The Gate City All-Stars are rebuilding.
That’s the first fact gleaned from their home opener on Aug. 14 against the Beckley Area Derby Dames All-Stars. It’s the first because the score shouts at you: 292-59 in BADD’s favor.
Gate City would be the first to tell you that, though.
“We know there’s challenges, and we recognize those,” jammer Ashley Ferguson, aka Emma Ture, said after the bout.
Gate City lost crucial players in the offseason, notably jammer and co-captain Dalea Reichgott, better known as Betty Switch, and key blockers, some 5-year veterans.
Jammers score points for their team by lapping the opposing team’s blockers. Blockers, in a self-explanatory role, attempt to thwart the jammer’s efforts to pass. One can see how losing stars in both positions could cripple a team.
They’ve also experienced a coaching change. John Umberger, known as Coach Bash, joined the organization this year.
“He’s calm, very positive,” Ferguson said. “Even if there’s something we’re not doing well, he tries to show us how to improve in a positive way.”
Considering the circumstances, Bash did stay as calm as he possibly could during the first half of play.
Umberger calmly yelled to his team as BADD busted out, establishing an enormous lead in the first few jams thanks to the dominant performances of their jammers.
“Set it up!” Umberger screamed to his blockers. “Get ready, get ready! Stay in contact!”
Rounding the flat track seemingly without effort, the visiting jammers tacked on dozens of points. BADD’s intensity was up.
“Every time I went out to jam, our blockers held the other jammer, and I just had to keep going,” BADD jammer Tricia Cooke said after the final period.
Yet the BADD jammers always found a way around the Gate City walls.
For instance, Cooke employed the apex jump, a hop over the inside of the turn when opposing blockers situated at the corner.
“It’s an easy way around,” Cooke said. “I’d rather jump than fight through the wall sometimes.”
Meanwhile, the visiting blockers held Gate City to only 4 over the first six jams, and many attempts by Gate City jammers to evade the stop led to penalties, leaving BADD to score at will.
“Our blockers were great switching from D to O, which is always phenomenal,” Lu C-4, real name Lee Mason, said afterwards.
By the time Buster Vicious — Shanna Buster’s nom de guerre — finally broke through BADD’s defense in jam 7 and tacked on 9, the score was 78-13.
During the first half, Vicious was the only Gate City jammer able to produce consistently.
“Their blockers keep walling up, forming a brace-3,” Buster said, referring to a defensive formation where three players form a wide triangle supported at the shoulders. “I’m going for the links, and when I make contact, they’re supposed to drop, or they get a penalty. I’ve been able to push hard on them, disengage quickly, then burst through.”
If Gate City could’ve gummed up the works for BADD from then on, a mad-dash rally remained possible, but the BADD jammers kept up their relentless assault. Sunlight between scores widened: 90-13, 107-22, 116-22, until halftime finally came after jam 18, halting the slaughter at 136-22 for a time.
Coach Bash maintained his resolve during the break, but seemed despondent, the witness of trauma.
“We need to settle down and communicate and work together more,” Umberger said after addressing his team. “They’re doing a good job of keeping us split up. And their blockers are very agile; they’re able to stay with the jammer wherever they are.”
He paused, shook his head, and repeated, “They’re keeping us split up.”
BADD’s jammers realized cracks in the Gate City defensive line in real time.
“They have no plow stop,” Cooke said. “They’ll roll instead of stopping, making holes in the wall, so it’s easy to get through them.”
While Cooke often skipped the curve, other BADD jammers were content to juke.
“If I found a seam I could squeeze through, they couldn’t regroup quick enough,” Erin Hart said with a shrug after the bout. “During practice, our walls swallow us over and over, so it’s maybe a difference in the way we train.”
BADD head coach William Hill echoed the efforts regarding training.
“Our girls have awesome work ethic,” he said while walking the inside track as the BADD Intentions, the Beckley, WV B-team, warmed up for their bout against Greensboro Counterstrike. “They stay together and communicate well. They just observe and work around whatever’s thrown at them.”
Learning the hard lessons from the first half, Gate City improved offensively. But even though jammers Pixel Pusher and Miss Shuggenah joined Buster on the board, BADD more than doubled their own efforts.
The final score seems embarrassing. But, again, the Gate City All-Stars are rebuilding.
“We’re working on building everybody up and building a strong team together where everyone plays a part together,” Ferguson said.
And BADD, gracious winners, acknowledged their opponents’ strengths with respect.
“The score doesn’t always reflect how hard the team was,” Cooke said. “Though there was a big gap, they played awesome.”
And though they made it look easy, the BADD jammers all agreed on one thing: the Gate City All-Stars are heavy hitters.
“I had to prepare myself while on the jam, thinking, They are gonna hit me so hard, so be ready,” Hart laughed.