With Lady Gaga tunes blasting through the gym, members of the Walla Walla Sweets Roller Girls skate around the floor of the YMCA in Walla Walla on Aug. 18, just prior to their bout with the visiting Snake Pit Derby Dames.
WALLA WALLA — The Walla Walla Sweets Rollergirls will see some key changes this year in derby rules and lineup, but another notable change for Saturday’s bout will be the home-track debut of the Wild Scallions.
The Scallions — the Sweets junior derby league with skaters ranging from 8-17 — will play their first home bout this Saturday.
In the past, the Scallions have had home scrimmages during half-time, but this year the team will take on the junior team for the Lava City Roller Dolls of Bend, Ore.
Scallions coach Kimi “Purl Slam” Schroeder said the experience has some of the girls on edge, especially when they consider the size difference between the youngest and oldest skaters.
“I have a couple of young ones that are really scared, but I just keep telling them it doesn’t matter if we win or lose, it is all about having fun and enjoying yourself,” Schroeder said. And she noted that older skaters don’t pick on the younger skaters and that good sportsmanship is the rule.
As for the Sweets, a few rule changes will speed up the game and help clarify penalties, which can sometimes be confusing to the general public.
Coach Barb “Krqql-Aid” Commare explained that the league has eliminated double whistle starts, where jammers and blockers started separately.
“It is going to make it more exciting for the fans because the whistle will blow and everybody will go,” Commare said, adding that some “fans were confused” by two-whistle blows.
Penalties will also be simplified with the elimination of minor calls, Commare added.
“All the penalties used to be really cumbersome and hard to understand for the fans ... They did away with minor calls. No minor penalties anymore, and that will be easier for the fans because it is less confusion and follows other sports.”
As for skaters, a few have dropped out this season, but there have also been returning skaters, including two blockers. Tiffany “Spanky Bankerton” Struthers and Brenda “Shakedown” Wheeler both returned to this year’s lineup after having skated previously for the Atomic City Rollergirls of the Tri-Cities.
In spite of the additional skaters, new team captain, Nikki “Nik Yo’ Face” Williams said the Sweets suffer from smaller overall team size.
Other teams, like the Lava City Roller Dolls, have more home teams, which means more experienced skaters to choose from. And some, like Lava City, have skated close to a decade.
This will be the Sweets’ fourth season.
“If you look at the rest of the teams we are playing this season, (Lava City is) going to be the most difficult team to beat. They are more established and a more difficult team to beat. We are four years (in the league), they are almost 10,” Williams said.
To beat Lava City and other teams this season, Williams said the Sweets will focus more on defense.
“Our main goal during the game is to not let their jammer score. We have really strong jammers, and they can get through the pack on their own without blockers. So we need to focus solely on their jammer and building a wall and holding her back,” Williams said.
The main Sweets Rollergirls bout starts at 6:45 p.m. The Wild Scallions junior league bout starts at 5 p.m.
Cost for the doubleheader is $8 pre-sale tickets sold at the YMCA and Book & Game Co., or $10 at the door.