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|Metro area||Raleigh, North Carolina|
Carolina Bootleggers (travel)
Carolina All-Stars (travel)
|Org. type||501(c)(3) NPO|
Founded in January 2004, the Carolina Rollergirls, known as CRG or Carolina Roller Derby, Inc. is an all-women, flat-track roller derby league with a stated mission to foster an alternative sport in North Carolina while training for national competition. Operating as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the league promotes the physical and mental strength and independent spirit of women. The league is run for the skaters, by the skaters with the help and support of many sponsors and volunteers.
While traveling through Austin, TX in late 2003, graphic designer Laura Weakland stumbled upon a banked-track roller derby bout put on by the Lonestar Rollergirls. She was immediately sold on the athleticism, theatrics, and independent spirit of the production and returned to Raleigh determined to start a local derby league. Although her imagination had been fired by a banked-track bout, practicality dictated that Weakland pursue flat-track derby, which requires only an appropriate skating surface and adequate space, rather than a dedicated banked track. Undaunted, she papered the city with flyers and talked up roller derby to friends and strangers alike. Weakland, now known by her derby moniker, Celia Fate, envisioned a sport that would welcome women of varying body types and ability levels.
Armed with little more than enthusiasm and chutzpah, the like-minded women Weakland had gathered together began skating regularly at a local rink in January 2004, including: Eva Lye, Ms. Anthrope the Mordant, Edith Shred, and La Vicious. In those early days, the skaters who would go on to become CRG stars were just finding their feet on four wheels. Although some had skated as adults, many hadn't been on wheels since middle school. Practices were loosely organized and at first consisted of mostly drills and laps. Scrimmages were a learn-as-you-go affair. Derby's resurgence was still in its nascent stages, and while it was clear that this modern incarnation was a different entity from roller derby of the past, rules and proper form were far from codified.
Expos and 2005 inaugural season (spring and fall)
CRG held its first expo bout on September 19, 2004 in front of a small but enthusiastic crowd at Raleigh's Skate Ranch. Permanent home teams had yet to be established, so that first bout featured two temporary teams: the Crimson Crushers against the Black Widows. A second expo bout was held two months later on November 21, 2004. The first two permanent home teams now came into being—the Debutante Brawlers and the Trauma Queens—and CRG began looking at putting on its first official bout. That day arrived on April 10, 2005 and gave the Trauma Queens their first win against the Debs (138-131). In the next bout, held on May 22, 2005, the Debs came back to beat the Queens 104-82. The Debs took the season championship on June 19, 2005, ending the league's inaugural season.
Late 2005 saw another milestone for the league. On November 18 of that year, CRG played its first interleague and away game against Minnesota. That first CRG all-star team (the top players culled from the two home teams) was composed of Eva Lye, Teflon Donna, Busty O'Lipp, Leadfoot, Ms. Anthrope the Mordant, Shirley Temper, Maddat U, Militia, Zella Lugosi, Penelope Bruz, Kama Suture, Princess America, Roxy Rockett and Violet Femme, with Fairy Brutal and Sylvia Wrath serving as bench assistants. Minnesota defeated Carolina by a wide margin, but in January 2006, the Minnesota Rollergirl All-Stars headed south for a rematch and Carolina returned the favor, playing a much tougher game and holding the score to a 10-point differential.
By 2006, it was clear that the league had grown beyond the capacity of the two existing home teams and so the 2006 season introduced fans to a brand new team, the Tai Chi-tahs. The Chi-tahs rolled away with the coveted Golden Skate Championship that year, defeating the Debutante Brawlers 149-142.
By this point, a two-phase season had developed, with home team matchups taking place the first half of the year and interleague games (featuring visiting leagues from across the country) taking place the second half of the year. CRG's undefeated 2006 interleague season saw the All-Stars defeat Las Vegas's Neanderdolls, both at home (127-65) and away (133-84), as well as Providence's Rhode Island Riveters (131-102) and Phoenix's Tent City Terrors (100-90), both on home turf.
The 2006 interleague season also signaled a critical turning point for CRG. Just as the league had outgrown its two-team structure, so had it outgrown its venue of two years, the Skate Ranch of Raleigh. After regularly bouting to sell-out crowds at the Ranch, the potential for bigger audiences and a more professional production was clear. With this in mind, the league decided to move to historic Dorton Arena at the NC State Fairgrounds, although the Skate Ranch would remain its practice facility.
The 2007 season saw the league play an unprecedented number of games against an even greater number of opponents. CRG rang in the new year with an away-game win against Baltimore's Charm City Roller Girls (140-72), followed by a round robin tournament between all three home teams two weeks later on January 21. In March, fans witnessed the first of four double-headers, with the Debs going up against the Queens and the Chi-tahs taking on the Atlanta Rollergirls travel team. Barely one week later, on March 17, CRG participated in the inaugural East Coast Derby Extravaganza (ECDX), a derby tournament hosted by the Philadelphia Rollergirls. The CRG team succeeded in both of their WFTDA bouts there, rolling over New York's Gotham Rollergirls (115-104) and soundly defeating the Detroit Rollergirls (192-49). In mid-April, the Chi-tahs defeated the Queens (56-41) and the Debs crushed the Cincinnati All-Stars (73-25) at the second double header of the season. The following month, on May 12, the CRG All-Stars took the action to Phoenix for a tight rematch against the Tent City Terrors, losing by a mere three points. A week later they treated fans to a third home-based double header in which the Chi-tahs defeated the Debs (78-65) and the Trauma Queens took down Birmingham, Alabama's Tragic City Rollers (63-53). On June 9, the last of the season's double headers kicked off with an interleague win for the Trauma Queens against Southern Virginia's Dominion Derby Girls (72-44). In the second half, the Tai Chi-tahs and Debutante Brawlers kept the energy high with a razor-close battle that saw the Chi-tahs bring home a one-point victory and the Golden Skate for a second year in a row.
The latter half of 2007 took the 7th-ranked CRG All-Stars on the road, first to Providence in June for a second win against the Rhode Island Riveters (104-68), and then, in August, to the WFTDA Eastern Regional Tournament in Columbus, OH, where the team placed third and secured its slot at the upcoming WFTDA National Championships in Austin, TX. Just two weeks before pitting themselves against the other top-seeded leagues in the country, the All-Stars brought the action back home for a face-off against the founders of the modern flat-track revolution, the Texas Rollergirls. Although the league suffered its only home-turf defeat that day, the margin of victory for Texas was narrow (59-64), proving that CRG could hold its own against the best of the best. On the weekend of September 29–30, the All-Stars proved themselves again, advancing to the final four (the only eastern division league to do so) with a respectable win against the Tucson Saddletramps (80-73). The following day, CRG fought a hard battle against the Kansas City Roller Warriors (KCRW)--the tournament's eventual winners—losing by only eight points (108-116). When the dust settled, CRG returned home ranked 4th in the country, a three-slot improvement over its previous ranking. After a brief break, the interleague season continued at home in November with an easy win against San Francisco's Bay Area Derby Girls (74-45).
Game of the year: Kansas City Roller Warriors v. Carolina Rollergirls
On December 2, KCRW, still flush from its nationals victory, came to Raleigh for a much-anticipated rematch. After suffering such a narrow loss in Austin, CRG was more than ready to prove that it could defeat the number one team in the country. In what fans have variously described as "seat-of-your-pants", "a nail biter", and "the best derby I've ever seen", the CRG All-Stars pulled out a one-point win against their opponents that had the crowd in Dorton on its feet through much of the final period.
The 2008 season kicked off on March 29 with a match-up between the Trauma Queens and two-time Golden Skate winners the Tai Chi-tahs. The Queens came out strong and played a defense-heavy game that led to a substantial victory over the Chi-tahs (104-34).
A third Golden Skate win was not to be for the Chi-tahs. Despite strong showings by several key skaters, they lost their second game—and their chance at the championship—on April 20 to the Debutante Brawlers (85-55).
This second Chi-tah loss guaranteed both the Debs and the Queens a shot at the Golden Skate, regardless of the next game's outcome, but both teams hit the track on May 18 as though their chance at the trophy depended on a win. The rookie-heavy Debs, led by league veterans Shirley Temper and Roxy Rockett, rolled away with an 81-69 victory over the Queens and their second solid win of the season.
On June 7, the Debs and Queens sweated their way through triple-digit temperatures at Dorton Arena in a competitive, heartfelt fight for the championship. Fans who braved the heat saw the Debs take a substantial early lead in the first half, but the Queens fought their way back in the second half, resulting in an exhilarating final few minutes. Ultimately, the Debs' standout teamwork won the day, bringing them their first championship victory (57-50) since 2005.
A mere two weeks later, the CRG All-Stars headed north for Philadelphia for the second annual East Coast Derby Extravaganza (ECDX), where they kicked off the weekend event with an easy win against the outmatched Denver Roller Dolls (129-49). On Sunday, CRG skated out against a more formidable foe, Chicago's Windy City Rollers, but the All-Stars' tight defense prevailed, resulting in a 16-point win (76-60).
The league is governed by a board of directors. Skater participation is encouraged and, in fact, necessary, as CRG is run entirely by volunteerism. The league is run by the skaters, for the skaters. Board positions include Chair, Training Director, Marketing Director, Director of Sponsorship, Director of Finance, League Representative, and Head of Bout Production. League meetings are held quarterly. Although non-skaters (e.g., referees and other support staff) can serve on committees, only skaters vote on league issues.
- Carolina Roller Derby, Inc.
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