With the new regions in place the Northern region initially looks to be the toughest of the lot. Captains’ predictions were pretty wide spread, with teams from the old northern region more inclined to back other teams from that region and teams from the old Midlands equally backing the teams familiar to them. However it turns out, it will be fun to watch a whole weekend of high level ultimate and a series of strong teams fighting it out for the 6 nationals spots on offer in this region. Let’s take a look at some of the contenders…
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After a great year in 2013/14 (including 4th place at Indoor Nationals), Leeds have managed to retain lots of the talent that got them there (Claire Taylor, Katie Lear, Rachel Douglas, Rachel Finch and Captain Alice Beeching) and have developed lots of players, thanks in part to their connection with local women’s team LeedsLeedsLeeds. To top it off they have picked up Aussie U23 Cath O’Neill, so keep your eyes out for big bids.
Newcastle have a clear idea of their aims for the weekend. To use their words: ‘Qualification, definitely’. Katie Ackerley and Lucy Hyde will be handling and expected to control the tempo on offence. With a solid development program in place several players have progressed through the ranks and now have reached the first team, so while they may not be full of big names (yet..!) watch this space.
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Loughborough also come into regionals with high expectations, namely doing what their mens team did and making the final in Leeds. With a strong looking line up it seems like a reasonable aim. Captain Charlotte ‘Bubbles’ Kennedy, Ruth ‘Roofies’ Nicholson, Rosie Hamilton (Returning from her jaunt abroad last year) all have JR tour experience under their belt. To supplement this, they have had a couple of handy pickups this year in GB juniors Rupal Ghelani and Sarah Lacey.
Durham come into this season off the back of a hugely successful 2013/14 which culminated in them reaching the final against Bangor at Women’s Outdoor Nationals. They refused to name any particular star players, preaching a strong team ethos. However, with some big losses from last year replicating such strong results may be just out of reach.
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Bangor were the victors in that meeting with Durham in the final at Women’s Outdoor Nationals and can also count some heavy losses from last year with Harriet Brown, Ava Grossman and Lou Ryan leaving. That said, they retain Rachel Turton and Hannah Sadd, and the height of Jess Young gives Bangor a threat that not many other teams have.
Sheffield missed out on Nationals last year but seem to have the squad balance this time to challenge for qualification. Charis Lestrange and Hannah Brooker will coordinate their offence, whilst Captain Tessa Hunt, Harrie Mort and Jen Parak will have the job of generating turnovers from the opposition. Kat Murray joins the team from Bath having recently started a PhD, and supplements an already experienced squad. She may just provide that extra edge they need to make it to Nationals.
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Lancaster have finished around 8th position in the old regional structure for three years running, and this year they will be looking to Kayleigh Thomson to make up for the loss of last year’s captain Karoline Tudelska. They took a relatively experienced team to NBWin last month and made it all the way to the final. A repeat of that performance would suit them nicely but will they be able to match up when the opposing teams bring their experienced players?
In the NBWin final, Lancaster finished as runners up to Sheffield Hallam. Despite losing several key player from last year (Kat Cheng and Tiffany Anderson stand out as particularly big losses) they seem to have recruited well and feel like they may be able to surprise teams expecting them to be pushovers. Stephi Peacock joins captain Anna Brakel as Hallam’s only two experienced players, but at NBWin this team played beyond their experience so anyone hoping to bully their newbies may be disappointed.
Leicester are another team made up mainly of new players, and having been in a similar situation last year they’ll be looking to establish themselves and start growing the Women’s side of their club. Kay White and Rozzi Nicholson are the duo to watch out for, and they’ll be looking to bring out the best in the new players around them as they build for the future.
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Manchester missed out on Nationals last year but are looking to put that right this weekend. Captain Johanna Howson will try to capitalise on the feel-good factor in Women’s Ultimate in Manchester following them entering a team into all three Tour events last club season. If Howson and young star Amelia Cartwright can help them get through to Nationals, Manchester will get a boost with the talent of Christine Rushworth and Amanda Chan, both of whom are unavailable for regionals.
Last up are Nottingham, who come into the event with very few of last years’ players, either due to graduation or them being struck down by the Nottingham Uni knee injury curse. The loss of Katie Lovell, Kirsten Wells and Bernie Tobiaseiwicz will hit them hard but in Jassy Drakulic they have one of the most reliable handlers at the tournament. Captain Alice Brookes is back from a year abroad and she has helped Nottingham recruit ridiculously well so far this year. She’ll be hoping some of these new players can make the same kind of impact as up and coming star Elspeth ‘Spef’ Newlin did last year.
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Below is an average of the captains’ predictions, as well as my personal predictions for the region.
1st Leeds Loughborough
2nd Nottingham Leeds
3rd Loughborough Newcastle
4th Newcastle Sheffield
5th Bangor Nottingham
6th Manchester Bangor