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Entering Third Season, Upper Valley Vixens Have Higher Goals

  • Pauline McClain, aka Kelly Ripa to Shreds, of Warren, N.H., center right, gives a final effort at blocking jammer Julia Pelosi, aka Make It Lorraine, of Enfield, N.H., center left, from lapping her team during a practice scrimmage of The Upper Valley Vixens at Union Arena in Woodstock Thursday, April 10, 2014. The Vixens will open their season with a bout against the Shoreline RD BellaDonnas Saturday.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Pauline McClain, aka Kelly Ripa to Shreds, of Warren, N.H., center right, gives a final effort at blocking jammer Julia Pelosi, aka Make It Lorraine, of Enfield, N.H., center left, from lapping her team during a practice scrimmage of The Upper Valley Vixens at Union Arena in Woodstock Thursday, April 10, 2014. The Vixens will open their season with a bout against the Shoreline RD BellaDonnas Saturday.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Erica McConologhue, aka Flicka, of Bristol, N.H. tunes up her skates on the floor of Union Arena in Woodstock in a break between drills of the Upper Valley Vixens practice Thursday, April 10, 2014.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Erica McConologhue, aka Flicka, of Bristol, N.H. tunes up her skates on the floor of Union Arena in Woodstock in a break between drills of the Upper Valley Vixens practice Thursday, April 10, 2014.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Taylor Long, aka Elizadeath Taylor, of Windsor, focuses in on her coaches as The Upper Valley Vixens roller derby practice gets under way at Union Arena in Woodstock Thursday, April 10, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Taylor Long, aka Elizadeath Taylor, of Windsor, focuses in on her coaches as The Upper Valley Vixens roller derby practice gets under way at Union Arena in Woodstock Thursday, April 10, 2014.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Pauline McClain, aka Kelly Ripa to Shreds, of Warren, N.H., center right, gives a final effort at blocking jammer Julia Pelosi, aka Make It Lorraine, of Enfield, N.H., center left, from lapping her team during a practice scrimmage of The Upper Valley Vixens at Union Arena in Woodstock Thursday, April 10, 2014. The Vixens will open their season with a bout against the Shoreline RD BellaDonnas Saturday.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Erica McConologhue, aka Flicka, of Bristol, N.H. tunes up her skates on the floor of Union Arena in Woodstock in a break between drills of the Upper Valley Vixens practice Thursday, April 10, 2014.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Taylor Long, aka Elizadeath Taylor, of Windsor, focuses in on her coaches as The Upper Valley Vixens roller derby practice gets under way at Union Arena in Woodstock Thursday, April 10, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Woodstock — The Upper Valley Vixens are back for another go-round of roller derby. More than ever, they’re playing for real.

With a complete roster of dedicated skaters, the Vixens are determined not only to improve upon last season’s 6-5 mark in exhibition bouts, but also to earn “apprenticeship” status with the Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association. They’ll begin that mission today at Woodstock’s Union Arena, opening their third season against the Shoreline BellaDonnas of Connecticut.

Gaining a Flat Track Association apprenticeship would grant the Vixens a full league schedule and make it eligible to qualify for regional and national playoff tournaments.

While getting enough bodies in the booty shorts has never been an issue — the Vixens begin this season with a healthy roster of 22 players, 14 of whom make each game-day roster — the team is still trying to garner a consistent volunteer base to handle administrative duties involved with a league season.

Women’s Flat Track Derby Association teams preferably carry a cast of about 12 “non-skating officials” who perform behind-the-scenes tasks such as clock management, score keeping and public-address announcing.

“Most of the (sanctioned teams) have a really dedicated group of volunteers that makes sure everything happens on time and handles all of the paperwork,” said the Vixens’ Taylor Long, aka ElizaDeath. “Right now our volunteer base is fairly steady, but we still need a little more time to really put together a reliable crew so that we have that stability. That’s kind of the last step at this point as we pursue the apprenticeship.”

The Vixens will be holding a meet-and-greet/volunteer recruitment event April 21 in the function room at Lebanon’s Salt hill Pub. The free event is from 6-8 p.m., with RSVP requested by visiting the Vixens’ Facebook page.

One thing the team doesn’t lack is athletic ability — and the Vixens need it. A fast-paced, full-contact sport on traditional roller skates, derby games feature one player, the jammer, attempting to literally run laps around opponents that are eager to block her from doing so. While the collisions can be bruising, victory goes most often to the team whose players are agile and quick on their skates.

With just two practices scheduled per week, team coaches emphasize the importance of cross-training with other activities to stay fit for game day.

Moira Hershey, of Bridgewater, started with the Vixens in October 2012 and has joined her peers in a number of cross-training methods, including hot yoga and running.

“Sometimes we’ll have a new batch of about 30 women come out for tryouts, and about eight or nine stick around,” Hershey said. “I think some people don’t like the full contact, and that’s why staying in shape is huge in terms of safety. You want to be able to have flexibility to move in at the right angles and have strength in your legs.”

With 12 returning regulars from last year and another 10 or so who have passed physical fitness assessment exams to make this year’s roster, team President Deb “Toad” Castellini has noticed a lot of improvement in the team since its first season.

“The tryouts we’ve been having have drawn great turnouts, and a lot of the girls have been willing to put in the extra time,” Castellini said. “I think a lot of them realize that it’s a great way to meet people from all walks of life and make a lot of friends.”

Castellini’s daughter, Alyssa Castellini, is the head of the Vixens’ training committee and helps guide the team through drills during practice. She’s noticed a burgeoning cohesiveness on the team and believes its communication skills will serve it well this season. A slate of 10 games on the 2014 docket runs through mid-October.

“Communication is huge during (games),” she said. “One of the players is the designated ‘talker,’ and it’s their job to call out the various strategies depending on if we’re on offense or defense. They have to call to form a wall either in the front or in the back, to speed up or slow down and things like that.

“But communication in general is really important, which is part of the reason I’m excited about this group.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.

Related

What’s In a (Vixen’s) Name?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Marisa Miller, known as “Marisky Business” when doing battle on behalf of the Upper Valley Vixens, is not among the growing number of roller derby players thinking about dropping her playing moniker. “I don’t believe derby names are nearly as important to the game as the elevation of women in sport, or the seriousness of athleticism,” the Norwich resident said. …