Our WUCC 2018 previews begin with Sean Colfer analysing Nice Bristols, who take plenty of momentum with them across the pond.
How did they get here?
Bristols have been around since 2004, and have been one of the better teams in the country for pretty much that whole time. They went to Worlds in Lecco and performed pretty well, finishing 22nd overall and 10th best of the European teams. They have never really challenged for the top spot in the country like Leeds did before them, but have been incredibly consistent and brought through a host of younger players from which they are now reaping the benefits.
Last season they finished third at Nationals after beating Rebel in the third-place game. After falling 14-10 to eventual runners-up SYC in the semi-final, they topped Chaos to ensure their qualification since Rebel were ineligible for a WUCC spot at Nationals.
How has this season been?
This season has been a significant one so far. They have beaten Iceni twice – both times pretty comfortably – and are currently sitting pretty in second place overall in the Tour standings. A surprise loss to a very strong Reading team at Tour 1 cost them a place in the final and the chance to be tied up with Iceni atop the standings. They overcame that disappointment closer to home, though, and beat Iceni in both games at Cardiff to take home the Tour 2 title.
Heading into WUCC, they look to be the strongest UK Women’s team. Their game is firing on all cylinders and they look confident in their systems and in each other – maybe the secret is in the ribbons.
How do they play?
Aggressively. They spread the field out and attack the defence in a variety of ways, always looking to take advantage of the two key areas of the field – the break and deep space. They have a stable of handlers across both lines (they don’t appear to run O and D lines, rather two separate groups who play together whatever the conditions of the point) who look to use squirrely movement and quick IO breaks to gain space and some tall, athletic receivers who are looking for space downfield.
Defensively, they play to restrict the opponents to swinging the disc in non-threatening positions. They achieve that with zone and match D and do it very well – Iceni struggled to gain ground in both Tour 2 matches.
One thing that becomes evident when watching Bristol play – they will mix things up. They have played a four handler-one mid isolation set, they’ve played horizontal stack and they’ve played vert stack this season. They’ve mixed up zones and played match D with different focuses. Once they find something that works they do stick to it and twist the knife, but they’re very versatile and willing to experiment to find the right spot to apply pressure to. They’re a lot of fun to watch.
Can you give me three players to watch?
Bristol feature some veterans that have been playing at this level for a long time, so I’ll point out three of their younger players:
Hannah plays as a point in their zone and plays the position well – smothers space on swings and does an effective job of limiting upfield movement. She’s very quick and active on D, always looking for ways to get a block or put the O in a difficult spot. Offensively she has a nose for the endzone and scores a lot of quick points after turns on the zone. Has had a good year so far and will be looking to carry that on.
Carla’s name isn’t an unfamiliar one for anyone who has any knowledge of the GB age level teams over the past decade or so. She played undr-20s for years having made her debut so young, and has played under-23/4s for some time since. Still only 24, she has a wealth of experience already and has been a wonderfully effective handler for Bristols so far this season. She walks the line between controlled aggression and taking wild chances very well and her decisiveness with the disc has been important so far this year.
Another GB under-24, Bailey has been making a mark for the last couple of years. Supremely athletic and confident on the field, she takes on the most difficult match ups on D and is a key cutter on O. When she has the disc she’s got some big throws, and when the disc is in the air – look out. She’ll turn some heads in Cincinnati and could be one to watch for the next GB senior rotation if her development up to this point is anything to go by.
What do they say?
Rachel Dean, the captain of Nice Bristols for WUCC, said: “Preparations have been going great, we’re absolutely buzzing to get going and make our mark in pool play. We spent a lot of this season focusing on the process; trying out new things, making changes and tweaks to highlight the strengths in our game. It feels as though everything is coming together at the perfect time, with a great team performance at Tour 2 and a new found confidence and belief on pitch. Now its all about the reward; trusting the work that we’ve put in and enjoying playing hard for each other against great opposition.”
How are they going to do?
I think Bristols are set up to do well. They don’t rely on athleticism too much but rather on good systems and throwers, which may make it easier to adjust when they’re facing teams with greater levels of athleticism – including Ozone from Atlanta who they draw in the pools. Matches against European powers CUSB Shout and Mantis, from Italy and Austria respectively, will define their tournament.
I fancy them to give CUSB a real challenge for the second spot in that pool, and if they can get that then they stand a decent shot at a top-16 finish. It’ll be very tough, though, as the depth at the top of the Women’s draw is impressive. If they do finish in the top two, then they’ll go into a tough power pool likely to feature HUCK (Japan) and Traffic (Canada). If they lose those games, they’d play a top-16 qualifier against Atletico or Helsinki (both Finland), which would be a very difficult game since Atletico are the reigning European champions. If they finish third in their initial pool, they’re likely to run into SYC and have to play a team like MUD (Japan) or Ellipsis (Australia) in the top-16 qualifier instead. All of these options are really difficult, but that’s what you’d expect at a tournament like WUCC. I’m not sure they’ll be able to top teams like that and get that top 16 place given the depth in the division.
This prediction might be a tad pessimistic and they certainly have the talent to better it, but I’ll say that Bristols will finish 15th – and will be the highest placed UK team.