The Brandywine Roller Girls may be the new kids on the block in the national roller derby circuit, but they've already proven that they're a serious contender.
It's the Chester County-based organization's first year as a member of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), the sport's international governing body and membership organization, and the Roller Girls' top squad, the Belligerents, has already earned its first playoff bid. Next weekend, the Belligerents will roll in the Division 2 tournament in Duluth, Minn.
'It feels very satisfying when you set out with the expectation of doing a lot of hard work and with a lot of ambition,' said BRG League Coach Kath Poehler, AKA Koach Hot Wheels. 'There are a lot of moving parts to just becoming a member organization in the WFTDA, and that in itself is a feat. And then having the talent and dedication of these skaters, it's really rewarding.'
The tournament takes place Aug. 15 to 17, and the Belligerents are the 10th seed. To prepare, the team has increased the number of practices and their duration, and has included mandatory strength conditioning and cardio to every practice, along with a few other new training regimens.
Since the changes were made, Poehler said she believes the team's output at practices has increased by about 30 percent.
'It's very much understood that we're going in as underdogs,' she said. 'It's very much understood that we've only got one shot at this, so we're giving it all we've got.'
Poehler attributes her squad's success this year to a lot of hard work and the dedication and support among the skaters, saying she knew she had a special team going into the season.
'This is a pretty exceptional group,' she said. 'A lot of leagues will show up to this tournament with the maximum number allowed on your roster, which is 20. We're showing up with 11, which may put us at a disadvantage on paper, but really, I think it speaks to the talent and dedication of these girls.'
Belligerents Captain Mia Fabrizio (Rapid ArrhythMia) agreed, saying that 'supporting each other and keeping a positive attitude' will continue to be a major factor in the team's success moving forward through the tournament.
'Besides just playing some good, fundamental derby, our strategy is just to be as prepared as possible and knowing ourselves,' she said.
The squad is focused on next weekend's tournament now, but no matter the outcome, the team can be proud of this season of firsts.
'This season has been under a microscope, and it feels like we've really accomplished something,' Fabrizio said. 'We're just going to play hard and try to make all of our fans and the people who support us proud.'