UK University Ultimate 2017/18: Men’s Outdoor Nationals Division 2 Preview

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Writer Oscar Nolan brings us his perspective on Men’s Division 2 Outdoor Nationals, a.k.a. The BUCS Trophy

We’ve had the Beast from the East. We’ve had storm Emma. I’m sure that many of us have missed plenty of training sessions due to the horrid weather. However there are whispers that 60 days of sunshine are headed our way just in time for Men’s Nationals down at Nottingham Windfarm. Taking a glance at the forecast reveals sunny spells and wind speeds of just 10mph. I will be covering the middle division (Division 2) in this preview which has been dubbed the “banter” Nationals by some. However there are some strong competitors this year: last year’s finalists Edinburgh, the ever-present Leeds, fresh-faced Southampton and aged Oxford are among some of the strong names on the schedule this year. Last year saw heartbreak for Edinburgh at the hands of a Midlands team once again… could history repeat itself? You’re still reading?! Awesome, let’s get stuck in!

Edinburgh (Ro Sham Bo)

League Finish: fourth in Scotland

Last Year’s UMWON: second in Division 2

Notable Results: Losses to the top three Scottish teams has kept them out of Division 1 again.

Strengths: Excellent handlers on the field with tall deep receivers, who love a zone and like to think that they can beat all comers. Captain Chris “Pancakes” Habgood and Lochlan “Loreal” Fisher bring that GB know-how of winning important games. Glance away for one second and you’re likely to see the cutters charging away from you into your end zone for a score. They don’t mess about, they love to win and they know they’ll win almost every game.

Weaknesses: Throwing hammers to the opposition and biscuits. Short supply of handlers due to injuries and post-dissertation holidays.

The Captain’s Message: Chris Habgood’s response to my questions about Div. 2 went something along the lines of: “turn up, throw bombs, beat most of the English teams, get to the final, lose to the best English team and finish the year second in Div. 2.” Short sharp and to the point as always Habs!

 

Dundee

League Finish: fifth in Scotland

Last year’s UMWON: sixth in Division 1

Notable Results: Beat Heriot-Watt on universe, marginal loss to St Andrews 1 (13-11) and a narrow escape from Aberdeen (10-8).

Strengths: All of Dundee’s squad have been attending Glasgow Ultimate trainings during Club Nationals year which can bolster any team’s sense of togetherness and bonding. All of their experienced players will be around for Nationals this season with a few fresh faces playing hard for the team.

Weaknesses: Commitment from senior players at BUCS fixtures has hurt results in previous BUC fixtures. Relatively inexperienced squad could mean cracks form under pressure and loose hands in important moments.

The Captain’s Message: Haydon Christou predicts Dundee will make it into the quarter-finals and might come away with a medal if the results swing their way. He expects to see a shift from himself and anticipates greatness from Mihael Dimitrov, Johnny Tofalis, and Nick Byrne. He notes that his young players already have a tournament title under their belt after winning Rookie Rumble and he hopes that this will give them the know-how to work hard in those tougher situations.

 

Oxford (OW)

League finish: fourth in the Midlands

Last Year’s UMWON: Division 3 champions

Notable Results: Narrow victory over Warwick (13-9) and Nottingham Trent (12-9) but narrow loss to University of Nottingham (10-7) leaves them in Div. 2.

Strengths: Grit and experience from individual players.

Weaknesses: A six-week long Easter break means that Oxford will barely have trained the week before Nationals. Plus some injuries have forced some changes to the Oxford line up this year.

The Captain’s Message: Ian Roper believes that Oxford should be challenging to win Div. 2 this year, which would be their third Men’s Outdoor Nationals trophy in the cabinet in three years. He believes a fight will be on hand to claim the crown though. All the veterans are back in the Oxford line up (you’d have thought some of them would have graduated by now…). Harry “ShowGame” Mason, Ian (the captain), and a couple of US players are expected to lead the line. Apparently they have a couple of “new” faces on the scene…. Oxford’s tagline: Good at winning trophies in Nottingham (now featuring: some Undergrad players!).

 

Warwick (Bears)

League Finish: fifth in the Midlands

Last Year’s UMWON: 11th in Division 1

Notable Results: Close 14-13 loss to Loughborough and victory over Nottingham Trent 11-4.

Strengths: Some excellent players on the team including Adam Carver (recently selected for the Chevron WUCC squad). These players are mixed in with some younger players called up from the second team in order to give them some added experience. There is a bright future for this club with its strength and depth.

Weaknesses: Mentality; they took half against both Nottingham and Loughborough but ended up losing their nerve in the second half resulting in two significant losses. Injuries mean that this team has been cut down in size and a smaller squad will be attending Men’s Nationals this year. The old refrain of exam clashes means that some of their senior members will be missing for this year’s Nationals, which could weaken them even further.

The Captain’s message: Willem Garnier will lead the line for Warwick this year. He states that they should have beaten Loughborough since they destroyed them in the first half but the team came over all nervous, dropping discs and losing out on universe. Also, around eight first team regulars bolstered by some second team players will form the core of this year’s Warwick squad. He expects his star name to perform well and foresees many of the second team players stepping into the shoes of those players unable to attend. Willem reminds me that the Midlands have won Div. 2 & 3 for the past three years and he expects that streak to continue this year.

 

Nottingham Trent (NTU)

League Finish: sixth in the Midlands

Last Year’s UMWON: Did not attend

Notable Results: Bulldozed by Birmingham (15-1) and Nottingham (15-2) and a narrow loss to Oxford (12-9)

Strengths: The team has undergone a baptism of fire this year in the strong Midlands division and they have gelled well as a unit. There are many fresh faces on the team this year which will bring a fresh look to this team.

Weaknesses: The fact that there are so many fresh faces means that NTU have had a rebuilding year and thus have struggled in the league. Their team is predominantly made up of these fresh faces with a few experienced players sprinkled amongst the team.

The Captain’s Message: Kai Birch is the figurehead around which the team will rally at this year’s Nationals. He acknowledges that the team have struggled this year in the BUCS league and have ended up on zero points, but he hopes that his team will hold seed this year at Div. 2 Nationals. He expects Alex Page and Josh Wilkin to take on more dominant roles in the team and multiple freshers stepping up to the plate. The aim is for the team to learn more from the weekend and become more of a unit while looking to give teams in the division a good challenge.

 

Newcastle (Too Many Pies)

League Finish: fourth Northern

Last Year’s UMWON: second in Division 3

Notable Results: Narrow victory over Sheffield Hallam (8-7) and Leeds (9-6) plus a cheeky walkover was awarded to Newcastle since Bangor were unable to field a team.

Strengths: Playing in the wind? They love to play against the zone and their give-gos are sublime to behold. Look out for their mean zone to pin you back during the games.

Weaknesses: Maintaining offensive structure (classic for most teams, especially at the Windfarm).

The Captain’s Message: Fred Davies expects his team to work hard. He sees Newcastle getting a medal this year as they have shown their strength and will avenge the dreaded three-way tie for Div. 1 by taking Div. 2. There are no big names or big egos in this team, they play as a tight unit and players graft hard to grind huge results. I expect big things from this Newcastle team after their tough talk.

 

Leeds (Gryphons)

League Finish: fifth Northern

Last Year’s UMWON: seventh in Division 2

Notable Results: Narrow victory over Sheffield Hallam (11-10) and narrow loss to Newcastle (6-9)

Strengths: Athleticism and fitness are qualities that Leeds pride themselves on and they back themselves to beat anyone on the field in a foot race. Youth is going to become a key strength for this team further down the line but right now they do have a bunch of first team players in their final year that are available for selection. I see this team being an absolute wall of defense, patience and persistence are likely to be the keys to the end zone of this team.

Weaknesses: Inconsistency seems to be another key quality that Leeds can’t get rid of, you need only go far back as Div. 2 last year after they slipped up against Warwick 2 and dropped all the way into the bottom bracket of the tournament. They claim that they don’t have the required offensive handlers but I personally have always been impressed by Leeds when I watch them play, we can wait to see if this is a weakness on the weekend.

The Captain’s Message: Nate Salter has recently been thrust into the captaincy picture for Leeds in his second year of ultimate and this will be his second tournament for Leeds as a player at Nationals level, having previously just captained at this year’s snow ridden UXON. Nate hopes that his team is behind him at Nationals but he claims he’ll have to be focused on the line and make astute tactical decisions. Unfortunately, Leeds are losing a couple of senior players this year: long-serving Nic Peters and ex-GBU24 Jonah Leake are a few of the star names who will be leaving the Gryphons at the end of the season. Nate predicts he will have to find the balance between fitting in all the star names and bringing in the younger players who will be the future of Leeds.

 

Bangor

League Finish: sixth Northern

Last Year’s UMWON: Did not attend

Notable Results: Two walkovers awarded against them to Sheffield Hallam and Newcastle as there weren’t sufficient numbers to field a team but they smashed Leeds (15-3).

Strengths: Experience of high-end Ultimate players such as Ed Simpson and Dom Knight look to lead the way.

Weaknesses: Numbers, the team have struggled this season to field teams for games and hope to manage to field a squad this weekend.

The Captain’s Message: Josh Camilleri steers this understaffed team to Nationals this season. Undoubtedly disappointed by the walkovers awarded this season, he will be relying on his experienced players to step up on the big stage this year and perform well. With a bigger squad at Nationals he would expect top half of the division to be easy but he expects legs to tire on Sunday. Look for Bangor to work hard on the field this year to make up those walkover games

 

Swansea

League Finish: fourth Western

Last Year’s UMWON: sixth in Division 2

Notable Results: Beat Southampton (14-9) and Bristol (11-10) but voided match with UWE after a long spat couldn’t be sorted out

Strengths: Their win at the start of the season has resulted in a morale boost in the camp with a good core of players playing together for three years resulting in grit in those all important universe points. New players have shown desired commitment and have developed their game.

Weaknesses: Decision making on the field, they love a 50:50 throw. It’ll be difficult to gel the newbies and the vets too.

The Captain’s Message: Will Waddell is well aware that there are a lot of good teams in Div. 2 this year and it’ll be tough at the start for the team to gel. He sees them significantly improving from the start of Nationals right up until the end of Nationals. There’s a few players leaving the club at the end of the season and Will wants his team to go out and play their best. Whatever happens, Will’s excited to captain his team at Nationals while playing the sport he loves.

 

University of Western England (UWE)

League Finish: fifth Western

Last Year’s UMWON: Did not attend

Notable Results: Voided match against Swansea. Beat Southampton (15-9) but lost to all other teams by large margins.

Strengths: They love a scrap UWE, always up for a dog fight. They are a very versatile team with players able to handle and cut.

Weaknesses: A young team may prove inexperience and lose the ability to be clinical at the important moments.

The Captain’s Message: Chris Deegan believes that his team have come on leaps and bounds during the season. The strong handler sets in Dan Moss and Joseph Friend will bring some good opportunities in the upcoming games. Chris’s team are capable of trading points with the top teams of his league and he expects them to cause upsets during the course of Div. 2 Nationals this year.

Tristan Millington (Skunks) getting up over a group at UXON 2018. Photo by Ed Hanton.

Southampton (Skunks)

League Finish: sixth Western

Last Year’s UMWON: fourth in Division 3

Notable Results: Haven’t won a single game all season. Closest games were against UWE (15-9) and Swansea (14-9).

Strengths: Lots of development players join the squad this season with a small core leading the way. Skunks will bring fight to any opposition and a will to win.

Weaknesses: Mentality has come up throughout the season as a weakness and the team hope to prove that they can generate and maintain the correct headspace.

The Coach’s Message: Katie Allen is in charge at Skunks this season and says the squad will be looking to continue the improvement seen game on game throughout the tough season. She looks to up-and-coming players to take on larger roles as they begin preparation for next season. When asked about tactics, she wags a finger and says that’d be telling but Skunks have got a few different looks for this season and they are growing to be more game smart across the roster with the ability to adapt on the fly.

 

Hertfordshire (UHAU)

League Finish: fifth South Eastern

Last Year’s UMWON: 16th in Division 1

Notable Results: Conquered UCL (9-7) but couldn’t overcome any other teams who won with comfortable margins.

Strengths: There will be a strong team for Herts this year with most of their best players returning from injury or available for selection after absence due to exams or deadlines.

Weaknesses: Apparently they are taking nine players this year so a small squad that will have to run a lot. No rest for the wicked.

The Captain’s Message: Dan Forder tells me that he expects his small team to rip people to bits this year reminiscent of the time his seven-man team beat a fifteen-man Surrey team. He expects Ernie Simons and himself to lead the juniors into the Frisbee battle this year and get some hard work in. Dan is praying to every deity possible for this year that no one gets injured as last year someone broke their ribs in the first game. Touch wood eh Dan?! But he does expect his team to have a fire man D and work hard throughout the weekend.

 

Predictions

After reading all that you probably just want to close the tab and get back to work/revision/putting your feet up but stay with me, this is the most exciting bit! You’ve heard the captain’s thoughts, read some important results and learnt about your opposition this season but now it’s time for you to disagree with my predictions…

This year I foresee Edinburgh storming to the final with a strong squad (much like they did last season) only to lose out last minute to some Midlands team. I tip Oxford to be that Midlands team and win the title this year as they know how to win outdoor titles at Windfarm, having secured several over the last few years. Leeds and Newcastle will have strong weekends but will both lose out to Oxford and Edinburgh in the semis leading to a dog fight for third. I’m going to back Newcastle this year with a strong team with Leeds coming in at fourth. Warwick and Dundee will battle it out for the fifth spot and I predict heartbreak for Dundee losing out on universe. UWE, Trent, Swansea and Bangor will fill out the middle in that order with some excellent plays being made all around. I forsee a difficult weekend for a young Southampton team and a small Hertfordshire team with them battling it out to avoid the bottom place.

I expect lay out grabs, massive plays, strong highlight reels and some hilarious commentary from the ShowGame as always. It’s been my pleasure to preview this upcoming weekend and I’m sure that I’ll see most of you on the field, happy travelling!

  1. Oxford
  2. Edinburgh
  3. Newcastle
  4. Leeds
  5. Warwick
  6. Dundee
  7. UWE
  8. Nottingham Trent
  9. Swansea
  10. Bangor
  11. Hertfordshire
  12. Southampton

Feature photo by Ed Hanton

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