The 2011 WFTDA West Regional tournament “Bridgetown Brawl” takes place on September 23-25 in Portland, hosted by the Rose City Rollers. All live streaming coverage of the Big 5 tournaments will be provided by Blaze Streaming Media and the WFTDA.

So many top teams in the West- what is the deal? There is a lot of attention that is handed to this region with more than their fair share of top teams in the WFTDA at the moment, and at most any given time in the last two years. Depending on the source, the West includes either six (as ranked by the Derby News Network) or five (via Flat Track Stats) of the top ten teams in the world. Whether or not you like that fact, I say it’s the hardest region to topple to reach the Championships and has the fiercest competition going on. But when you take a closer look at the region itself, there is a huge divide between those top six, and the remaining four. So much so, that I am just going to speak to it as two separate groups.

…the West includes either six or five of the top ten teams in the world.

The Top Six: Oly, Rocky Mountain, Denver, Rose City, Bay Area, Rat City

Let me be frank. Do I doubt that Oly and Rocky will earn their spot to go to Denver? Not really. Yes, it will be interesting to see if Rocky regains it’s #1 spot, or they are going to save a trick or two for November against those gingerbread vixens. Honestly, all eyes are going to be about that coveted 3rd place spot.

In the past 2 seasons, each of these six teams has competed with each other time and time again. Some have had very close point differentials, as short as 10 points or less. The 3rd place is not going to come down to the most skilled team. These teams have proven in the rankings that they can swap places in a blink of an eye (or quarter to quarter. Whatever. Semantics.) It’s going to come down to the head game. Many of these teams have strong rivalries. Yes, we are all sisters, but some of these rivalries are not the friendliest on the track. Oly/Rocky. Rat/Denver. Rose/Bay Area. Oly/Rose. I have seen each of these teams get so far inside of the others’ heads that the bout was won two jams into the clock. What it is going to come down to is who can keep their cool and have the most flexible reactions with their strategy and their opponent. I say third place is anyone’s game.

Rat City: Least likely to earn this spot, but I wouldn’t completely take them out of the running. Yes, they have an opportunity to knock out the Championships’ hosts in their first bout, and it’s totally within their reach. However, with the high amount of roster changes that they have had this season (skaters and coaches alike), I do not feel that the team is cohesive enough to keep it together three bouts long to make it all the way.

Bay Area: Those crazy ladies. This team usually has a slow start at the beginning of their season, just to slowly rise to the occasion and blitz their competition come Autumn. But not this year. They came out the gate a little weaker than they finished last year, but did not have nearly as much ground to recuperate through the training months. A lot of this can be attributed to their new (to last season) strong coach and lack of star jammer/blocker turnover. Will they come out shining in Portland to steal third place (and our hearts) once again? Or is the change in  trajectory also going to affect its outcome?

Rose City: Ah, always a bridesmaid, never a bride. As this event’s host, and repeated Championship shut-out, I know that they are determined as ever to advance to Denver. Let me just say this. Have they learned their lessons from seasons past? Only a 3-day tournament will tell.

Denver: Speaking of determined, I can only imagine the drive that this team has to qualify for the event that they are hosting in a short few months. On top of their usual high level of umphf. They have had a strong year, and I would not be surprised if they hold dearly and justifiably onto the third place ranking they earned early this season after the Wild West Showdown. That being said, I know a lot of teams that would love to serve a slice of humble pie to the Mile High Club.

The Bottom Four: Sacred City, Jet City, Tucson, Angel City

Sacred City: Overall doing better than last year (obviously not squeaking by into the tournament like they did last year when they were hosting).  Keeping just ahead of Jet, but still being blasted away by the Top Six. Sacred is a team that plays with a lot of heart. I feel like if they bout more than one or two challenging teams earlier in the season, they have a lot of potential to grow in the next two years. Sacred: take note of what Jet is doing.

Jet City: They have been all over the map this year! Yes, more losses than last year, but they are doing their homework like a good up-and-coming team should. Not likely to move in rankings much in 2011. But with the lessons they are learning, they have a good chance of blowing past the gap once the bruises from this season heal.

Tucson: Can’t really say much about this team. I have not seen them skate since the last West Regionals and they have not bouted any challenging teams in this region this year. Since I don’t see any phenomenal happenings on their calendar for this season, could be a wild card. But more likely to stay at #9. In and out of the tournament in the same place they came from, just like they have the past two years. Teams come and go around them, Tucson seems to be happy with where they are at.

I have always been shocked that a stronger flat track team has not emerged from SoCal

Angel City: Breaking into the bracket after taking a one year hiatus from it in 2010. Not sure how much longer they will be able to cling to their spot. They have played it close to home this year. Literally. Mostly bouting other California teams this season. I have always been shocked that a  stronger flat track team has not emerged from SoCal. It’s a large metro area. If only they could cull a travel team from all of the leagues in the area, rather than each suburb have it’s own league, I think they could blow us away. But in the meantime, they (and we) will settle for #10.

And Honorable Mention:

Emerald City eeking out at #11, so close, yet 100 miles too far away. Jumping from position #18 from merely a year ago, so much potential to reach the top regional bracket this season. I know that Rose City is bummed not to be hosting one of their sister Oregon leagues.

Image courtesy of Rose City Rollers