RICHMOND, CA — In the final game of the WFTDA West Region Playoffs, 4W Oly overcame a tough Denver team — and an equally tough crowd — to win the region for the third time in four years. Denver led Oly with under 15 minutes to go, and the margin was single digits for the last ten minutes, but Oly stayed barely ahead to take the victory, 168-161.
Oly set the pace of the game early — and it was a very fast pace, a night-and-day difference from Denver’s early-tournament games. Oly took first blood in a very quick thirty-second 2-0 to Atomatrix, and the second was equalized as lead jammer On Da Sligh got passed by Sandrine Rangeon in her opening pas and had to settle for 4-4. Oly’s lead jammer streak continued as Lindsay Loblow took 2-0 in a very speedy pack.
Denver struck right back with three lead jam calls in a row; on the third, Denver jammer Caitlin Krause put her team in the lead as Vicky Cruz, Susie Long and Krisana Barrett buried Oly jammer Lindsay Loblow. Krause’s natural 14-0 put Denver ahead for the first time at 23-11.
Two jams later, Oly called their first timeout at 19:57 with the score 34-15 Denver. On the other side of the break, Psycho Babble, Joy Collision and Hockey Honey wrapped up Amanda Sharpless long enough for Atomatrix to lap Sharpless in a 9-0 and make it a ten point game at 34-24.
A crowd-pleasing 19-0 for Heather Juska over a heavily harassed On Da Sligh opened up Denver’s lead at 53-24; things continued to be very fast-paced through a 14-0 win for Atomatrix next. Psycho Babble took the Oly jammer star for the first time and picked a cheeky 4-0, getting Oly to within 11 at 53-42 with 13:20 in the first half.
The first power jam of the game was advantage Oly next when Heather Juska picked up a high block major as Denver jammer; the relentless Atomatrix took eight more points off the Denver lead and made it 53-50. She handed off the power jam to Psycho Babble, who did not get lead jammer but did get Oly in front again, 55-53, with about 10 minutes to play in the half.
Oly jammer On Da Sligh was absolutely on fire in the next frame, repeatedly spinning and leaping her way to freedom through Denver defense as Amanda Sharpless was bottled up by Scara to Death, Hockey Honey and Layla Lawdown. Sligh’s 20-0 gave Oly their first double-digit lead of the game at 75-53.
Denver rallied slowly but surely, narrowing the score to 81-70 with just over 2 minutes left in the half. In the last jam of the half Psycho Babble, jamming for Oly, took lead but cut her way to the penalty box. Fortunately for Oly, a pack of Joy Collision, Lil Tonka, Scara 2 Death and Chica Chula worked over Heather Juska, with Joy having a particularly brutal hit that sent Juska nearly to the center of the infield. The power jam didn’t narrow the margin at all — when it was over, the halftime score stood at 88-77 Oly.
Oly started the second half jamming a tireless Atomatrix three times in a row in a sequence that went 14-8 Oly, 0-0 and 4-2 Denver to a new score of 104-89 after the first five minutes. Denver dedicated jammer Julie Adams saw her first action of the game in the second half and stole 2 points at the very end of a 4-2 to On Da Sligh that made it 108-93. On the Oly side, Joy Collision also saw her first jammer action early in the second half – but her only outing with the jammer star saw her go the box very early. Opposing jammer Caitlin Krause navigated a consistently shrinking Oly pack to blow up the crowd by tying it up, 108-108, with about 20 minutes in the game.
Denver finally took the lead back on the next jam as Juska called off a 4-0 just in the nick of time; that kicked off a short but crowd-pleasing Denver rally that ended when Julie Adams, skating on power jam, handed back the advantage with a major track cut. With about 14 minutes to go, Denver was still barely up 126-120.
A chaotic 11-7 for Denver saw both jammers get boxed, leading to a new score of 136-127 Denver with 12 minutes in the game. However, when Caitlin Krause was boxed as Denver jammer on the next jam, Atomatrix hushed the fans with a huge 25-0 jam that put Oly back in the lead, 152-136. That proved the critical frame of the game.
Denver nicked away with back to back lead jammer calls, closing to 152-143 as Sandrine Rangeon pumped the crowd after a 4-0. Two jams later, a jammer penalty on Atomatrix allowed Rangeon to narrow it to just two points at 152-150 Oly. It looked like Heather Juska would put Denver in front on the other side of the power jam — but a costly 4th minor ended her run early. The jam ended 161-155 Oly — and led to a very long referee timeout, as Atomatrix apparently both committed a track cut major and successfully called off the jam while not lead. However, the next jam mysteriously started with a 3-1 pack favoring Denver but both jammers in the box and Atomatrix getting released first. Oly got out of what looked like a nightmare situation sitting pretty, up 164-155 with 2:29 to play.
Rangeon narrowed it to 164-159 next and Denver called their final timeout with 1:59 on the clock. On Da Sligh and Heather Juska took some time off that clock in a 0-0; the next jam started with 51 seconds on the clock. Juska went back out to face Atomatrix on that final jam, but when Atom claimed lead, Denver’s chances were all but shot. Atom took one insurance pass in the remaining time and wisely hung back until period time expired before calling it; the final score was a 7 point win for Oly at 168-161.