Team Unicorn is a non-sanctioned travel team, meaning it's non-WFTDA-ranked and plays similarly non-sanctioned teams from all over the country -- or, in their case, the continent. The roster is fluid, there are no try-outs, and anyone on the league who wants to play can do so. The team's mission touts fun and fair play, and its leadership is democratic, so a new captain is elected for every game. Simply put: They do it for the love of derby. And the love of unicorns. And rainbows. And sparkly tights.
Since its establishment in the spring of 2008, the glittery gang has played in three different events, for a total of seven bouts. They road-tripped to Hamilton, Ontario last July to face the Fall Brawl tournament in Fort Wayne, Indiana, last September; and most recently, they flew to North Carolina for the premier double-header featuring both league traveling squads. The DDs headlined against the Meanie Cooper, is a second-year skater for the Vaudeville Vixens who plays with both the Dairyland Dolls and Team Unicorn. Off the track, she works as an industrial designer and researcher at Design Concepts, Inc., a product development firm on the East side of Madison.
Meanie says her favorite part about Team Unicorn, much like her experience with roller derby in general, has a lot to do with self-discovery and success -- but has also encouraged her to take on leadership roles while traveling to play other leagues. "Team Unicorn has not only showed me that I can be a serious athlete while wearing teal, purple, and sparkly panties," she notes, "but has allowed me to try other things like playing teams from around the continent and even trying my hand as captain for one bout."
The skater adds that unlike the high-stakes play of the Dairyland Dolls, Team Unicorn allows her to experience a national level of competition without the demands that come with playing on a nationally-ranked stage.
"Team Unicorn offers an opportunity to play derby for the fun of derby, which is becoming more rare as the sport evolves, and becomes more and more competitive," she says. "I love being able to travel and meet derby girls from all over without the pressure of national rankings. We dance on the jam-line, we whip out the spirit fingers, we have cheers like 'Just Say Neigh' and 'Hit'er with the Glitter', and have been told that we are the most fun team to play by all of our opponents."
Alison Janssen, also known as Mel Ignant, calls the Unholy Rollers her home during the regular season. She was part of the sparkle-obsessed ensemble that first conjured the idea of Team Unicorn, and says that the apex of her experience with it so far came during the tournament in Ft. Wayne. Mel found herself in the jammer position, something that as a blocker for her home team she doesn't get to do very often. In the final minutes of their third game of the tournament, against Ohio's Gang Green, Team Unicorn found themselves down by two points, and put Mel on the jam line.
"I rolled out to the line and actually burst into tears, I was so excited and nervous. I'm kind of a crier," recalls Mel, who by day works as an editor for local publisher Bleak House Books. She says that being part of the Unicorns has afforded her the opportunity to play the hero -- a role she might not typically experience during the home season.
"That jam was my Rudy moment," she declares. "The pack played exceptionally well, holding [the opposing] jammer in the whole time, and I was able to get around -- just once! -- but it was enough. I was getting knocked to the inside by this huge Ohio girl and I just wanted it to be over, but I eventually stepped around her and we won by two. Team Unicorn gave me the opportunity to score the winning points in a game, and my heart will forever be filled with sparkles."
For the record, Team Unicorn took third place in the tournament.
Next on the sparkly schedule, TU and the DDs will hit the road together on May 8 to play another double-feature, this time against the , the B-team of St. Louis's thrilling pair of battles. For the final inter-league bout of the home season, the Vaudeville Vixens took an easy win over the North Star Roller Girls, 159-57. The excitement of the night came with the undefeated Unholy Rollers taking on the Quad Squad, who until that point remained winless in home-season play. As fans have probably noticed, it's been a rebuilding year for the Squad, who nabbed the championship trophy last year. The Unholies, meanwhile, have made 2009 their breakout season, beating both the Vixens and the Res Dolls, and keeping their eyes on the coveted Christmas Story-esque championship trophy.
But the Squad, complete with returning veteran Jenny Knoxville, who passed the 700 career-point mark this season, and some unstoppable fire in the likes of Stitch, came to fight. Jewels of Denile of the Unholies played a career game, meanwhile, nabbing a league record-breaking 25-point jam as the seconds on the clock clicked to zero. Stitch answered in the overtime jam, though, with three clean scoring passes resulting in a 109-107 win. Jewels, who hit the 500-career-point mark during the game, racked up 56 points that night, 47 of which were scored in the second half. Stitch scored 59, just enough to seal the victory.
The semi-final bout on Saturday, April 25 will be held at the Exhibition Hall on the Alliant campus. Doors open at 5 p.m., and the action starts at 6. Because of the Dolls' short home season, post-season rankings are decided not just by record, but by point differential as well. Going into the semis, the Unholy Rollers and the Vaudeville Vixens both share a 2-1 record in home-season play, while the Reservoir Dolls and Quad Squad are 1-2. Despite the fact that the Unholies bested the Vixens in March, the point spread gives the number-one seed to the ladies in pink. The Vixens (1) will thus take on the Quad Squad (4), while the Unholy Rollers (2) will face the Reservoir Dolls (3). The outcomes of both will decide line-ups for championship bout on May 16. Neither the Vaudeville Vixens nor the Unholy Rollers have played for the championship in league history.
Tickets for Sunday's bout are $10 in advance or $12 at the door, and are available at the league's local sponsors, including Freedom/Knuckleheads, Capitol City Tattoo, Cha Cha Beauty and Barber, High Noon Saloon, and Lakeside Press, and will be available at the Coliseum on bout night. You can also buy them here. A portion of proceeds from the bout will be donated to the