All it wanted was a place to hang its helmet.
Duke City Derby left its home court at Midnight Rodeo and spent the season trying to put a new home together. While DCD waited for a rink to emerge, skaters busied themselves by whipping squads from other states. The all-star travel team Muñecas Muertas beat the Kansas City Roller Warriors to earn a spot in the Women's Flat Track Derby Association Championships in mid-November. Kansas City was ranked No. 1 in the nation before falling to the Muñecas.
There was a time when the Duke City all-star team was not such a force on wheels, but Nan Morningstar, co-founder, says the team's commitment to defense has paid big dividends. The game was close, but Kansas City only led twice in a match that was mostly controlled by the Muñecas.
According to Morningstar, many all-star teams in other cities have a larger pool of players to select from when deciding who should join their squad. But, she says, the Duke City Derby has always faced tough obstacles like not having a permanent practice space or a regulation rink. "We have a tenacity," Morningstar says. "All that we've done is an incredible statement about our perseverance."
Katie "The Vixenator" Larntz says not having an Albuquerque arena has toughened up the Muñecas. "We've never had a home crowd advantage," Larntz says. "We've had to go into people's homes and kick people's butts to get a national ranking."
“We've had to go into people's homes and kick people's butts to get a national ranking.”
Katie "The Vixenator" Larntz
Larntz is also eager to prove the win against Kansas City wasn't a fluke. To that end, the Muñecas practice five times a week in preparation for their debut at the National Championships. "We've been working really hard," Larntz says. "We're getting better with our speed and working together as a team."
Getting all 20 team members to Portland, Ore., for the championships in November won't be cheap. The derby needs to raise money to get there. Morningstar hopes to capitalize on the sport's growing recognition in the mainstream sports community. She says hockey and rugby fans in particular are starting to appreciate roller derby. "One of our goals is to begin to see ourselves less in the living section and more in the sports section,” Morningstar says. "It's becoming recognized more for the sport that it is."
Though it's gone from a small group of players to a league of four teams, Morningstar says the Duke City Derby is still a close-knit family that cherishes its supporters, new and old. "Derby is still a rock 'n' roll sport," Morningstar says. "The fans are still what make us come out and play."
“Derby is still a rock 'n' roll sport.”
Nan Morningstar, co-founder
Duke City Derby used to play all its home games at the old Midnight Rodeo nightclub, which is now Club Fantasia. Certain architectural features, such as inconveniently placed poles, meant players had to tone down their aggressiveness to avoid injuring fellow competitors. The risk of someone getting seriously hurt was too real to ignore, and last year, Duke City Derby stopped having matches at its old locale.
The derby's search for a home ended when it secured the 7,000-seat Santa Ana Star Center. Other than the occasional Santa Fe vs. Albuquerque game in the City Different, players who aren't on the Muñecas haven't been playing regular, organized games in front of an audience. When the crowd returns, Morningstar says the quality of the product they see on the track will be "ten times better," than it was a year ago. Players' skills have continued to improve, and Morningstar is anxious to coax fans to the Star Center. "We lost a whole home season," Morningstar says. "We're going to have to court fans to get them to come back."