Interested in trying roller derby? The Lava City Roller Dolls are one of two roller derby organizations in Bend. Both the Spit Fires and Cinder Kittens (open to girls and boys ages 10-17) run “fresh meat” programs to bring new skaters up to speed. Information for prospective skaters is available at Details and tickets for upcoming bouts are also available on the website.

There was time remaining for one final two-minute bout Saturday night, and the Lava City Spit Fires were trailing the Willamette Kidney Thieves by 36 points.

Several hundred spectators had turned out at Cascade Indoor Sports in Bend for the roller derby bout to support the Spit Fires, and some had left for the exits early. But Melissa Woodman — “Vola Tyle,” as she is known on skates — thought her Spit Fires still had a chance. She took over as the team’s “jammer” (points scorer), beat the Kidney Thieves’ jammer out of the starting scrum and started lapping the field. (Jammers score a point each time they lap one of the opposing team’s skaters as the “blockers” attempt to impede their progress.) Woodman scored 18 points during the jam despite spending 30 seconds in the penalty box, but the Bend-based Spit Fires came up short, losing 192-171.

“I like it when the games are close, and in roller derby 30 points is really close,” explained Woodman, 35, who has been skating with Lava City for 12 years. “You could make 30 points in one jam if you’re working it right. If I hadn’t gone to the box and I had that 30 seconds back, we might have won that game. I can rack up some points when I’m on the floor and my blockers are helping me get through fast.”

Skaters on both the Spit Fires and Lava City’s junior team, the Cinder Kittens, who lost 336-106 to the Spokane Cherry Bomb Brawlers in Saturday’s undercard, said their teams include a lot of novice players who are still learning the intricacies of the sport.

“They’re really good at working as a team,” Anna Knox an 18-year-old Cinder Kittens captain who goes by “Obknoxious,” said of the Brawlers. “On our team, we have a lot of individual talent, but we’re not great at being together. They work together as a unit.”

During flat track derby bouts, each team has five skaters (a jammer, three blockers and a pivot, who can switch places with the jammer) on the track at a time. Woodman said many new skaters take a while to understand the dual role of blockers, who are supposed to stop the opposing jammer while also helping their own through the gantlet.

“Roller derby is difficult and it’s different from any other sport because you’re playing offense and defense at the same time,” Woodman explained. “As long as both jammers are on the floor, both teams are scoring simultaneously, sometimes, so it makes it really difficult for the blockers to learn when to play defense and when to play offense. Because it’s not like every other sport, where if you’re on one side of the court, you’re playing defense, and if you’re on the other side you’re playing offense. Roller derby is not like that, so that’s what makes it exciting and different from other sports, I think.”

But Knox said the constant collisions bring players close to their teammates — literally and figuratively — in a way that other sports do not.

“It’s just different, it’s more of a team sport,” explained Knox, who has been with the Cinder Kittens since she was 11. “I play hockey, and I can go and score 10 goals. But the feeling is not as great as when you and three other people stop their jammer. It’s just a really well-bonded sport. You’re close to everybody, you’re touching everybody. It’s a close sport.”

And because the pool of youth roller derby players in Bend is still small, all juniors play on the same team.

“You can play together for seven, eight years,” said 16-year-old Bailey Dorsey (“Mailean Onya”), who started skating with the Cinder Kittens when she was 8.

Knox said that camaraderie also extends to other teams — at least after the bout is over.

“The first five minutes (of the bout), I was on fire, I was so upset,” Knox said after Saturday’s bout was over. “But as you probably just saw, we were all hugging the people we were just wailing on. It’s a loving sport. There’s no fighting in the parking lot later.”

Although roller derby is no longer an exclusively female sport (the Cherry Bomb Brawlers’ roster includes several teen boys, for instance), several Lava City players said they enjoyed the fact that roller derby is one of the few sports in which women are dominant and it is the men who are making inroads, instead of the other way around. In fact, the sport is not limited to jocks, male or female.

“Of all the sports I’ve played — and I’ve played a lot of sports — roller derby is the only sport that I’ve ever been a part of where over 80 percent of the team has never played a sport in their life,” said Sarah Callegari (“Cut-Throat Callie”), 37, who joined the Spit Fires eight years ago.

Roller derby is known for fear-inspiring nicknames and physical play, but “Nightmary” Mary Bowker said, underneath the face paint, the sport is actually intentionally inclusive.

“I think one thing about derby is there’s a place for everybody, because there’s so many different positions,” Bowker, 41, said. “Different skills are useful in the same sport. You can have your really quick, fast, athletic person, but you can also have those people who are really strong and stable. I think that aspect means you can find your place.”

Ashley Arbow, 28, a relative newcomer to the Lava City Roller Dolls with just two years of experience, agreed that the sport is welcoming to women who have not always thought of themselves as athletes.

“I’ve never felt better about myself than I have in the last few years,” said Arbow, who goes by “Cruella De’ Spill” on the track. “I feel happy with my body and more confident as a person, speaking up about things that make me feel uncomfortable, because I have this community that will stand behind me.”

—Reporter: 541-383-0305,