University Men’s Indoor Nationals 2018: Division 1 Preview

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Welcome to the University Men’s Indoor National preview for Division 1, where our writers have collaborated with me for an insight into their regions. There will be a pool-by-pool preview, and with 20 teams to get through. Let’s get to it!

(Note, since the schedule has the chance for more than one redemption to regain a quarter-final spot, the predictions will be final pool standings and conclude with who I think will win the medals.)

Pool A:

Strathclyde (1)

Expect big things from this year’s top seed from Scotland. Following on from a very convincing 14-6 victory to win their region, Strathclyde look like the complete package. This crop of guys now boast incredible depth, and to shout out notable names would be lengthy. However, watch out for Jonny Shaw, Cameron Mackie (both Black Eagles), Giorgio Cabrera, and Captain Andrew Warnock; bolstered by an army of athletic guys who fall into two categories – the ‘cap’ squad or ‘redheads’. So, playing style? Nothing exceptionally notable. This is a team adept at hucks, overheads, running hard and beating zones. Seriously, for my money they are the team to beat. But will they win it? Strathclyde have a history of their mental game affecting their potential for medals, so we will see. I was wrong about St. Andrews’ beginning of a dynastic reign last year, but maybe it’s the turn of the Dark Horses. Or surely just Horses; they’re no underdogs this time.

St. Andrews (6)

Boy, oh boy. sixth seed are last year’s champs? Ouch. Their Regionals team had notable absences: Captain Gabe Schechter and Arek Aspinwall (both GB U24) were unavailable due to GB duty back in November. Add to that Jack Lynch (Ireland U24) who has been away from St. Andrews and only available for national competitions, and there is the return of three elite level players. What to expect? Much of the same as last year really, but they will severely miss handler depth after some key graduations. Still a quality team with top players – Jack and Gabe will be two of the best throwers there, and Arek will look to continue his aerial dominance of late. I’d be surprised if they do not improve seed. Easily semi-finalists, and maybe another medal to be won?

Liverpool (12)

A bit of an enigma among The ShowGame ranks, Liverpool have a massive opportunity to upset the party in this pool. They are having a successful season so far at the top of the North 2A division and with a second place at Div. 2 UXIN but will the momentum carry them into more success? Perhaps not, this is a very tough pool after all. However, key players such as Sion Regan (yes, he’s still about), and Will Carter can prove to be enough firepower for an indoors team to cause upsets. It will be a tough weekend for them, and an upset in pool play may be on the cards but they are really up against it.

Bath 1 (15)

Will it be the their first team or second? Who knows how they will approach this one, or even how Bath 2 managed to win the regional final. Although neither Bath team played each other at Regionals, so yeah. In any event, we shall treat this as their firsts. Over the years Bath have demonstrated their depth. Will they have their eyes set on back-to-back medals carrying on from UMON? I am not sure, this is a tough pool, will be a rough ride but I do expect them to rise up the seedings in the crossovers. They will be a team no one will want to face during that part of the schedule, and as a low seed going in, that may cause a riot later on. After a look at some of their UMIR footage, their playing style seems similar to Strathclyde, so I’ll pinpoint that as a game to watch. Who will be better at their bread and butter? Probably Strathclyde.

Surrey (19)

A team which I have zero knowledge of. Zero. They’re from the Midlands right? Anyway, Harry has saved the day with some insight. They did not enter Mixed Regionals, so to qualify for Men’s Division 1 Indoor Nationals may have sprung a surprise or two in the early season. They did finish a respectable second in Division 2 last year, and three of the four semi-finalists are each in the top-tier this time around. So perhaps this team will provide a shock or two? Who knows. Realistically they’ll be coming in to have a good time, but any team that can snag a Div. 2 silver and qualify for the higher division next time around must be respected. There is room for an upset, but this is a such a tough pool.

Overall, Scottish teams will look forward to their well-earned top seedings for Nationals but this pool looks to be tougher than the number one seed would have liked. St. Andrew’s and Bath should both expect a quarter-final, and as such the top spot is very much up for grabs. But I’ll be sensible and stick to my gut.

Predictions:

1- Strathclyde

2- St. Andrews

3- Bath

4- Liverpool

5- Surrey

 

Pool B:

Oxford and Portsmouth and this years regionals. Photo by

Oxford (2)

A return to Division 1 for Oxford! Last year’s disappointment at having to withdraw from Div. 2 Nationals will be bearing on minds as they go back in as the number one team in this pool. So how has this transformation happened? A Sussex mass-graduation has helped, as has a huge post-grad recruitment drive, which Harry Mason has tipped to formulate a strong core. Captain Ian Roper (Deep Space) and a bunch of Americans will do the work for this team, which boasts a ‘mature’ playing style compared to their regional rivals. A former great team back in as second seed, but can they hold onto it? Sheffield were also regional winners, and Edinburgh will be tough. A tall order, but let’s see what they’re made of.

 

Sheffield (5)

Sheffield came in at fifth seed for UMIR and went on to win it, and now they arrive as fifth seed at Nationals… Nope, no medals here but this lot may still be a surprise package. Winning regionals for the first time in 10 years is no joke, and here’s why – this team have been playing together for years now. They will be well-fused and ready to conquer uncharted territory; the Regionals final proved exactly that. Look out for yet another trio – Sam Higginbotham, Max Larkinson, and Captain Tom BC. Three men looking to carry a team which, according to Sam, boasts no superstars but is a bunch of guys that play well together. He backs them for a top eight finish especially after a good season so far, however, I’m not too sure. The schedule places them in a tricky position to break into quarters, and their lack of Div. 1 experience may prove an issue.

Edinburgh (11)

Edinburgh are strong. Very strong. I will talk down a Scottish team at some point (sorry Aberdeen), but trust me, Edinburgh look the best they have in a long while. Led by heart-throb Chris Habgood (Black Eagles & GB U24) and bolstered by ex-St. Andrew’s Lochlan Fisher (GB U24), here are two players which have gelled well during the mixed indoor season, in which Edinburgh took second place at both Regionals and Nationals. They will likely rely on these two to lead the line but both are capable of clutching it for the team, and they also have a plethora of guys who may not look athletic, but will put in a shift. They can win this pool, and certainly reach the top eight. Beyond that I’m not convinced Edinburgh have the top-level experience to draw on when needed. Go on, prove me wrong…

 

Hertfordshire (16)

Two questions. Who is this, and why are they in Div. 1 Nationals? That’s exactly how Dundee approached their opening pool game at UMIN ‘17 and drew it 8-8. Lesson learned. It’s Division 1 Nationals and everyone has earned their right to be here. This is not the toughest of pools, but I doubt Herts have the quality to snag a higher seed. Currently second place in their BUCS league behind Sussex who failed to qualify for Division 1 for UMIN, I don’t know what to expect from the South. Maybe they have one upset in them? Maybe not in this pool. The teams above are strong, and Durham will be a big test too. No thrills here, holding 16th seed will be a decent enough result.

 

Durham (20)

Durham are in as bottom seed for UMIN, and probably the worst one to draw. An indoor team that boasts Will Collier, Dylan Spiers, and Steve Gillman are worthy of causing trouble for any team present. A huge game in the league against rivals Manchester just before Nationals could alter their mindset as well. I’m expecting these guys to play to their strengths, much like UMON last year where they were not afraid to dish it about between a few key players, which worked out for the most part. If these three are firing, then I’d expect them to be knocking on the door of quarter-finals. I certainly would like to avoid them if this was the case. Third in the pool anyone?

It’s time to be brave. I predict that this pool will be shaken up. I have Edinburgh to snag the top spot over Oxford, Durham to place third and Hertfordshire to finish bottom. You heard it here first.

Predictions:

1st- Edinburgh

2nd – Oxford

3rd- Durham

4th- Sheffield

5th – Hertfordshire

 

Pool C:

Dundee (3)

What to expect? I don’t even know and it’s my team. The team had a fortuitous second place at UMIR (Glasgow v Strathclyde semi-final, and Flatball missing key players), but here we are all the same. The season so far has not contained many successes, and Div 2. outdoors is basically locked in for the first time in almost 10 years. Are Dundee on the decline still? Well, Nationals will see a return for Angus Milliken and Sean Sproule who have been absent recently. However, key players in Mihael Dimitrov and Henry Loan add to a solid core with a point to prove that the team are better than what the results portray. It is perhaps a big ask to break the podium spots again, but top eight here will be the aim and who knows what can happen. Despite absentees from last year’s bronze, I’m confident Dundee are on many people’s list of teams to avoid. 

Bath 2 (8)

First, let’s commend a second team for qualifying for Nationals, let alone winning a region somehow. Although that result is a bit of a joke for the qualification process, I’m still intrigued to see what Bath 2 bring. Last year, this was a team that were well drilled on the basics, and possessed a strong zone. Strathclyde 2 also qualified a second team to Div. 2, and they too had a water-tight zone, so perhaps that’s the formula for any aspiring club wanting two teams qualifying. Most testing for this club would be deciding who will be needed on the 1first team and ensuring that they have the depth for both teams to compete for their respective goals. I foresee a team capable of getting an early break but lacking the quality to see whole games out, which may demoralise an inexperienced crop quite fast. The only way is down from eighth seed for Bath 2.

Warwick (10)

Warwick seem to have taken over as Midlands champions with back-to-back regional wins after Birmingham dominated for so long, but what does that mean – if anything at all? Last year’s 14th place finish will be regarded as a disappointment for a team that won their region. What to expect? I honestly don’t know – this isn’t a team that has had a good run at Nationals in a while but always seem to be present around the mid-table bracket in Div. 1. Harry came away from UMIR discussing the potential issues with Warwick’s lack of height, and if that’s the case then other attributes must be dominant for them to be successful. Without the recent history of doing well at Nationals, I just don’t see this changing for them. A kind pool for any team looking to sneak into the top eight, this will nevertheless be chaotic. Three-way tie? Warwick for second? Warwick for fourth? Grab your popcorn.

Imperial (13)

Watch out for Rolo. Dundee hearts sank until I assured them it’s not that one. Although winners of their region, they come in as 13th seed. Additionally to that, I’m not convinced that the East & London region possesses the depth close to others – see UMIN results from last year (Hertfordshire 15th; Imperial 16th; and St. Mary’s 18th). They will hope to improve on that finish, and this pool could be ideal for them to capitalise on just that. Games against Bath 2, Warwick and Loughborough can go either way. Without much to go on, watch Imperial embarrass me both in writing and on the pitch, but stuff it – they’ll just hold seed here.

Loughborough (17)

Like Durham, Loughborough are another team I’m tipping to drastically improve seed. Still retaining Dan Hillman, Omar Khan (both EMO), and Sam Wilson (GB U24); there are three players which teams will be pinpointing as major threats. Their playing style last year was incredibly slick and well suited to indoors, something which Alun Pinder has continued to highlight in his assessment of them at UMIR. Also, their second team were knocking on the door of Div. 2 nationals, so expect depth. Crikey, 17th seed. I fully back them to finish second here and even make quarter-finals, but they will have their work cut out starting from the bottom.

At the time of writing, the lack of knowledge on these teams concerned me. A week of scouting is much needed! But I’ll be confident of Dundee retaining top spot, Warwick and Loughborough fighting it out for second and third, and surely Imperial will beat Bath 2, right? Yeah, surely. Bonus fun, watch out for brothers Dan (Warwick) and Sam Wilson (Loughborough) fighting it out in pool play, will it get feisty?

Predictions:
1st- Dundee

2nd- Loughborough

3rd- Warwick

4th- Imperial

5th- Bath 2

 

Pool D:

Glasgow (4)

Screw Glasgow and their indoor dynasty. Every year this team always has the ability to win Nationals and it’s frustrating to see, or maybe I’m jealous due to Dundee’s poor transitional programme of late. Duncxel may be gone (Duncan Webster and Axel Ahmala, for those not well versed in frisbee power couples), but they still have numerous players ready to cause a riot. Iain Campbell, Sam Finlay, and captain Joel Terry (all GUX) form a core, as well as post-grad addition Julian Grant who won bronze with St. Andrew’s at the last Ravenscraig Nationals. What to expect? A professional attitude with a well-drilled team who trust each other. So close to a UMIN final last year, a bronze at UMON, and were hard-done by the schedule at UMIR – where the real final took place in the semis vs. Strathclyde. Among the mixed successes, the men’s title must be tormenting them. Hungry for it? Certainly. They will win a medal, it’s just a matter of which colour.

Manchester (7)

What’s that? Steve Dixon and Ollie Gray are still around? Oh. Lovely.
Top 4.

Reading (9)


Everyone loves some fresh meat in Div. 1. That team which they can count on to allow rest for some key players. I’m sure Glasgow and Manchester will have had that thought, and here’s why Reading should not be in that category. First, a second spot in a region which last year’s dominant Sussex failed to even qualify for Div 1. Second, Ryan Coones is back, they have picked up Hugo Turner from St. Andrew’s, and Harry has stated that Ben Wilson is one of the fastest in UK uni Ultimate. That means three key players which can lead this team to a decent finish, and sometimes that’s all you need if the chemistry is there. Third, going in as 9th seed will really help them out, and this pool’s bottom three places can really go either way. Expect Reading to be in the mix come pre-quarters. One reason why they won’t? Although I doubt Hugo will be relied on as an aerial threat, indoors can turn into one big game of jump ball. Once again, potential for a good finish, and pre-quarters on the cards here.

Birmingham (14)

The demise of a formerly dominant force in UK uni Ultimate has left behind some obscurity and confusion about what to expect. Second to Warwick in their region and yet to face major tests in the BUCS league, I haven’t a clue either. In my research no key players were mentioned (shots fired?), however, familiar faces may still be about. It’s time to reflect on a couple of facts. First, the Birmingham Ultimate scene is very strong, particularly the opportunity for competitive Ultimate there. Secondly, I refuse to believe that a team just two years removed from dominance will fall off a cliff. There will be experience among the ranks or graduates coaching behind the scenes. UBU may not be the team once feared, but they will be in the mix. Last season’s fourth spot at UMON proves that, when Dundee thought a 4-0 deficit would a fun challenge in the quarter-final. Medals? Heck no. Quarters? Maybe. A fortunate journey would be required though.

Aberdeen (18)

Should they have qualified? Well yes, and they will be relieved to not be dropped down. Although not a team many here in Scotland would have considered to be a strong outfit, they have begun to prove their worth. Whilst their women have always been very good at their mixed tournaments, the guys were recently making plays and competing consistently unlike I have seen before. Look for Captain Ed Payne, Andrew Hunter, and Daniel McElderry to lead this team. No superstars as such, but good fundamentals ooze throughout. They may be the sixth team in Scotland, but this region boasts a lot of depth. Not an easy ride if they’re in the mood but I doubt that a top half finish is possible.

A pool which will be split between a top two and a bottom three. The Glasgow vs. Manchester match will be tasty but I still back Glasgow to triumph. As for the bottom three, there is potential for anything to happen. But I doubt there will be change, and seedings will remain as they were. Extra bonus fun, there’s a third Wilson brother – Ben for Reading; yet they’re not even the best Wilson brothers in UK Ultimate. Rough.

Predictions:
1- Glasgow

2- Manchester

3- Reading

4- Birmingham

5- Aberdeen

 

That’s a breakdown of each team, so now it’s onto the broader statements. Those few teams which had GB U24 representatives in Perth will be relying on their recent experiences, so expect these players to return to the university scene in good form. Also expect clear pitch lines and a change to last year’s hard-court. Although it may not have shown, the Scots initially struggled to adapt due to the multiple indoor 3G facilities available north of the border. Teams who play a more outdoors style of offence may fare better. Finally, at the bottom, will we see a repeat of the feisty derby between Sheffield Hallam and St. Mary’s? Neither team will be at Div. 1, but at least for the neutrals, let’s hope we see two teams step up and entertain us.

As for the top eight, I think it will be a Scotland dominated bracket with three spots for our English guests: Strathclyde, St. Andrews, Glasgow, Dundee, and Edinburgh. The fortunate few to join in the fun will be Manchester, Bath, and….Sheffield or Loughborough? Let’s flip a coin. Tails. Congrats Loughborough. Finally, podium spots. I really want to place a Scottish top three, but I’m not sure that will be the case as the English teams will be well aware of the our strength and will be riled up and ready for an upset; I won’t be surprised if one or two take some scalps. No stuff it, Scotland let’s gooooooo!

1st – Strathclyde

2nd – Glasgow

3rd – St. Andrew’s

 

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