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Fun fuels the ladies of Pittsburgh East Roller Villains

| Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For Trib Total Media Pittsburgh East Roller Villians team members spot Melanie Marietta during warm up exercises before practice on August 6 at Center Ice in Delmont.

Call it the sisterhood of the traveling skates.

They come to Delmont from Hunker and Harrison City, Squirrel Hill and other parts of Pittsburgh twice a week to check, skate and let off some steam all in the name of a sport called roller derby.

“We're more of a family, a sisterhood where we're all about encouragement,” said Annamarie Marietta, of Hunker, one of the organizers of Pittsburgh East Roller Villains, or PERV, the area's only coed recreational roller derby league.

“We have a lot of moms who have put in their time sitting in rinks and ball fields. This is their time.”

Saturday marks the team's first home bout at Murrysville SportZone, where they will take on “Nightmares on Main Street,” an Erie County-based women's roller derby team.

The 18 women of PERV call Murrysville home, except during summer months, when they relocate to Center Ice in Delmont. The group formed last October and tries to have one bout — a match against another recreational team — once each month.

Roller derby is where camp and athletics meet. Players typically adopt an alter-ego — “Trackstabber” is Marietta's most recent character — to skate and check one another on a flat track.

Hannah Leonard, 30, of Jeannette, enjoys both as “50 Shades of Blood.”

“I like the athletic part and being part of a group where you know they've all got your back,” Leonard said. “My name sounds badass, but I'm not. I try to be solid on the track. There, I have a big mouth, but I'm quiet off the track.”

There is no “type” of person who plays roller derby, Marietta said. Real-estate agents, librarians and bank executives are members of the team, Marietta said.

The only real requirement is that you're there for fun. That's what fuels Marietta.

“When I'm on the track, get out of the way. I love to hit my friends,” she said. “I feel like a rock star. You just feel like a superstar, doing something that most of your friends aren't doing.”

Christina Pence grew up as an athlete, playing softball and basketball. But there's not a lot of recreational sports options for adult women, she said. She likes exercise but doesn't like a gym.

Roller derby was the perfect match, combining exercise with a team mentality.

“Everybody gets along, and there's no puppy kicking,” said Pence, 36, of Harrison City. “If somebody's car breaks down, you go get them.”

That's an important part of the experience for Marietta.

“I don't want anyone to ever be here and feel like they're not good enough,” she said. “If we're not having fun, we're not doing it right.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-871-2365, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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