Annie Bechtel is a product of the Scottish Ultimate scene, and is here to bring you the hot gossip before the women of Scottish Universities descend on Aberdeen to battle it out for the title of Indoor Regionals Champs.
“It’s not a secret weapon if I tell you about It”
Edinburgh can be somewhat unpredictable indoors, so it’s rather bold of me to be placing them in the first slot. Putting in a stormer of a win at Regionals last year, they didn’t (I should say, we didn’t as I was there and experiencing this first-hand) perform as well as they might have hoped at Nationals, taking seventh. Joint leaders Kathleen Beekmann and Kate “Staffie” Stafford are keeping their aims this year a mystery (ever enigmatic), but highlighted the pick-up of GB U24 Helena Slater and emphasised that this is a team that knows each other well. I’d expect them to be playing quick offence, utilising the team’s connections and aiming for the final.
They are also entering another two teams, captained by second-years Mairi Keith and Stephanie Ward (2) and Christie Ma and Emily Williamson (3). Reflecting the growing numbers of women taking up the sport, Edinburgh is looking for these teams to have fun as well as being competitive.
“Will This Be the Year They Find Out How to Spell?”
Glasgow placed a surprising fourth last year, a performance that is still very good but apparently not one they hope to repeat. Captain Jiaqi Sng is confident that this time Glasgow will be going for gold, or at least make to the final. After a very strong performance at Glasgow One Day (where they did beat Edinburgh 1) this team is looking fast and coordinated. Sng emphasised that what will take Glasgow to the top is great team cohesion. With as much training as they can, it’s always a good bet to say they will be playing their own game. Watch out for the sticky hands of Zsófi Marozsák and the confident handling of Tereza Martinovská.
“Never mind Snakes on a Plane, We’ve Got Horses on a Flight”
Captained once again by Hayley Dalmon, Strathclyde are going for gold. They made the final last year where they were defeated by Edinburgh, a matchup that is always fiercely fought. Dalmon hints at some new ideas for both offence and defence, and the GB U24 pairing of herself and Katie Flight will surely be racking up the points. They haven’t lost many players, and have some new faces stepping up to fill in those first team spaces. Maroon and blonde seem to be a theme, but they’ll be going so fast you probably won’t see more than a blur.
My prediction of them in third when they came second last year is not so much to do with their playing, but more with the strength of Glasgow and Edinburgh this year – however, I have a feeling they may prove me wrong, and it will be interesting to see how they do.
“Kicking Butt and Taking Names (for hosting)”
Perhaps it’s because they are so far away, but the host team is somewhat unknowable this year. Captain Eloïse Savineau is hoping for their first team to qualify for Nationals. After a third place finish last year and no major changes to their first team I would say this goal is well within their limits! I think my predecessors at the ShowGame have all written the same warning about Aberdeen: watch out for the speed of Eleanor Taylor (GB U24). She’s nearly impossible to mark, and if the team’s handler and cutter connections remain strong this will likely be the way Aberdeen will be putting points on the board.
They have also entered a second team, whose focus is – of course – development. With 3+ trainings a week, this team is likely to go hard. The battle of the second/third teams is looking like it might be closer fought than the first teams at this point.
“How To Train Your SU”
Ah, St Andrews. The only university in Scotland with a full time Ultimate coach. And kudos to them for that – St Andrews have the knack of making their SU take them seriously (please, tell us how you do that). They declined to answer my questions about UWIN, choosing to keep us guessing about their squad and goals for the season. With Gabriella Starek (GB U24) still on the roster and an above-averagely-tall-team, it’s not hard to predict that Captain Laura Nagle will surely be trying to up the ante from last year’s fifth place finish.
They had a development squad last year, it will be interesting to see how this has worked out for them and whether they’ve brought a second team. I’d expect well drilled offensive plays and colourful shorts.
“The Final Countdown”
Heriot Watt, the team who has made leaps and bounds in the past few years, is going to Regionals with the determination to go out with a bang, says Captain Lauren Logie. Losing cutter Fiona Leiper and with no new promotions to first team, the squad is just seven players strong – five of whom are leaving after this year. These ladies are looking to utilise the fact they’ve all been playing together for so long. Don’t think this is a last hurrah for the club though – they are sending a second team captained by Sally Smith with the aim of – you guessed it – development.
Finishing sixth at UWIR last year and losing so many of their key players next year, HW are definitely going into this with the attitude of showing how far they’ve come in recent years and to bag a spot at Nationals.
“Bleeding Green? Seek Medical Attention”
Louise Webster is here to take things seriously as captain of Blaze this year. The development years they’ve put in seem like they are paying off – they’ve been undertaking an intense workout and training schedule and are determined not to be overlooked. Webster’s replies to my questions were about as twice as long as this article, so it’s fair to say she has been putting work into this team. Threatening pitch length hammers and super hot defence, the Stirling Blazettes want to improve team cohesion and give good games.
They are taking one team to Aberdeen that has a mix of experience, but this is through choice and determination to do well. Stirling has produced some great players over the years, and for once they are actually all at uni at the same time! Names to watch out for include Mona Maier, Lindsey McKinnon and Natasha Gracey. The girls in green may prove to be a tougher game than people are expecting.
Dundee are facing a seriously depleted women’s squad once again, but Captain Beth Hall is ready to build on the skills they have and make this a development year. Rebuilding from scratch is never easy, but Hall has managed to put together a squad for UWIR that she says will be focusing on fundamentals and enjoying the games. Along with the super speedy Hall, names to watch out for are Samra Ai and Amy Gourlay, two freshers who have already impressed with their athleticism and keenness for Ultimate!
After playing this squad at Glasgow One Day, its looking like there is a lot of potential in Dundee, and I expect they’ll walk away from UWIR with some great moments to remember.
“Annie, Please Stop with The Taglines”
It’s always great to see so many teams entered into Regionals. Women’s Ultimate is growing, the standard is rising, and the Scottish unis are not just keeping up but leading the charge. Whilst I may joke about sending so many teams for “development”, it is fantastic that so many universities can enter second/third teams, and all of them look strong. I’ll be watching with interest at how these teams do – after all, it’s the future of the sport!
Whatever happens regarding my predictions, I am certain that this weekend will have close fought games, loud sidelines and an abundance of baked goods. Best of luck to all players!
Here are my predictions for what will go down in the far North!
Follow me on twitter @A_Bechtel62 for updates and puns throughout the weekend!
Feature photo by Sam Mouat.