the "things we love about Austin" part of Mayor Lee Leffingwell's state of the city address.

It was a big start to the season, and also a tightly fought one. A new venue, a new crowd and a fresh opportunity to put roller derby in Austin on a bigger stage brought out the best in all four teams.

It also brought out the drama. There is nothing like three years of unstoppable success to put the spotlight on a team. So when the Hotrod Honeys lost to the Hustlers, it was a big moment for long-time fans.

Before the night, Babe Ruthless of the Hustlers said her team's tactic was to take advantage of the 15 minute mini-bouts to really test the team. Rather than having everyone play for a little bit in every bout, the tactic of changing the squad for every period paid off.

But it was not giant killing: Last year, the Hustlers were all over the Hotrods, and this time it was the squad in purple taking the lead. They are both scary, impressive teams. The Hustlers, with returning heavy hitters like Bullet Tooth Tracy and Cheap Trixie deepening one of the best packs in the game, have an unstoppable defense. But then the Hotrods' sophomores are coming into their own heavy hitters too. The Hustlers focused on their jamming duo of Molotov M. Pale and "most improved" candidate The Killa Sal Monella. The Hotrods cycled their veteran speedsters into the pack and gave fresh talent like Hauss the Boss time to shine. The Hustlers have worked hard to get to the top: The Hotrods will have to work hard to stay there.

Of course, anyone that thinks that this means the Honky Tonk Heartbreakers are out of title contention better tighten their bearings. The team sometimes called the Sweethearts proved they had brains too, and pulled out some radical tactics to great effect. The rare sight of a jammer/pivot switch was what gave them a squeaker win over the Hell Marys. If Rita Menweep hadn't passed the jammer star to Tammityville Horror, then they could not have done anything to dent Luce Bandit's 14 point scoring run. They could be the team that proves that skating smart, not just hard or fast, is the key to taking the title in 2011.

The team that may know most about hard work is the Hell Marys. They may have come out of the night 0-3, but this was a stronger Hells than anyone saw in 2010. A new jamming roster, boosted by BabyFace Assassin, Sinnerfold and former TXRD Lonestar Rollergirl phenom Smart Pants, showed how much effort they are prepared to put in. That hard work begins again this weekend, with their first road trip of the season. They'll be facing Colorado's Pikes Peak Derby Dames, and that's why they'll be tough to beat by the end of the season. Hard work.

That fight for the championship really begins March 27 when regular season starts. Tickets available now. More information at www.texasrollergirls.org.

Full scores below:

Team vs. Hell Marys vs. Honky Tonks vs. Hotrods vs. Hustlers Win/Loss
Hell Marys / 40-43 16-66 7-41 0-3
Honky Tonk Heartbreakers 43-40 / 17-44 25-34 1-2
Hotrod Honeys 66-16 44-17 / 19-30 2-1
Hustlers 41-7 34-25 30-19 / 3-0

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