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Photograph by Jenn Ireland
Best fiends forever: Lulu Lockjaw, left, and Rowdy Roughrider try to jostle past each other at practice at the Scotts Valley Sports Center.

Hell's Belles

Battered but wiser, the Santa Cruz Rollergirls blast into their second season.

By Jessica Lussenhop

Spend a short amount of time at a Santa Cruz Rollergirls All-Stars practice, and you'll quickly understand why there's been a shift in the roster for the second season. Moments after two girls collide with the brick wall of the Palladium Skating Rink, Lindsey Seiler a.k.a. LuLu Lockjaw, goes down hard on her left knee in the midst of a pack of her teammates. As the tangle of torn fishnets and chunky roller skates clears, Lockjaw is left behind, curled up in the fetal position on the smooth wooden floor.

"Ladies, take a knee," yells coach Kelly Williamson (derby name: Blonde Claude van Damme). After the screech of T-stops, the rink falls silent.

"Oh, no," says coach Janice Harper, better known as Charlie Red Stick. "I hope she's not hurt. She's one of our best."

But she is hurt, and another teammate, a paramedic by day, flies off the rink to retrieve an ice pack. Red Stick is all too familiar with this moment--she's out for the season thanks to a broken rotator cuff suffered during practice at the hands of her teammates. With friends like these, who needs enemies? "It's hard to hurt your friends," says Red Stick. "You do feel really bad about it. But it's never gotten too bad. I think the competition is healthy."

Evie Smith, who goes by the moniker Raven Von Kaos, agrees. "I hate to compare it to a sorority, but it is a sisterhood," she says. "I'd give any of the girls one of my kidneys."

Von Kaos says that a full season of rolling, fighting and falling together has prepped the team for a much more polished performance than last year's inaugural season. Since their soul-crushing defeat in the final game against the Bay Area Derby Girls last year, the girls have been hitting Gold's Gym for stamina and strength training, and some have even, gasp, quit drinking in order to get leaner and meaner. "We're almost like wolves. We're able to read each other's minds sometimes," she says.

Coach and former star jammer Virginia Lorber (that would be Heather Headlockleer) says fans will get to see a lot more strategizing and play-making, whereas last year was more about just playing the positions properly. This year, she promises, "It's almost like football. We're taking everything we've learned and bringing up our game to the next level."

Injuries aren't the only reason fans will notice a change in the line-up. Kendra Cooley, known to fans as Pippi Hardsocking, will miss the first bout due to penance for a fight she was involved in last season, and Headlockleer is taking the season off to coach while she's skating for two. "I'm excited about having a baby," she says. "But at the same time I dream about derby all the time."

In other Rollergirl news, the group is applying for nonprofit status in order to help it better manage the cost of derbying. After equipment, venues, promotion and health insurance--and giving back to the community, of course--the Rollergirls need to sell out every bout in order to keep their heads above water. Lucky for them, they did so handily last year. Fans have already snatched up 200 tickets for the March 14 bout against the L.A. Derby Dolls, and that's without any earnest publicity by the team.

As the team pulls it together around Lockjaw and her battered knee, the talk goes from injuries to strategies, and the All-Stars are feeling pretty confident.

"We're looking really, really, really good out there," says Red Stick. But that doesn't mean there's not a healthy case of the nerves going around. The L.A. Derby Dolls are "kind of a big deal," and regardless of who you're up against, Red Stick says, "It's fun, but it's scary too. A couple of days leading up to the bout, it's like, ahhhhhhh," she says, miming a beating heart. "I miss it."

SANTA CRUZ ROLLERGIRL ALL-STARS play the L.A. Derby Dolls Sirens on Saturday, March 14, at 6:30pm at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $17 advance/$20 door/$10 students under 18/$5 kids under 13; available at 831.420.5260 or

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