Platte Valley Roller Vixens kick off roller derby season with victory, sport growing in popularity

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. -- Saturday night's roller derby game left the Platte Valley Roller Vixens taking home a victory, but since it hit the tri-cities in 2011, the sport has gained immense popularity.

The sport started back in 1935, but after instability in the 70s, the sport reemerged back in 1999, according to the Platte Valley Roller Vixens.

Each game lasts about 60 minutes, in two 30-minute periods, and the point of the game is for the point scorer, or "jammer," to pass as many opposing players as possible. However, she must also be able to pass the "blockers," who are offensively helping their "jammer" score as well as defensively preventing the opposing team's "jammer" from scoring.

"I think a good reason to come watch derby is to A. just have fun. It's a lot of fun to watch people fall or get knocked down," skater Steph "Florence Welts" Gallaway said. "But beyond that, it's just a really interesting sport. It's something new that people haven't really seen."

The Roller Vixens got started back in 2011, giving anywhere from 14 to 20 women in Grand Island, Hastings and Kearney a sport to have as their passion, stress reliever and hobby.

"My favorite thing is, obviously, I like making people fall to the floor. I love hitting people, but the coolest part of it is when they - you help them get up, and they say, 'Wow. Good job.' You just threw them to the floor, and they're like encouraging you or saying, 'Well done,'" skater Ana "Maestra Maul" Moyers said.

"The best part would be probably just the adrenaline of just being able to hit somebody and stay on your feet and keep going fast and just having fun," skater Shandie "Shawshank" Curtis said.

The sport is growing in popularity, filling the 350 person capacity at Fonner Park's Swine Arena Saturday night.

"I've played women's soccer for a long time, and we never have had very many fans come out and support us just because we are a women's sport. So it was definitely different to have that many people there cheering everybody on, making all the noise and stuff. It was a really great experience," Curtis said.

Roller derby is definitely a contact sport, but it's more than just knocking a few women down to the ground as the Roller Vixens are also helping the community, donating money to the Central Nebraska Humane Society this year.

"Every year we pick a different non-profit that we want to support and raise awareness for as well, and so we bring them to our games. We let them set up a table, collect donations. We raise money for them with our games," Gallaway said.

However, the best part for these women isn't just the defensiveness of the sport or the fellowship they have with others, but it's also about having some fun.

"I think it's pretty cool for women in Nebraska to be offered some non-traditional roles like something that's not very common. You wouldn't really think you would have a sport where women get to hurt each other would be an option," Moyers said. "I think it's a really cool opportunity for women to have some camaraderie and do something a little bit out of the box."

In previous years, the Roller Vixens have donated money to the Grand Island Crisis Center, Grand Island Fire and Rescue and the Mid-Nebraska Food Bank, donating a total of $3,121.

The Roller Vixens plan on getting a larger venue at Fonner Park, which they also hope will bring in more money for them and other non-profits in the tri-cities.