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VICTORIOUS VIXENS! -- Roller derby team comes away with late win
Posted:  04/28/2012 12:03 AM
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DAYTON — Local fans once again were entertained by the Illinois Valley Vixens as roller derby returned to Skydive Chicago on Friday night.

They were rewarded as well with the Vixens coming through late to claim a thrilling 120-117 win over the DuPage Derby Dames.

The event was deemed the "Rumble in the Jungle" and lived up to it, especially late.

The Vixens trailed heading into the final jam of the evening. "Eplinator" then delivered a big performance by easily working her way through the blockers, first to become lead jammer and then to score enough points to give her team the win.

"Eplinator" was named Illinois Valley's Most Valuable Player by the Derby Dames. She also came up at the beginning of the second half when the Vixens trailed 71-59. She had the first jam and scored nine points. That was followed by 10 points from "Mystri" to give Illinois Valley a 78-71 edge.

The Vixens named "Knuckle Sammich" the Dames' MVP. The best dressed Vixen award went to "Claire-Tastrophe."

The Vixens don't have another scheduled home bout until Friday, Sept. 21. Another is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 27.

4/28/2012 6:00:00 AM

Vixens win season opener (With Video)

Illinois Valley Vixens “Swagga-N-Swett” (left) and “Jaw Breaker Jamie” (right) block DuPage Derby Dames’ jammer (and MVP) Saemi “Knuckle Sammich” Yi from passing them and scoring during the local team’s first home bout of the derby season.NewsTribune photo/Amy Flanery
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Illinois Valley Vixens “Swagga-N-Swett” (left) and “Jaw Breaker Jamie” (right) block DuPage Derby Dames’ jammer (and MVP) Saemi “Knuckle Sammich” Yi from passing them and scoring during the local team’s first home bout of the derby season.

NewsTribune photo/Amy Flanery
Amy Flanery
Staff Writer

The Illinois Valley Vixens hosted their first home bout of the season Friday night at Skydive Chicago.

The local roller derby team trailed the DuPage Derby Dames by 22 points at the half, but team president Amy Luth said she expected a comeback.

“Everybody’s pumped up,” Luth said. “Second half, we always come back big.”

The Vixens did come back for the win, taking the bout 120-117. Vixen Kate Ryba, who served as announcer for the event, said the team had a lot of penalties that held them back.

“I think we did good,” she said, “but you can tell that we were rusty. We generally play better than this.”

Vixen MVP was Tara “Eplinator” Eplin of Morris. Friday’s event raised $500 for Youth Service Bureau of Ottawa.

The Vixens’ next bout is Saturday, May 26 in Beloit, Wis. The team will play at home again Friday, Sept. 21 and Friday, Oct. 27.

Related Stories:
• VIDEO: Illinois Valley Vixens roller derby

4/26/2012 1:54:00 PM

Roller derby Vixens ready to rumble

Amy Flanery
Staff Writer

OTTAWA — The Illinois Valley Vixens will play against one of their own when they host their first home bout of their second roller derby season. One of the Vixens moved away and joined the DuPage Derby Dames, who will challenge the Vixens at 7 p.m. this Friday, April 27 at Skydive Chicago.
Vixen Kate “Devious” Ryba of Ottawa said she didn’t know much else about the Derby Dames, but she was OK with that. Ryba will be sitting on the bench this weekend, along with a few of her teammates who are also expecting.
“Even when I am playing I don’t want to know what kind of team we’re playing because it gets you all nervous,” Ryba said.
The Vixens have about 20 eligible members right now, Ryba said, and 14 are on the roster for Friday night. The theme of the event is “Rumble in the Jungle.”
“I think that a lot of (the players) will tie the jungle theme into their uniforms somehow,” Ryba said.
The team already has planned an after party at Shaker’s Bar and Grill, where local band Dirty Dan’s Cool Rockin’ Daddies will perform at 9 p.m.
Tickets to see the bout are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Youth Service Bureau in Ottawa. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Snacks and beverages will be available at the Eat Up Cafe and the Skylounge bar during the event. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

Amy Flanery can be reached at (815) 223-3206 Ext. 175 or

3/27/2012 7:08:00 AM

Lighted Way supporters flock to spaghetti dinner

Amy Luth ofLa Salle, an Illinois Valley Vixens roller derby team member who was volunteering to wait tables at the Lighted Way spaghetti dinner, chats with teammates dining at the dinner Monday.NewsTribune photo/Craig Sterrett
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Amy Luth ofLa Salle, an Illinois Valley Vixens roller derby team member who was volunteering to wait tables at the Lighted Way spaghetti dinner, chats with teammates dining at the dinner Monday.
NewsTribune photo/Craig Sterrett

Craig Sterrett


A steady crowd of people streamed through the front door of Uptown Grill and a similar line formed in a rear entrance Monday for the Lighted Way school’s 12th annual spaghetti dinner.

The fundraiser helps the school for students with disabilities purchase specialized educational equipment each year, said Jane Duncan Wamhoff. Last year the dinner raised $11,000. She was glad to see the crowd, including many regulars who faithfully support Lighted Wayand a few relatively new supporters.

Members of the Illinois Valley Vixens roller derby team — as well as their coach and a referee they apparently were trying to soften up with spaghetti — filled two tables.

Among the volunteers waiting on them was roller derby team member Amy Luth, whose son attends the school. Duncan Wamhoff said the Vixens last year donated a percentage of gate receipts from an event toLighted Way.

Happy derby birthday, Vixens

IV Vixens win one-year birthday bout, raise $1,000 for Lighted Way

BY : Kera Simon Posted: October 22 11:34 AM

The last 10 minutes of play during Illinois Valley Vixens Roller Derby League’s bout against the Aurora 88s Friday night, Oct. 21, were intense.

The Vixens managed to take the lead for the first time that night after trailing 20 points in the first half. The second half, though, the IV Vixens took to the track with vengeance. The blockers booty-bumped and suicide-dived to sabotage the opposing team’s jammer, while the IV Vixen jammers soured around the track, dodging the Aurora 88’s blockers.

“Hit her!” was yelled over the crowd, as fans took to their feet. The airplane hangar of Skydive Chicago as filled with cheers and applause as the IV Vixens won their first home bout ever Friday night, 125 to 114—a welcomed victory in celebration of their one-year birthday.

“We really wanted it,” IV Vixens treasurer and jammer Misty “Mystri” Stalder said. “It was our birthday, and we just really wanted it.”

IV Vixens Roller Derby began in October 2010 as an impromptu gathering of women with similar passions. In time, the league morphed into a well-organized, nonprofit agency with set practices and different categories of players. It has had its bumps along the road, first struggling to find a venue large enough to bout in and a change in leadership. But the women of the IV Vixens persevered, proving that roller derby is here to stay.

“Our fans are great, and we’re so thankful for the support from the community,” Stalder said. “… Our volunteers are invaluable. We could not do this without our volunteers.”

The ladies hosted their first bout at Celebrations 150 in March, creating teams within their own league to bout against. The venue proved to be too small, so for their second bout held June 17, the ladies brought roller-derby magic out to the airplane hangar of Skydive Chicago. The IV Vixens lost to the McLean County misfits, but raised more than $900 for the Marseilles Afterschool Program.

Friday night’s bout raised more than $1,000 for Lighted Way Association in La Salle through a portion of ticket sales. Stalder said the remaining ticket sales go to pay for the home event, which usually costs around $2,000. The IV Vixens maintain their finances through fundraisers and monthly league dues.

 “It’s such an adrenaline rush when you’re out there,” Justine Swett, aka “Swagga N Swett,” said. “It just makes you feel so alive. Being out there, and the connection with your teammates, it’s intense.”

Swett returned to the league after an injury had her out for about six months, but she said she couldn’t imagine leaving. Participating in the mixer bout before the main event—IV Vixens versus Aurora 88s—was Swett’s return to roller derby.

“You can risk falling down stairs, or do this,” Swett said.

The mixer bout, which took place about an hour before the main event, included a variety of players from seven different leagues: IV Vixens, Peoria Push, Southland Slashers, Chocolate City Cherrybombers, Stateline Derby Divas, River Demons and McLean County Misfits.

Peoria Push members, who preferred to stick with their roller derby names of “Har V Wallbreaker” and “CraZEE Onyun,” said they were attracted to the mixer bout to scope out different leagues.

When asked what they like about roller derby, Wallbreaker focused on the camaraderie she’s found among her teammates and lasting friendships. Onyun agreed with Wallbreaker, but also likes the aggressive nature of the sport.

“Who wouldn’t like to legally hit people when you’re on skates?” Onyun said.

Kera Simon may be contacted at 815-313-5500, ext. 108, or

ROLLIN' INTO THE VALLEY -- Local roller derby club takes center stage at Skydive Chicago

06/18/2011, 1:35 am
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Andy Tavegia,, 815-431-4043

DAYTON TOWNSHIP — Skydive Chicago was filled with a different type of high-flying show Friday night.

With the main hangar covered with girls in orange or black shirts with unusual names on their backsand everything from striped knee-high socks to facepaint, roller derby took center stage in front of a crowd of adoring fans.

The event was the first regulation home bout for the Illinois Valley Vixens, a startup not-for-profit organization that hopes to estabilsh quite the following in the Illinois Valley.

"It looked like tonight there were a lot of people who hadn't been here before," said Vixens coach and Ottawa resient Joshua Smith, better known to fans as Moe Peds. "We did one other home bout at Celebrations a while back, and that was basically friends and family. But tonight it looked like there were a lot of people new to the experience. That's what we're trying to get."

In many ways, there weren't many individuals newer to the sport than the Vixens themselves. The organization was formed in October and had just three bouts coming into Friday's battle with the McLean County Missfits All-Stars.

Most of the 13 girls — one came from the Peoria Push — who make up the main team had to learn strange lingo and rules, including jams, grand slams, and major and minor penalties. They also learned scoring, which happens during two-minute jams. Points for each jam are determined by how many times a team's lead jammer passes an opponent before either two minutes are up or the lead jammer waves off the jam.

Smith himself said he had to learn most of the rules from researching on the internet. Many girls also knew very little.

Grand Ridge's Claire Centko, AKA "Claire-Tastrophe," said she didn't have much prior knowledge of the sport when she joined in January, basically on a whim. She hasn't regretted it since.

"It's the funnest sport around," she said. "There's nothing else like it.

"It's an adrenaline rush. It's a little bit scattered at times, but it's fun."

Lisa Eisert, an Ottawa resident, helped found the league in which the Vixens plays. She said finally having a home bout for the Vixens was a huge step forward.

"This has been the culmination, finally," said Eisert, better known as Ice Hurt. "This is a regulation track. Our Celebrations bout wasn't regulation, so this is our first regulation home bout.

"It's been a long journey, and it's very overwhelming sometimes, but I love it. I love playing more than anything, more than the business stuff."

The action was fierce throughout the night. Following a scrimmage that opened the night, the main bout took center stage. After falling behind 91-60, Illinois Valley pulled all the way back to within 116-112 before a terrific 25-point jam by McLean County's Malice Cullen with 1 minute, 3 seconds remaining sealed a 141-112 win for the Missfits.

It was a loss, but not necessarily in the eyes of Smith and Eisert.

"That's close. That's two jams," Eisert said. "That's close in roller derby. And they've been together a lot longer than us. They've been together for a whole year ... So, for us being in our 10th month, I think this is awesome."

Now the goal is to keep the momentum of a successful first night going. Smith said there are talks with Skydive Chicago for the possibility of future home matches.

latest comments on this article
Posted by Ottawalady at 7:19PM on Sunday, 6/19/11

I went for the first time and it was so much fun. Would go again! Go Vixen's!!!

Posted by pearl at 8:00AM on Saturday, 6/18/11

What a great time! What a great bunch of girls on both teams. Everyone should go see a bout and support the Vixens!

Photos Heading

Photo: Carlee Drendel
The Illinois Valley Vixens hosted their first home bout Friday night at Skydive Chicago in Dayton Township. Above, “5-Pound Fall” of the Vixens (white shirt) is surrounded by McLean County Missfits.

Photo: Carlee Drendel
“Natomic Bomb” of the Vixens’ black team tried to block out the Missfits’ “Ward of the Skate.”

IVVRD @ Chocolate City June 4, 2011

IVVRD @ River Demons May 14, 2011

IVVRD @ Soy City Rollers April 2011

Derby Badges

Shamrock Knockdown

Ottawa Delivered

Vixens of the Valley

Rolling out in fishnets, helmets and skates

By: Kera Simon

Posted: Thursday, March, 24, 2011 12:56:PM

The ladies of the new Illinois Valley Vixens Roller Derby league mean business.

Dressed in tutus, shorts and fishnet tights, they take the floor in a fury equipped with mouth guards, knee and elbow pads, helmets and roller skates. Wide and low, they glide over the floor — some more graceful than others — scanning their peripheral for a passing opponent to hip check or shoulder block.

They hit the ground – hard. They are sent to the penalty box – a lot. Through the sweat and the loss of breath, they smile with their mouth guards in. They yell with their mouth guards in. They rack up points; they fall behind. They cheer, and they curse.

This is Vixen’s roller derby, baby.

Friday, March 18, was the debut bout of the five-month-old local roller derby league, the Illinois Valley Vixens. It was a culmination of all of the hard work that more than 30 women, ages 19 to 40, have put forth during their own spare time, aside from working and being mothers and wives.

“I’m a church-goer. I’m a soccer mom. I’m a super wife, but I like to get down when it comes to derby,” Denae Love, aka “P. Dandruff,” said of her roller derby alter ego. “I’m someone totally different.”

All roller derby ladies have alter egos to create buzz. The alter egos allow the women to take on a different personality when participating in the contact-sport of roller derby. Theatrics also help to entertain the crowd.

While some may join roller derby because they like to skate or enjoy the camaraderie among the women, Love likes the action. She likes to hit and get hit. She describes herself as a “booty-blocker” within the league, getting down and dirty to block an opposing team jammer or help create an opening for her team’s jammer to pass through the pack.

“I just really love it,” Love said of roller derby. “I mean the sport is a super-cool sport. I knew it was something I would enjoy … And it’s nice to have some adult time and just be with a diverse group of girls. We come from all walks of life. It can be pretty interesting.”

The league began five months ago in October when two friends, Lisa Eisert and Katie Ryba, held a meeting at the Paramount Skating Arena for women interested in creating their own roller derby league. To their surprise, more than 100 women attended the meeting.

Eisert, aka “Ice Hurt,” and Ryba, aka “Kate Devious,” would joke around about starting a league when they both worked at R.Grottos in downtown Ottawa, they said. But eventually Eisert pushed, “No, seriously. We could do this.”

“Everyone thought we were crazy,” Ryba said.

Once the nonbelievers were weeded out (due to expenses and time conflicts within the first month), the majority of the past five months has consisted of skating skills — speed, balance, crossovers, falling correctly and getting up quickly. Now, the league sits at 34 skaters and an extra 10 volunteers, coaches and referees. Ryba and Eisert also arranged all of the legal ends — gaining nonprofit status, establishing bank accounts, insurance liability, etc. — and created committees.

It was the blood, sweat and tears of the entire league that made Friday night’s introductory bout such a huge success. Two teams were formed from within the league to play each other — the Flogging Dollies and the Clover Rollers. The Flogging Dollies won 193 to 164.

“In roller derby, the scores get big and the gap can close quickly and widen quickly,” Eisert said.

During halftime, four Vixens, a coach, three children and the father of a vixen shaved their heads for St. Baldrick’s, racking in $1,450 to benefit childhood cancer research.

The 400 tickets sold out a week before the actual roller derby competition. Eisert was told that in the case of many events, more people buy tickets than actually show up, so the ladies anticipated selling more at the door. But even before the crowd started packing Celebrations 150 that night, the roller derby girls started to worry.

“We were so stressed,” Eisert said. “We were all chugging Pepto (Bismol) in the locker room.”

Eisert shortened the track by about 20 feet from a regulation-sized track in order to fit it into Celebrations 150. The referee lane was also reduced in width by two feet, bringing the crowd closer to the action. It was a tight squeeze to say the least, with limited seating and majority of spectators standing in order to see the play-action.

The search for space

Space has been a major issue for the Vixens since the beginning. Even for practice, the Paramount Skating Arena is too small to be considered a Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) regulation-sized track. Besides the track, the lack of parking space and ambulance access are among the reasons why the Vixens had to look elsewhere to hold their first bout.

They searched door-to-door for professional venues or even people with access to a large interior space of any kind to hold their first bout. In order to meet WFTDA regulations, the track is required to be 8,000 square feet. Celebrations 150 has that kind of room, but squeezing the track inside would leave no space for an audience. 

“I feel like if we had the room to really practice and scrimmage, we’d get bigger and better,” Eisert said.

But in the meantime, the Vixens will continue practicing at the Paramount Skating Arena on Monday nights and will try to incorporate more practice time once the summer hits. Good weather also allows the roller derby girls to coordinate runs or bicycle rides together to stay in shape. They play their first bout against an opposing league, the Decatur Soy City Rollers, on April 30. They also plan to host roller derby tryouts in May for local ladies 21 years old or older.

Eisert, as the league’s president and most-experienced skater, attends workshops and forms relationships with other leagues. Eisert said once they created their own league, other roller derby teams and leagues from all over the nation started contacting them. Towns they didn’t even know had leagues, like Rock Island, Aurora and Bloomington-Normal, were inviting them to bout, attend practices and learn from each other.

“Once you get into the community and they find out about you, they pass it on,” Eisert said. “Everyone wants to help us. It’s not really that competitive, unless we’re playing.”

“It’s like a weird family or something,” Ryba said.

Eisert said, while she likes her fellow Vixens, if the league would disband for any reason, she’d play with another team because she’s driven by the game.

“I love to skate and I love playing the game ... And I feel like it’s something I’m good at,” Eisert said.

“You are good at it,” Ryba clarified.

“Like, I never played sports or that sort of thing, but I get this. I’m not really that athletic, but this is for me,” Eisert said.

As for Ryba, besides her friendship with Eisert, she said she loves roller derby because like Love, she likes to hit.

“I mean, I like to skate, but I’m not as skilled of a skater, you know. But I’m working at it and I’ll get there. But I really, really, really enjoy hitting. I just like it, and I’m good at it,” Ryba said.

Eisert compares roller derby to that of a “renegade softball team.” But unlike other female-organized sports, such as volleyball or softball, roller derby is an all year sport — with roller skates and fishnet stockings.


Bout — noun, a roller derby competition. Lasts 60 minutes.

Jam — noun, the two-minute play action that takes place during a bout. The ladies participate in as many jams that can fit in 60 minutes. Only allowed five players on the track during a jam—including one “jammer,” one “pivot” and three “blockers.”

Jammer — noun, indicated by a star on her helmet. Must be fast. Each team’s jammer is responsible for scoring points.

Lead jammer — noun, super-fast. The first jammer to race through “the pack.” Can call off a jam at any time.

Pack — noun, normally slow. Consists of three “blockers” and one “pivot.” The jammer earns points for each opposing team blocker she passes when maneuvering through “the pack.”

Blocker — noun, must be able to take and give hits. Must block opposing jammers with their hips or shoulders or both without lifting elbows or using forearms. Is responsible for helping her team’s jammer make it through the pack to score points.

Pivot — noun, special kind of blocker indicated by a stripe on her helmet. Controls the speed of the pack, calls out formations and keeps the blockers in line.

Penalty box — noun, consists of a taped-off section of the floor. If a player misses the penalty box when trying to stop, she must circle the track again to enter the box. Players with penalties must remain in the box for one minute, half of the jam. Too many penalties and a team is short on players, making it easier for the opponents to score.

Super-awesome — adjective, describes roller derby.

PHOTO: Shamrock Shakedown

03/19/2011, 12:14 am
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Photo: Carlee Drendel
Eplinator, Kate Devious, P. Dandruff, Ice Hurt and Kid A., of the Illinois Valley Vixens Roller Derby skate in the Shamrock Knockdown Friday at Celebrations 150 in La Salle.

Eplinator, Kate Devious, P. Dandruff, Ice Hurt and Kid A., of the Illinois Valley Vixens Roller Derby skate in the sold-out Shamrock Knockdown Friday at Celebrations 150 in La Salle. More than 400 people attended the event. At halftime, Leigh Anne Bortner, Vicki Parks, Tami Milligan and Chanda Marti, Chanda's son, Dakota, Trinity Luth, Jarrod Weishaar and Jim Eisert shaved their heads for St. Baldrick's.

Shaving your head: 'It's worth it'

03/18/2011, 11:05 pm
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Stephanie Szuda,, 815-431-4087

Photo: Provided
Luke and Dawn Woodin
Photo: Provided
Chanda Marti and her son, Dakota.
More than 160 people are scheduled to have their hair shorn today to raise funds for children's cancer research.

St. Baldrick's is in its 11th year in Ottawa and has a goal of $50,000. As of Friday afternoon, the website listed the amount raised at $25,368. A second event is scheduled at Muffy's Tap for 1 p.m. Saturday, March 26. The Muffy's event has 61 people signed up, with a goal of $10,000. The website lists its total at $3,536.

Illinois Valley Vixen's Roller Derby also held an event, the "Shamrock Knockdown," on Friday to raise funds for St. Baldrick's. Wallace Grade School also hosted its own event Thursday and raised more than $9,000.

The main event will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at Jeremiah Joe Coffee, 807 La Salle St. Seven individuals — Patrick Hardy, Noah Hardy, Kevin O'Connor, Ryan O'Connor, Jay Quinn, Nick Quinn, Brent Barron, Jeremy Johnson and Thomas Nanouski — will be "knighted" in honor of their seventh years. For a schedule of the shavees, visit

Three shavees shared stories of why they chose to shed their locks with The Times.

Luke and Dawn Woodin

For their fourth year participating in St. Baldrick's, Luke and Dawn Woodin decided to get more aggressive with fundraising.

They started doing raffles and this year had Chicago Cubs hats signed by the players.

The Ottawa couple raised around $2,500 this year and have a goal of raising $3,500, which would put their four-year total at $10,000.

"We're fortunate so far that no (children) we know personally have had cancer, but we still believe in the cause," Luke Woodin said.

The Woodins first became involved when their friends participated a few years ago. The first year they participated fell on their wedding anniversary and now it's become a sort of tradition for their anniversary.

And his wife doesn't mind spending it getting a new look.

"She said it's less time getting ready in the morning and less maintenance," Luke said.

The Woodins are scheduled to be shorn at 12:30 p.m.

Chanda Marti

Chanda Marti is a Illinois Valley Roller Derby Vixen, but moreso than the bouts Friday night, she was looking forward to halftime.

Her 12-year-old son Dakota and 12-year-old Trinity Luth got their heads shaved, along with some Vixens.

"It's really awesome that she's so strong," Marti said of Luth, since girls tend to have a harder time shaving their heads.

This was Marti's second time being shorn.

"It's only hair. It does grow back. It's still kind of scary when it comes to shaving," she said. "I felt really good after doing it (the first year).

"Seeing all the people who support the cause and meeting and seeing some of the kids makes you feel good. It's worth it."

Marti has a goal of $1,000 and has a couple of donation boxes in a few locations to help bring in donations.

The Illinois Valley Vixen's Roller Derby "Shamrock Shakedown" was a sold-out event, with more than 400 tickets purchased.

VIDEO: Peru Catholic students learn skating safety

Saturday, February 05, 2011
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By Allison Ryan

VIDEO: Peru Catholic students learn skating safety

Amy Luth and Jessica Winner help Peru Catholic first-grader Madison Shan take off protective equipment Friday morning at Peru Catholic School. Members of the Illinois Valley Vixens roller derby team were at the school to teach students about the sport and safety. Students went on to learn to roller skate during gym class.

Safety comes first, even in roller derby, according to Lisa “Ice Hurt” Eisert, who explained the sport Friday to students at Peru Catholic School.
A roller derby demonstration highlighted Catholic Schools Week events during a 1970s-themed day at the school.
Children wore tie-dyed shirts and looked forward to an afternoon of skating in the gym.
While many students were mesmerized, asking about the rules of the sport, Eisert emphasized the importance of wearing proper safety gear — including helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, wrist guards and wheels appropriate to the skating surface.

Kids at Peru Catholic just learned how roller derby works - Principal hopes they don't try it out when they get to skate at school today.

Look Back: Vixens keep rollin'

01/05/2011, 10:01 pm   Bookmark  and Share
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Stephanie Szuda,, 815-431-4087
If the leaders of the Illinois Valley Vixens Roller Derby had known the work behind the creation of local league, they might have thought twice about its inception.

After getting started, Lisa Eisert and Katie Ryba learned starting the team involved more than learning crossovers, stops and falls. The two friends also have to deal with insurance, lawyers and bank accounts.

Both are mothers who also work and Eisert attends Illinois Valley Community College, so time management has been important since they started in September.

The Vixens have practiced once or twice a week the last several months, but in between that time Eisert and Ryba have been coordinating the business aspects of the league. And although time consuming, the league has proved to have its rewards.

"I've met 38 really awesome people. You wouldn't think there'd be that many people in the county you'd get along with," Ryba said with a laugh.

And since the team came to fruition, the ladies have connected with several other roller derby leagues in Illinois and found the experienced derby gals to be quite helpful.

Working with 40 women who all have their own opinions in a league could be a struggle, but Ryba and Eisert said they manage everyone's opinions well and everyone gets along. Now that they've learned the ropes and several other eager ladies are willing to help out, they soon hope to develop committees to manage merchandising, marketing and other aspects of maintaining the league.

Eisert and Ryba were hoping for 60 ladies willing to rough it up on the track, but feel 40 is a manageable number of vixens. They were surprised when the inaugural meeting in September drew nearly 100 women.

In 2011, they plan to look for a venue with a regulation track. The ladies practice at The Paramount, but the Ottawa skating rink is not a regulation size track for bouts. They also need ample seating and parking.

"We're open to anything. We're looking around," Eisert said. "We still have to do measurements."

They still plan to have bouts locally so family and friends can watch.

The Vixens had their first fundraiser in December for U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots. More than 200 people attended to watch practice bouts and they collected seven large bags of toys, three boxes of food and $132 in cash they donated to a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Streator.

They hope to do more fundraisers in the future and to establish themselves as a limited liability corporation, which still will allow fundraisers.

When Eisert and Ryba started, they were interested in bringing a fun and different sport to the area. And roller derby doesn't discriminate. Regardless of age, weight or height, anyone can be a Vixen.

"It's a real sport women can do," Eisert said, noting the ages range from 19 to 52 in the Illinois Valley league. "It's really fun and empowering."

Something for the ladies

When I was a teen, I must admit I used to say there was nothing to do in the Illinois Valley.
I'm pretty sure that attitude followed me into my college days as well. As I age, though, I see the appeal to this area.
Still, there are young people here and all over small towns across the nation who say there's nothing to do in their hometown.
Since writing for The Times, I've had the pleasure of meeting local youths who make their own fun by tapping into their creative side.
Fishsticks and Milk, of course, is a great example and last week I met a group of men who even invented their own sport to get through their holiday breaks.
And in the fall, I met Katie Ryba and Lisa Eisert, who had an idea and followed through with it. They started a roller derby league in the Illinois Valley.
After my editor assigned me the story on the Illinois Valley Vixens Roller Derby, coworkers asked if I planned to join the league myself.
I have memories of seeing reruns of roller derby on TV when I was a kid and enjoyed watching it. But as for playing, I wasn't so interested. I only skated three times in my life and that was because it was a unit in my PE class. And I was in the side room for the kids who moved slow and fell often.
So I have respect for the gals who can not only skate, but kick butt while doing it, and also envy their fun outfits.
At the inaugural meeting, it became clear to me many girls did not feel the same as me, since about 100 of them turned out to explore this new-to-the-area sport.

Since then, about 60 ladies meet regularly to practice. Lisa and Katie expressed it's been a juggle between their jobs, motherhood and organizing the league, but I can think of about 60 women who are happy they took on the challenge.

Derby girls ready to roll
By Amy Flanery
NewsTribune Media Editor
OTTAWA — Though the number of women originally interested in joining was cut in half, there are still 42 dedicated members of the Illinois Valley Vixens — the area’s first roller derby team.

A lot of young women decided they didn’t have the time or money right now to participate, said Katie Ryba, who founded the team along with Lisa Eisert. When the pair hosted an informational meeting at the end of
September, 85 girls signed up. Gear alone costs about $250, according to Ryba, and then there are membership dues and insurance costs, adding up to an investment which is hard to make for someone who isn’t sure
she likes the sport or can be committed to it.  “You could spend less,” Ryba said, “but you’d end up paying for it later.” There still are enough players to split the Vixens into two teams, so they can practice against each other.
Most of the women were a little rusty on their skates, when they joined, but Ryba said there were a few “exceptional” skaters and coaches among them who helped the others along along. The group has four coaches but still is in need of a referee.

members are welcome, but at this point it would be challenging to jump in, Ryba said.  “We’re all at the point now where we can scrimmage and everything,” she said. The Vixens practice hitting one another with their hips while skating, in preparation for races.  In roller derby, hitting is how women get past the competition. Ryba said she bruised her hip by running into a wall during one practice, but the pain did not diminish her enthusiasm for the sport.  “I couldn’t even sleep that night, I had so much fun,” she said. “It’s ridiculous.”
They have just begun to compete — their first event was Dec. 11 in the Quad Cities — and the Illinois Valley Vixens have their own T-shirts and already have more than 1,000 fans on their Facebook page.

Another roller derby group, the Fresh Farm Rollers, visited the Vixens and led one of their practices, which Ryba said helped the group improve their game. “That kind of stepped things up a notch for us,” she said, “We owe them for that.”

VIDEO, STORY: Roller derby, anyone?

Thursday, September 30, 2010
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By Amy Flanery

VIDEO,  STORY: Roller derby, anyone?
Leslie Gayan (left) and Crystal Zellers, both of Ottawa, lace up their roller skates before taking advantage of the free skate period after an informational meeting at Paramount Skate Arena. The meeting drew a crowd of women interested in the formation of a roller derby league, and the girls were among more than 85 who signed up to participate.

NewsTribune photo/Amy Holverson
Katie Ryba and Lisa Eisert didn’t know what to expect when they decided to host a meeting at Paramount Skate Arena in Ottawa for those interested in forming a women’s roller derby league. What they got, destroyed any doubt as to whether there are women interested in playing the contact sport in the Illinois Valley.
More than 85 people signed up to participate in the women’s roller derby league — including some men who will assist as coaches or some other volunteer capacity.
Eisert’s boyfriend Joshua Smith was among the male volunteers and said he spent his weekends at Paramount as a child.
“I’d skate if I could,” he said, adding that he did not plan to start a men’s league.
“This is all her,” he said. “I’m supporting her 100 percent.”

Crystal Zellers of Ottawa stayed after the meeting for the free skate and said she always has wanted to do a contact sport.
“There’s nothing in the area like this,” she said, “especially for girls to do.”
Ottawan Leslie Gayan called the sport “feminine.”
“There’s a lot of male-dominated sports,” she said. “It’ll be something different to bring to the area.”
It wasn’t the first time she had heard of roller derby though.
“I’ve always thought about what would happen if I was in one of these,” Gayan said, “but I never had the guts to start one, so I’m glad that they did.”
Zellers and Gayan said part of the sport was coming up with a derby name for each team member.
“You’re supposed to have like a dirty, sexy, mean name,” Gayan said.
Gayan’s derby name is “The Great Wall of ‘Gina,” and Zellers calls herself “Crystal Whipped.”
Participation in the league will require dedication on the part of the members, Ryba and Eisert said. The women will need to learn the regulations as well as practice the skills of the sport. And it won’t happen overnight. The group will follow the guidelines of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, since the women hope to join eventually.
“You’re going to have to be self-motivated because the WFTDA rulebook is 40 pages, and that’s pretty hard core,” Ryba told the crowd.
There also is a set of specific skills the ladies will need to learn before they are ready for their first competition, or “bout.”
“A lot of people think you just go out there and knock some ladies’ faces in,” Ryba said, “and that’s not the case.”
So what is roller derby?
“Basically it’s racing, but blocking comes in when you want to get past someone,” Eisert said.
Each team consists of about 15 people, and only five people from each team take the floor at one time. There is a “pack,” Eisert explained, that tries to prevent the opposing team from passing them. Teams score points for each time they successfully pass an opponent.
Members of the new league, christened the Illinois Valley Vixens, will be required to pay a fee to cover the cost of renting the skate arena. The initial fee will be $35 a month, but Eisert and Ryba expect this cost to decrease as the group solidifies and sponsors provide support.
“They have to know that we’re a legitimate team and that we’re really doing this before they’ll want to fork out their money,” Ryba said.
There also will be an equipment investment for those who decide to commit to the group. Since it is a contact sport, roller derby players will need to purchase various pads, a helmet and a mouth guard in addition to their skates. Ryba estimated this would cost individuals about $200.
Eisert said they didn’t want anyone to be scared out of participating because of the money, and emphasized that sponsorships would help drive down the cost. It won’t eliminate cost completely, but according to Ryba, it will be worth it.
“If we want to get big and go duke it out with those Windy City Rollers,” she said, “we’re going to have to pay to get there.”
Eventually, Ryba and Eisert hope to host competitions that the community would pay to watch, but ticket sales would not fund the team.
“We can find charities in the area that need money,” Ryba said. “After-school programs I know are in bad shape right now.”
Those interested in joining the Illinois Valley Vixens can find Eisert and Ryba at Paramount Skate Arena’s open skates on 2-4:30 p.m. Saturdays. For now, that will be the group’s meeting time. Once a consistent membership has been established, the women plan to meet 8-10 p.m. Wednesdays, Ryba said. They have time to get their feet under them, since roller derby season doesn’t begin until January.
Paramount Skate Arena is open 7:30-10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2-4:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Cost is $5 per person to skate and $1 to rent skates.
For more information, contact Ryba at (815) 343-7772 or find the Illinois Valley Vixens on Facebook.

09/28/2010, 8:53 am
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Stephanie Szuda,, 815-431-4087
The terms rink rash and derby toe may sound foreign to the ladies of the Illinois Valley now, but one group will become all too familiar with these phrases.

Two Ottawa women are trying to bring the rowdy world of roller derby to Ottawa. They've never participated in the sport, but are curious to try it out with some other rollergirl hopefuls.

"We thought it looked like something fun and exciting to do," said Katie Ryba, who's hosting the first general meeting for the Illinois Valley Vixens Roller Derby League with her friend Lisa Eisert.

The idea sprouted from a roller derby bout Ryba and Eisert watched a few years ago. They thought a local league was a good idea, but it never moved past that point until recently when it was brought up again.

"It would be great to have something different, fun and exciting to do or just to watch," Ryba said.

The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29, at Paramount Skating Arena, 1511 Chestnut St., Ottawa. The meeting should last about an hour and women are welcome to skate afterward.

Roller derby is a contact sport based on formation roller skating around an oval track by two teams. Points are scored as the designated scoring player, called the "jammer," of both teams laps members of the opposing team.

Ryba is hoping about 100 women attend the first meeting to learn more about the league. She's hoping at least 60 people participate in order to create four teams for the league. A team needs 15 people, five play at a time.

Four leagues exist in Illinois, Ryba said. Rockford has two and Chicago and Joliet each have one.

No derby experience is necessary for the local league. It is a women's Flat Track Derby and everyone must wear quad skates. In addition to skaters, Ryba and Eisert also are looking for volunteers to referee, photograph, sponsor, advertise, announce and help with fundraisers.

Ryba, whose roller derby name is Kate Devious, said she's excited to learn and hopes others are interested, too.

"It's a lot more technical than people probably realize," she said. "You can't just go around and knock people's teeth out. You need to know how to skate. There are rules to follow.

"It's just a competitive sport," she said. "It requires a skill like any other sport."

And, in case you were wondering, rink rash is a red burn a skater gets on her skin after falling on a skating surface while playing roller derby and derby toe is a large callous on a skater's big toe.