As the women, with mouth and wrist guards in place, skates laced, helmets on and elbow and knee guards properly adjusted, stood shoulder to shoulder like an army preparing for battle, patiently waiting through the referees’ safety inspection, one could sense their excitement, but also a measure of apprehension and even a bit of nervousness.

However, much of that pre-bout anxiety evaporated when the Stone Quarry Vixens rolled onto the floor at Happy Wheels Skate Center Oct. 29 in Portland. To lighten the mood and alleviate their fears, while the Vixens, members of the Rock Coast Rollers, skated around the track and were introduced to the cheering crowd before their first official bout, the women sported fake mustaches.

That simple, silly gesture essentially broke the tension and gave the Midcoast women, who range from their late teens to their early-40s, something to laugh about and set the mood for a battle with The Calamity Janes, featuring the R.I.P. Tides.

During the bout, skaters buzzed around the track, some often knocked off it, as athletes of all sizes darted in, around and under the competition, while trying to avoid hip checks and other person-to-person collisions that might send them flying.

Despite the potential for a fall — even with all their body protection — the local women enjoyed every minute of their initial bout, the first of many to come for the Vixens, who started training 10 months ago at their home at the Lincoln Street Center in Rockland.

Although the Vixens had practiced skating — and falling — for months, and had an exhibition prior to the Oct. 29 bout, this was the Rollers’ first official action against a Maine Roller Derby opponent.

The team scrimmaged the Black Ice Brawlers of Green Mountain Derby in Vermont earlier, losing 131-46. In the team’s first official bout Oct. 29 in Portland, the Vixens lost to The Calamity Janes 266-62.

The Vixens, including many of the women’s real names and all of their aliases, are: Laurel “59 Inch Nail” Pierce, Meg “Bristol Smashin’ ” Patterson, Erin “Iron Orchid” Darnell, Amie “SK8 Plissken” Hutchinson, Kristen “Chain Lynx” Eckmann, Leila “Scarina” Percy, Jen “Sooke Stacked” Munson, Heather “Hard Dash” Steeves, Shevawn “Mistress of the Knife” Innes, Adina “Schrodinger’s Catfight” Baseler, Bethany “Hurricane Bethany” McNelly-Davis, Kate “Oxidizer” Chandler, “Sinner of Gravity” and Amanda “Wheel Crazy” Sprowl, “Roll Doll,” and “Vengeful Vegan.” The team is coached by “Liss N. Up.”

In the Vixens’ first official bout, Innes was the deemed the team’s most valuable skater and Baseler scored the squad’s most points with 20.

Historic start

In information from a recap of the match, that appeared on the Maine Roller Derby website, the Vixens and Calamity Janes bout marked a milestone in the history of roller derby in Maine, as Happy Wheels hosted the first interleague bout between two Maine leagues.

The fledgling Rock Coast Rollers brought a 16-skater roster of fresh faces — the Stone Quarry Vixens — ready for their first official taste of competition against the Calamity Janes, whose roster contained the widest range of experience it has had — from a five-year veteran to a first-time competitor.

Entering the bout, Calamity Janes had won four of nine matches.

To read a report about the Vixens’ first match, click here.

In a summary of that report, Calamity Janes led 137-29 at halftime, but many of the Vixens were credited with stellar overall play during the match.

“Although the score was heavily in favor of Maine Roller Derby, it is worth noting the electricity behind Rock Coast in their inaugural bout,” a blog by “Average Joe” stated. “Not a single one of them were daunted by the most brutal blocks from MRD’s heavy hitters. Though their inexperience as a team was visible, so was their determination. Several skaters proved themselves as superstars in the making. ‘Mistress of the Knife’ had a spectacular game, sparking many of the shifts in momentum with sharp, fierce offensive and defensive blocking while contributing to the point total as well. ‘Bristol Smashin’ ‘ beat the opposing jammer off the line every time, and was excellent at pulling herself through a tough defense using her own blockers. ‘Schrodinger’s Catfight’ and ‘Hurricane Bethany’ also brought speed that made them difficult to handle, as did ‘Sinner of Gravity.’ ‘Wheel Crazy’ was able to use a [Calamity Jane] blocker against her own jammer to delay her initial pass when she was the lone blocker for RCR on the track.”

Bouts in the Maine Roller Derby are at Happy Wheels or The Portland Expo.

Exercise, camaraderie

For the Vixens, roller derby certainly is about testing one’s stamina, patience, balance, strength, fortitude and overall athletic ability, but it is about so much more, from creating a common bond with others to discovering things about one’s self, as well as being involved with the community.

McNelly-Davis, 32, of Thomaston said before the bout in Portland that she was so excited and “a little nervous, but that is good. I expect to learn a lot because it is our first bout … I know I don’t have a lot of experience or hardly any or none at all bouting, so going in and learning from the other team and learning to skate better is going to be awesome.”

McNelly-Davis said being involved with Rock Coast Rollers also is about making friends and “having a place where I can go and meet up with people and get a lot of exercise. Get to know people and really reconnect with the community. I’ve done more volunteer work since January than ever living in Thomaston the past five years. It has opened my eyes to the community and opened my eyes to some wonderful people, wonderful women, mothers.”

Patterson, 26, of Rockland, the group’s vice president, said being involved with roller derby is “an excellent opportunity for local women to meet people, make bonds and get exercise at the same time. Through the community service and volunteer work we do we also get ourselves out there.”

Patterson said few of the Vixens have traditional athletic backgrounds, but still love to roller skate and put their physical abilities to the test. “Sometimes the athletic part is a little bit hard for me. I never did sports growing up so it is kind of interesting starting to do it at this point in my life. But it is a lot of fun and Maine Roller Derby have been like sisters to us and it will be fun to compete with them.”

Chandler, 32, of Warren, a mother of three children and an artist, has a busy life, but still finds time to squeeze in skating. “Roller derby for me is a way to just be my own person out in the world with an awesome group of women,” she said. “I love the athletic part of it. I love a fun way to get exercise and move my body. I love the group aspect.”

Jen “Sookie Stacked” Munson, 41, of Lincolnville, president of Rock Coast Rollers’ nonprofit corporation’s board of directors, said the group has about 20 skaters at this point, but also has referees, volunteers and EMTs.

“I am over the moon about it,” Munson said of the team’s first bout after months of training. “We have worked so hard and this is going to be so much fun. It is scary and a little nerve-wrecking. I don’t think many of us have slept too well the past few nights because we are so excited about. It feels like a culmination for us after so much time. It is a difficult sport. It takes a long time to learn the sport. And we are still babies in the sport.”

The skaters who make up the Vixens come from all over the Midcoast, from Friendship to Thomaston, from Wiscasset to Lincolnville and from Belfast to Rockland. The group trains at the Lincoln Street Center in Rockland.

All that stated, the training is rigorous, but, ultimately, rewarding, the women said.

And what about the skaters’ aliases, or creative monikers? Dreaming up the “perfect” name takes time, but also is fun for the competitors. Ultimately, it usually ends up being something that reflects their personality. There is a website skaters go to where one registers an alias so no two roller derby competitors in the world will have the same track name.

New members sought

Munson said the group also is “calling for fresh meat,” or new members. Knowing how to skate is not a prerequisite to begin training with the Rock Coast Rollers. “We had four or five girls who started with us who had never been on skates before” who participated in the first bout in Portland, she said.

Several of the Vixens said, while the “fun part” of bouts is competitors bumping and jostling, there is plenty of pre-bout training on how to fall properly to avoid injury. There are skills tests the team does on how to take a hit and how to fall.

Ultimately, there is much more work to being a roller derby league and team than hours of practice and competing in bouts. The same women who compete also organize the league and team through connections with roller derby governing bodies in the state and the world.

Apprentice program

Members of the Rock Coast Rollers are not only happy about having their first official bout behind them, but also the news that they have been accepted into the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Apprentice Membership Program, which added 13 new leagues in October 2011. There now are 76 women’s flat track roller derby leagues enjoying the benefits of WFTDA Apprenticeship.

WFTDA continues to build its worldwide reach as it welcomes the latest class of apprentice members from across the globe, including the first leagues in Japan and New Zealand, as well as two additional European leagues.

Along with the Rollers, new apprentice leagues include: Grand Junction Roller Girls of Grand Junction, Colo.; Harbor City Roller Dames of Duluth, Minn.; Hellions of Troy Roller Derby of Troy, N.Y.; Kokeshi Rollerdolls of Okinawa, Japan; Little Steel Derby Girls of Niles, Ohio; Mississippi Rollergirls of Ocean Springs, Mississippi; Pirate City Rollers of Auckland, New Zealand; Star City Roller Girls of Roanoke, Va.; St. Chux Derby Chix of O’Fallon, Missouri; Stockholm Roller Derby of Stockholm, Sweden; Stuttgart Valley Rollergirlz of Stuttgart, Germany; and Tulsa Derby League of Tulsa, Okla.

Designed to act as a WFTDA 101 tutorial, the apprentice program matches new leagues with an established WFTDA mentor, who guides her apprentice through WFTDA processes and requirements, and offers advice about league-specific issues. The curriculum can include everything from league formation to how to become ranked and qualify for WFTDA-sponsored tournaments. Upon completion of the program, apprentice leagues will have the knowledge and league recommendations to apply for full WFTDA membership. New apprentice leagues are accepted quarterly.

Maine Roller Derby is Maine’s first women’s flat track roller derby league. The league was formed in March 2006 and is comprised of approximately 40 skaters and referees. MRD is skater-owned and skater-operated, is a member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, and is one of more than 1,000 leagues across the nation to embrace the growing sport of flat track roller derby.

Roller derby teams have been popping up around the nation — making derby one of the fastest growing sports in the nation. So far, Maine has two leagues, one based in Rockland (Rock Coast Rollers) and the other in Portland (Maine Roller Derby).

The Rock Coast Rollers website said the local skaters are “a diverse group of women dedicated to advancing and advocating for the sport of roller derby, women, our league and our community …

“We’re writers and mothers, marketers and teachers, students and gardeners, sailors and bakers and candlestick makers (just kidding with that one). We’re women from all walks of life and of all ages, but we have one thing in common — we live, love, and breathe derby.

“Committed to forming bonds within the community, becoming role models for young women, and activating lasting friendships through the sport of roller derby, we strive to be more than an image.”

And with that, and with their first official bout under their skates, the Rock Coast Rollers officially have arrived.

For more information on Rock Coast Rollers, go online at rockcoastrollers.weebly.com/. For more information on Maine Roller Derby, go online at mainerollerderby.com. Both leagues also can be found on facebook.

Village NetMedia Sports Director Ken Waltz can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at kwaltz@villagesoup.com.