By day, Jessica Dorschner is a research technologist at Mayo Clinic. But on game night, she goes by the "Jessicutioner," a blocker and jammer on the MedCity Mafia roller derby team.
When MedCity hits the rink for its first home bout of the season on Saturday, a fan might struggle to connect Dorschner the researcher with Dorschner the player except for a subtle indicator on her uniform.
Her derby uniform number, 702, is a tribute to a strain of bacteria she studied during graduate school as part of her thesis work. The name of the strain ended in 7002.
"I studied that strain — it was a lot of years in my life," Dorschner said.
MedCity Mafia will take on the Sioux Falls Roller Dollz from Sioux Falls, S.D., at 7 p.m. Saturday at Rochester's Graham Arena. MedCity enters the contest having lost its first bout to Appleton, Wis.,-based Fox Cities Roller Derby 385 to 68.
As the Dorschner's story makes evident, roller derby draws players from all walks of life. MedCity Mafia members include therapists, nurses, security personnel, pre-school teachers and interior designers. In other words, all sorts of people.
Jill Hust has worked as a waitress at the Canadian Honker for the past nine years. A three-sport athlete at Pine Island High School, Hust is now in her third season with MedCity. Her nickname is the "Divastator." What she enjoys most about the sport is its emphasis on teamwork and working together, she said.
"I think the biggest moments for me on the team are not necessarily my individual successes but the team's successes," Hust said. "Together, we can do some pretty amazing things."
Hust points to MedCity's performance at the Uff Da Palooza Roller Derby Tournament in Wisconsin last year. It was MedCity's first year as a sanctioned member of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, the governing association, and the Rochester team wasn't expected to win any games. But MedCity won one and kept the other two tight before losing.
"It was super successful," Hust said. "I mean, we were all in tears by the end of it, just because we were proud of ourselves."
Roller derby is also among the fastest-growing sports in the U.S. There are 381 WFTDA leagues (teams are called leagues) and 66 leagues in the WFTDA apprentice program, according to the WFTDA website. The association is also establishing beachheads in New Zealand, Australia and some European countries.
To the untrained eye, roller derby can look chaotic. Players play both offense and defense at the same time. Both teams are trying to push their jammers through a wall of blockers to score points. But within the fluidity of the game, success depends on strategy and communication.
"It's not random hits and brawling," Dorschner said. "We do a lot of formations and strategies. That's what has kept me with it, the women and the strategies."
To Dorschner, roller derby most resembles football, with its wall of blockers and jammers trying to push pass the wall.
"When I'm pushing through the pack, I kind of imagine that I'm a running back," she said. "I love football, so I make that connection."
MedCity players say their goal is to move up the national rankings. Typically, the larger the city the better the team, since the teams from bigger cities have a larger population to draw from.
Dorschner said Med City hopes to move up in the rankings to around 200 from its current 231.
"We won all of our home games last year, which is honestly what matters to me most," Dorschner said. "Keeping our crowd happy. That's always fun."