Isabel Goh presents her preview on the East Region ahead of Women’s Indoor Regionals.
With the top two finishers of the University Women’s Indoor and Outdoor Nationals for the 2016/17 season coming from this region last year, the East region crown seems to be anyone’s for the taking. With five qualifying spots for University Women’s Indoor Nationals (UWIN) up from four last year, it can only mean more thrilling games in a highly competitive region. This preview, peppered with quotes from the various team captains, will hopefully get you psyched for the weekend because it promises to be two very exciting days!
Teams to beat
Looking the strongest they have ever been as they retained nearly all the women from last year and gained new experienced players, the Hertfordshire women will be hungry for a slice of the Nationals pie. Sarah Krauzehaussen (GB U20), Ola Kulikowska (Uprising) and Catherine Gale (GB U17 & U20 Coach) are a formidable trio of handlers. Watch out for new additions Sandra Salasbbagh, who has played in Egypt for two years, and Eheda Hassan, who may be one of the smallest in the squad but can jump and run at unimaginable speeds.
After a strong showing at SICKO and placing first at ELUXIR, the Disc Doctors are confident that a higher overall standard and chemistry will help them to qualify for Nationals this season. Despite losing handlers Qiao Yan Soh (GB U24) and Chia-Yi Hou, they have picked up the formidable Claire Baker (GB U24). A team that knows how to play hard and have fun (their team hobby is “loads of cake eating and then burning the calories together”), they play “very structured Ultimate” but are not impartial to overheads.
While missing their mainstay handler Joyce ‘The Kwokadile’ Kwok (Reading Ultimate, Hydra) who is unavailable for the weekend, Oxford have strong handlers in Christine “Triple C” Moore (Black Eagles, GB Beach Women’s Masters) and captain Sarah-Jane ‘SJ’ Rodgers (SYC). They have also picked up postgraduate Isabel Goh (Warwick Bears, Hydra), an “absolute demon in the endzone”. The team will look towards their returning experienced handlers to run the offensive patterns, but are bolstered by speedy cutters for their continuation throws.
Reading’s second place finish at SEUXIR is proof that their women are strong, able throwers with a wide arsenal of accurate overheads. Captain Nikki Bliss and Charlotte Marriott (Reading Ultimate) look to be an unstoppable handler duo with quick give-and-gos or overheads to exploit the break side. They have also gained Sophie Cadwgan (Reading Ultimate) from the University of Plymouth. The Knights are bringing two teams to the tournament, which goes to show for the depth of the squad this year.
The winners of last season’s UWON have retained speedy cutters Emma Oh and Thed Jiayi, and also have Ruth Kilsby (GB U17) who is back from a year abroad in Texas. The Silverbacks, in the hands of co-captains Alicia Tan (GB U24, SYC) and Angelica Yeo, generally play in a conservative style with no flashy plays, and the captains hope to utilise everyone’s strengths and build chemistry for the outdoor season.
Teams to watch out for
Founding members In-Sun Tribe and Rianne Goh have just graduated, and the Brunel team has now grown to be 20 members strong, which is down to their hard work, energy, and effort over the past few years. The team have retained another of their most experienced female club members in Lucy Hawkes (SYC), who has been playing for over ten years (!) and picked up the relatively green postgraduate Rachel Clark (Brighton), who’s been playing for a mere five. This team could be hunting to cause some upsets in the pools.
With a steady recruitment rate every year, Cambridge consistently has had a good pool of talent. Their handlers Rebecca “Becca” Harwin and Joanna “Jo” Starkie have been playing with the Strange Blues for almost five years but will miss their new pickup Ali Thomas (GB U24) who is unavailable for the weekend, and the recently graduated Charlotte Daffern (GB U24). They aim to play consistently throughout the tournament, and are ready to tackle any zone defence.
After claiming the title at Indoor Nationals last year, Chichester has sadly lost most of their key players to graduation, however they will still have the capabilities of experienced players Sofia Hill (Horsham Hippos) and Megan Dunster, who has just returned from a year on placement, and will bring knowledge and speed to the team. With a “completely new team with varied amounts of skill and experience,” the Cobras’ main goal this year is to build foundations within the team and help newer players enjoy the sport.
KCL certainly has lost some star power with the departure of Iceni duo Karen Kwok and Lauren Bryant, but still have retained some players with club-level experience. The team will be focusing on player development, especially handler skills, while also trying to maintain the intensity they had last year that got them into the finals, says Captain Kiyomi Ran. The Thrown women will hope to challenge the top five, as other players step up to fill in key roles.
The Kent women have handlers with a strong repertoire of throws, particularly overheads. Watch out for scoobers and hammers coming from Sarah Hankins and Tahlia Wensley (Brixton), to quick receivers such as Andrea Mularoni (Brighton). Captain Alice Nicholas has returned from a year abroad in Kansas, and will have some new tricks up her sleeve to bring to the team. You can be sure that Kent plans to pull out their infamous zone sometime during the weekend!
Teams to keep an eye on:
A dangerous duo not to be missed in action, captain Danielle “Danni” Barriball (GB U17) and new pickup Erin “Calfee” McGready (GB U24, Reading Ultimate) will be a force to be reckoned with at Regionals. The most experienced players on their team at SEUXIR, they were on the disc almost every other pass, guiding the rest of the players. A “fast, athletic team,” the Brookes women are also hoping to gain seed, and build a foundation for future years.
After fielding their first women’s team to UWIR last year, it is great news to hear that LSE will be sending a team again this year. With more players this year than the six women at the last Regionals, games should be less tiring this time around. Captain Ashley Cheok says, “I loved how last year all my teammates left the competition feeling like they’d learnt a lot, and I want that again this year.”
Portsmouth struggled with recruitment last year and were unable to field a team for UWIR. Thankfully, this year all their women from last year bar one have stayed, and they have successfully attracted enough freshers who have picked up the game quickly. Expect some different looks on defence from the Sublime ladies who love to throw a zone, but have also been working hard on person defence this year.
Without any comments from the St Mary’s women’s captain, this part of the preview will unfortunately be skimpy. The team finished fourteenth last year, and do not pose an immediate threat to those hoping to qualify.
The Mohawks traditionally have a strong programme, but have lost a few good handlers to graduation. Captain Izzy Collins is determined not to let that stop the team from progressing, they are looking to get even more throwing practice in to make up for it. Beginners Hannah Scott and Jess Monson are outstanding new players that will help flesh out the team. The team aims to build on the foundations of last year, but may lack the experience to reach the top five.
Unfortunately the UEA women’s captain was unavailable for comment. Rumours of them losing players to graduation have whirled around, and their Mixed Regionals performance suggests that the team may be undergoing some rebuilding.
Most teams from last year have returned with the exception of Surrey, who are struggling with recruitment, and Anglia Ruskin, while Oxford Brookes and Portsmouth have managed to put together a team again for this edition of UWIR. Some teams are clearly looking to take the season off to rebuild, others are red-hot and ready to win it all. Will teams that do well at UXIR repeat their success on the UWIR stage? Will teams that make full use of overhead throws be the ones to flourish? Only time will tell.
Feature photo by Tristan Millington.