The Big O 2019 tournament has come and gone, and it has been a whirlwind. The Big O is considered one of the biggest and best tournaments of the year for WFTDA/MRDA/JRDA, and this year was no exception. The San Diego Aftershocks made their first appearance in the Big O tournament since 2016. Since that time, the Aftershocks took 3rd place at the 2017 MRDA Championships and had a few retirements. The 2018 season was a rebuilding phase for the Aftershocks, but they made their way to the 2018 MRDA Playoffs. In 2019, they went through another rebuild and were excited to showcase their new team. They took it as a challenge to see how well a team made up of skaters from all over California (and even one from Australia!) could work together. Due to limited practice opportunities, this tournament was the first time the team was able to fully practice or play together. The 2019 Big O tournament ran from Friday May 3rd – Sunday May 5th. Aftershocks games were scheduled for Saturday (2 games) and Sunday (1 game), so majority of the team arrived on Friday.
Myself and 2 other teammates arrived early Friday morning so that we could watch the team we were going to play during the tournament. The teams we would be playing were: Puget Sound Outcast Derby (Seattle, WA), Philadelphia Hooligans (Philadelphia, PA) and Denver Ground Control (Denver, CO). All 3 of these teams are ranked in the top 15, while the Aftershocks are ranked at #16 in MRDA (Men’s Roller Derby Association). As such, playing and possibly winning these games would be pivotal in the Aftershocks reaching MRDA Playoffs. After watching the teams, we had a game plan for each team based on the way they played on Friday. We then had a private evening practice Friday evening to try and prepare. Again, this would be the very first time we all were in the same place together.
The first game for us was on Saturday, May 4th at 12pm against Puget Sound Outcast Derby. Puget Sound is a staple in the MRDA as they are one of the first teams ever formed in MRDA. Because of this, it’s an honor to play against them. The bout started and it was a slugfest from the start with both teams hitting very hard. Offense was a huge priority for both teams. Puget scored first but after a few jams, the Aftershocks started to get their stride together and played well. We were able to take the lead for a bit, but then penalty issues started to pile up and we were left playing many jams with 2 blockers on the track. During the second half, Puget was able to change up their gameplay and start shutting down our jammers. Because we were down blockers, it was hard to play offense as the blockers had to focus on defense. After more penalties piled up and ultimately caused ejections, we were down 3 skaters. Tired but not willing to quit, the Aftershocks continued to play hard ending in a final score of Puget Sound 203 to Aftershocks 173.
The second game for us was also on Saturday, May 4th at 8pm against Philadelphia Hooligans. The Hooligans were ranked #12 in MRDA and are always a formidable team to play against. For this tournament, they came with 8 players only and they had already played 2 games on Friday, so we had hoped to take advantage and come away with the win. From the first whistle, the Hooligans came out with guns blazing. They attained early lead jammers statuses and came out quickly with points. Even though they were tired, they took advantage of the Aftershocks’ lack of playing together to gain the early lead. The Aftershocks were able to recover and start getting into the groove once more as they began to slowly shut down the Hooligans and claw their way back in the point’s differential. After some big hits, we decided to run longer jams to take advantage of the Hooligans shortage of players to tire them out. After a few jams, we were able to take the lead and never looked back. The Hooligans continued to play their hearts out with some amazing (and I mean amazing) jamming from Betty Switch (seriously, she is amazing) and Uncle Dad, with support jamming/pivoting from Cilantro. Shortly after the start of the second half, the Hooligans were down to 4-5 players due to injuries. The Hooligans and referees decided to call the game due to safety concerns. The final score was Aftershocks 168 to Hooligans 118. This was a much needed win for the Aftershocks, but we can’t give enough credit to the Hooligans for playing with every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears they had.
The final game for the Aftershocks was on Sunday, May 5th at 10am against the Denver Ground Control. Ground Control is ranked at #11 in MRDA. We knew coming into this tournament that they were going to be the hardest game as they have grown so much as a team. Their game play was going to be a disadvantage to us. The first whistle blew and things were on their way. Immediately, Denver’s offense countered our defense which allowed Denver’s jammers to get out of the pack easily to score points. After a few jams with no points, we were able to put some points on the board. As for myself (since I am writing this), I got an ankle injury early on in the first half and had to be carted off the track to receive medical attention. Due to this injury, I am unable to provide much details of the bout until I was able to hobble trackside with about 15 minutes left in the 2nd half. By that time, Denver was up by about 70-80 points. What I was able to see was that the Aftershocks kicked up their gameplay up a bit and started to become more physical. With this change of gameplay, the Aftershocks were able to counter Denver’s defense and the Aftershock jammers were able to get out and score some points. The final score was Denver 225 to Aftershocks 84.
The Aftershocks went 1-2 for the Big O tournament and there is small hope for 2019 Playoffs but this tournament was a great indicator of where we need work and what we need to do to play and beat the upper echelon of MRDA teams. This team is still in a rebuilding phase but to be able to see the progression of the new skaters (some of whom have never played high level MRDA bouts and one of whom was making his MRDA debut) was amazing. There were definitely times of frustration, anger, and self-doubt, but I personally was happy to see the skaters learn and grow during this tournament. We will continue to learn and implement the game plays needed to work our way up into the top 10. One thing is for sure, though, we had a blast.
Until next time,
Shocks! Shocks! Shocks!
Big O MVP: Trueblocka and Just Dave. Congratulations to these two.
Contributing Writer: Radley Vasquez aka. Boo