Felicity Perry and Claire Taylor give us their outlook on the final instalment of this years Women’s Tour.
The threat of thunder and lightning prior to Tour 2 meant that all teams were aware that rain was a distinct possibility. Still, nobody expected the rain to hold off until 3pm and gradually increase from a light drizzle to a downpour. It made play interesting for a while, until games were cancelled on Saturday. The sustained rain left the pitches waterlogged, and unplayable.
Cancellation of games meant that the GB Masters did not meet the Mockingjays as expected in the crossover, and had to wait until the Tour Final on Sunday. When they finally met, the game was dominated by the relatively unknown entity of the Mockingjays, a fluid and talented team from Ireland. Neither team had really been tested until the final, and the GB Masters were slow to react to the speed and skill of the Irish.
The first half was an 8-1 whitewash. In the second half the GB Masters worked hard with their handlers to disrupt the Mockingjay poach defence and had some success, scoring five points but unable to bring a comeback. The addition of the Irish National team at Tour 3 completes a run of three Tours with a different Irish team in attendance at each event. It would have been really interesting to see the Mockingjays play Iceni, but unfortunately we’ll never know how these two teams would have matched up.
SYC’s slightly smaller roster was taken by surprise against the Mockingjays’ strength in their semi-final. However, despite this game knocking them out, SYC had a strong weekend that solidified their place at the top of the Tour rankings, finally finishing third at London Calling. Punt finished fourth. After trading to 5-5 in their semi against the GB Masters they should have been in with a chance, but a step up in the GB Masters’ play ended the game at 15-5.
Over the weekend, Uptown Punks played two games against Free Agents. The U23s won the pool game in sudden-death to win their pool and secure a quarter-final against Punt. An exciting finish to this game left the Punks upset with their loss in sudden-death and Punt progressing to the semi-finals. This result meant a rematch later in the day against Free Agents, who proved their worth to come out on top and take the fifth spot at London Calling.
Relentless and Swift both climbed three places from their Tour 1 finishes, and took seventh and eighth places respectively in a closely fought game. Swift ran the GB U23s in a close game earlier in the day, but Relentless were true to their name clinching the win to take seventh. Bristol A and 1 both has a tough weekend, and slid out of the top eight to 12th and 14th respectively.
Due to the weather, Sunday’s crossover games ended up being cancelled. These cancellations put certain teams at a previously unseen disadvantage, as the seedings were held for all cancelled games. A team that stood as an example of this is Dragon Knights who were in a pool with Free Agents and GB U23 (both strong teams), and had no way to proceed to the top eight despite probably being worthy of a place there. Nevertheless, the team pushed on with determination to take ninth.
Very tight games between LLLeeds and Dragon Knights at both Tour 1 and Tour 2 have formed a friendly rivalry between the two teams, and the heated 9 vs. 10 game was a brilliant example of how far women’s Ultimate has developed in recent years. Both teams will be hoping to keep improve their seedings, and will be determined to play this gritty Ultimate against some of the higher seeded teams. LLLeeds would love a rematch at Tour 3 and another chance to come out on top of this new rivalry.
In the 17 to 20 round robin on Sunday, Manchester had a close game against newcomers Vurve, and despite their loss in sudden-death the game remained a highlight for the northerners as they took on the challenge of an intense, physical and competitive match. Vurve took 17th, and the bracket saw lots of close scorelines. The 21 to 26 round robin saw less even matches by comparison, excluding an exciting sudden death win for the Discie Chicks over Reading. Phoenix took the 21st spot beating Guilford 10-8.
Looking forward to this weekend in Cardiff, we say goodbye to U23s, who have opted to not enter and have a training weekend instead. With Worlds imminent in London we hope the Tour has given them valuable opposition that will help them to represent GB Women’s Ultimate and really bring it on the international stage!
A slightly smaller field of 20 teams at Tour 3 sees the return of Iceni, back from the States. Undoubtedly they will want to end Tour on a win. After their successes in Boston finishing fifth, it will be interesting to see what they bring back to the British scene. Looking to challenge Iceni to the top spot will be a reunited Bristol squad, SYC, the Irish National Team and Punt.
Ireland are attending in preparation for EUC. The Mockingjays demonstrated clinical fast paced offence. Playing aggressively, they were not afraid to break the mark and take on tight shots. If the strength of the Mockingjays translates into the Irish Women’s team then they may bring some interesting upsets. Either way they will be looking for some fierce competition, and we expect they will challenge the teams at the top of Tour.
Battling for the position at the top of the overall Tour rankings are both SYC and Punt. Punt have gained in strength each Tour, as handlers like Avril Hunter slice through other teams’ defences with some incredible low breaks, and U23 Mixed players Leila Denniston and Camille Kostov improve constantly. SYC will be returning to full strength at Tour 3. Gaining back their GB Masters players who were absent at London Calling, they will be going into each game to win. This team also has Nationals in mind, and will continue their long-term goal to keep testing their systems for tweaks and adjustments on the lead up to the late August tournament.
Bristol will be bringing their full squad back together and splitting into a 1st and 2nd team as opposed to Bristol A and Bristol 1 at Tour 3. This means that the Bristol first team will be looking stronger and more experienced than ever, regaining all of their GB Masters players. It will be exciting to see how they perform, and many teams are looking forward to a fun match up against them. It is a great to see Bristol’s consistent commitment to the development of women’s Ultimate, explicitly investing trainings and two Tours into helping grow women’s Ultimate in Bristol. Consequentially they are now able to take a stronger second team to tour who will have learnt a whole lot throughout the season so far.
Manchester are determined to break out of the 17 to 21 group, and are aiming to win all their pool games on Saturday to give themselves a chance to move up. Previously, closely fought defeats to JR at both Tours have denied them this chance. Manchester are looking to end the Tour with a win in this rivalry. With JR, Manchester, Devon and Bristol 2 thrown into the mix, everything is to play for at Tour 3. This season the middle seedings have been constantly contested. Manchester are again bringing a second team to Tour 3, again a credit to their dedication to development which has allowed Ultimate in the North of England to really grow (by americo). Many players from University who may not have easily found a team have been able to step up to play Tour this year due to the opportunities that Manchester has offered.
Going into the weekend, this is the last opportunity for teams to test themselves before Nationals, and the last chance to solidify seeding in the overall rankings. Teams will be looking to fight their way up to secure a spot at Nationals. We predict Iceni to win, with a final against SYC, Bristol or the Irish National Team, and we hope that there are close games and exciting battles at all levels of knockout.
The rest of the top eight is much less predictable. The depth and level of skill, athleticism and the presence of teams that train regularly has increased in the Women’s Tour from previous years. This can be seen in its growth, with events featuring at least 20 teams all season. A slightly smaller field at Tour 3 means that a host of teams are looking to break into the top eight. Swift, Dragon Knights, LLLeeds and Crown Jewels will all be fighting to take a spot and the chance of a place at Nationals, and the 9 to 16 bracket will play host to a number of rivalries old and new that have developed in 2015.