UKU Regionals: South Mixed preview

Mixed, Previews

Ali Thomas has analysed the teams playing Mixed Regionals this year and makes her picks on who finishes where. Here’s what she thinks will go down in Edenbridge.

The Tour season has finished, but competitive Ultimate is far from over. Eight southern teams will make the trip to Edenbridge to vie for three places at Nationals. There are some old teams, some new teams, some teams who are in it to win it and some who are just there to chase some plastic around and have a good time. Here’s a rundown of which teams fit into which category.

First of all, incredible kudos to the JR ladies for playing in Open Tour. Managing to stay comfortably in B Tour by the end of Tour 3 (with only nine players) is ridiculous. Couple that with an overall eighth place finish at Mixed Tour and you’d be forgiven for assuming that JR train often and hard (they never train. As if they weren’t already unbelievable enough). According to co-captain Charlotte Kennedy, they’ve had a tough year integrating new players into the team (which might account for their drop from first to eighth at Mixed Tour), but their experience over six Tours instead of three will certainly give them an advantage.

Reading have notched impressive results over all three divisions this season, but are looking to remind people that Mixed is where their strength lies. They came fifth overall at Tour, which is a bit of a step down from National (and European) champions, but are confident that they can win Regionals, and according to co-captain Joe Brown, are using it as an opportunity to “solidify connections and work out some of our plays and positions before we try and dominate Nationals”. Look out for their rematch against Deep Space, there should be some exciting matchups.

Deep Space
Much has been said about Deep Space; their ethos of Mixed and Mixed only, combined with an experienced and athletic roster, got them to sixth overall at Tour. Some were surprised they didn’t place higher, but Deep Space welcomed Tour as an opportunity to build connections as a team and not worry about results. Any problems that arose have no doubt been ironed out in the intervening months. Captains Sam Vile and Matt Hodgson will be aiming for top three if not the top spot, as well as revenge on JR, against whom they had a close loss at Tour 1.

Thundering Herd
Herd are a strong squad that boast players from a variety of London club teams such as Fire, Flump, and Chaos. This Tour season saw them slip down a few places from third last year to tenth, though whether due to the addition of three GB U24 teams at Tour, or some slight deficiencies in their mental game, I couldn’t say. Herd have stepped up their training in recent weeks and are determined to qualify for Nationals, but they will have to produce some major plays to upset the top three, especially since some of their male players may opt to play for their Open teams this weekend.

Guildford have the squad depth to consistently enter two teams to Mixed Tour, and their firsts finished a solid fifteenth. Despite this success, most of the team have been training and playing with other clubs for Open/Women’s Tour, so for them Mixed Regionals is a nice way to end the season together. They’re not a walkover by any means, but they’re not looking to qualify.

At the lower end of the Mixed Tour results we have Brixton, Curve, and Zero Degrees. These three London teams look to develop players and have fun doing so. They all know each other quite well and have been playing each other over the course of the London Summer League. Though they may have a tough time of it on the Saturday, their match-ups on Sunday will certainly be more enjoyable as they face off against local rivals.

Final predictions
Deep Space
Thundering Herd
Zero Degrees

The World Games 2017: what to look out for in Wroclaw

Previews, World Games Previews

The World Games 2017 opening ceremony is this evening, and the Flying Disc (as it’s called in this event) portion of the schedule starts tomorrow, with Poland kicking things off against Canada. The sport was added to this event in 2001, with Canada winning the first tournament on universe point against the USA in Japan and the USA winning the three events since then. While Great Britain are absent for the first time since 2009, there’s still plenty to look out for and the games will be available online here. Here’s a quick primer of what you might be able to see, and what could happen, in Wroclaw.

The USA have won the last three World Games titles, defeating Japan in the final in Chinese Taipei and Australia in the final four years later in Cali, Colombia as well as in Germany in 2005. I’m afraid this portion of the preview might be rather dull – they’re absolutely fantastic. Almost every player on this squad is a superstar not just in the USA but across the Ultimate-playing world.

It’s difficult to find a comparison across other sports for what Beau has been to Ultimate over the past decade; he’s shown players across the world what can happen when you dedicate yourself to not only the elements of training that affect the game directly – throwing, catching, cutting and so on – but also to gym work, track and plyometrics. He was the first globally-known player to be something close to a professional athlete and changed how players all over the globe approach training for the sport. Something like a mix between Roger Bannister, Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan might encapsulate it. He’s won two of these things already and is shooting for an unprecedented (obviously) hat-trick.

Outside of the mononymous Alaskan, the USA have an embarrassment of riches. Sarah ‘Surge’ Griffiths has been a star for Riot for years, while the Fury trio of Claire Desmond, Anna Nazarov and Carolyn Finney have won everything there is to win. Lien Hoffman plays for current powerhouse Brute Squad, while Sandy Jorgensen (Scandal) and Georgia Bosscher (Heist) add extensive experience themselves. Bosscher and Griffiths already have one gold medal, both having been been on the team in Cali. Meanwhile, NexGen stars Jimmy Mickle (Johnny Bravo), Dylan Freechild (Sockeye this year) and Chris Kocher (PoNY) have all made the step up to the highest level, along with fellow USA Men’s National team player Nick Stuart (Sub Zero). The only two players not to have been in London are Revolver teammates George Stubbs (who also already has a World Games gold medal from Cali) and Grant Lindsley (dude lived in a cave for several months, so there’s that).

This team will win, and I doubt anyone scores in double digits against them. Congrats to the four-time champions.

The Canadians feature a number of experienced players. Led by the trio of Mark Lloyd (GOAT), Morgan Hibbert (Furious George) and Catherine Hui (Traffic), all of whom played in Cali, they’ll be a formidable team. The whole squad played in London, all for the Men’s and Women’s teams other than former Furious George player (and MLU MVP) Brendan Wong, who played Mixed. There are two players from GOAT (Andrew Carroll and Geoff Powell) , two from Furious George (Kevin Underhill and Tim Tsang) and two from Iris (Audrey St-Arnaud and Jessie Grignon Tomas) with four more Traffic players (Laura Mason, Rachel Moens, Terri Whitehead and Jessica Rockliff) meaning they make up the bulk of the squad.

With international and high-level experience like this, Canada will be a tough match-up for anybody. They have athletic ability, some excellent handlers and in Hui and Lloyd they have two of the best players in the world. They’re very strong contenders for a medal – I fancy them to succeed against the field but can’t see them making too much of a mark on the USA juggernaut.

The Aussies are the third most successful nation at the World Games, having medalled in the last three Games. They’re defending a silver medal from Cali and have superstar Cat Phillips, captains Sarah Wentworth and Peter Blakelely and handler Seb Barr returning from that team. The rest of the team is made up almost entirely of national team players from London, with only Rebecca Brereton having missed out on that event. The Aussies always rely on strong fundamental skills and excellent fitness. They seem to excel at grinding out results and one of their strongest attributes is always the chemistry they possess as a squad.

The team is relatively young, though, and missing perennial fixture Tom Rogacki for the first time in a while. Both Wentworth and Vivan Stettner are 42 years old and will bring their experience to a squad with only one other player outside their 20s (Blakeley is 30) but it will be interesting to see how they fare against the top two. Given the situation of other teams in Poland, though, they’ll be in the mix for a medal. I think they’ll come home with some bronze medals.

Colombia are looking to make an impact again.

Colombia are the best-case scenario for the hosts, Poland. They qualified as hosts four years ago but have blossomed into a true global power. Their women, particularly, have performed superbly since their sudden-death loss to Canada in the bronze medal game in Cali, winning silver medals in London. All of the women in their squad here were part of that team, including Laura Ospina, Elizabeth Mosquera and crucially Yina Cartagena. Cartagena is generally regarded as one of the finest players in the world, and her performance in the final of WUGC last year, where she was involved in four of Colombia’s seven goals against yet another powerhouse USA team, confirmed that standing. She is an outstanding handler with exceptional footwork downfield – she’s one to watch if you get a chance. So are the Cardenas twins, who are competing in the World Games – the pinnacle of our sport, remember – at the age of 17, which is frankly outrageous. Both are excellent players already, and with so much time left before they hit their peak Manuela and Valeria have a chance to be both the present and future of Colombian Ultimate. (See from 55 seconds here for what they can do. That block is just filth.)

Their men are no mugs either. Alexander Ford, Santiago Montano and Julio Duque return from Cali as well, and Duque, Mauricio Martinez and Ivan Alba were three of the highest scorers for the Men’s team in London. Their men are always athletic and physical, and they will certainly stand up to the challenge of the bigger teams. You sense that this team will go as far as their women can take them, though, particularly Cartagena and Mosquera, who is an outstanding cutter who excels in creating play after making the first cut. I think this they’re going to be fighting with the Canadians and the Aussies for the hardware behind the Americans, and if I had to guess I think they’ll be left on the outside looking in.

This is the hardest team to project. The Japanese are always strong and are the other team to have won a medal at the World Games – only four teams have done so. However, the controversy around Buzz Bullets has cost the team a number of their best players – superstars Masahiro Matsuno and Taiyo Arakawa were on the squad to start with, as were 2016 Men’s team members Keiichiro Shiba, Kurono Masahashi and Yuti Inomata. It’s still unclear what happened to cost Japan these players, but they’ll certainly be worse off for it. Matsuno may well be the best male player in the world outside of North America, while Arakawa was a heat-seeking missile in London, scoring a huge number of points with his precise and devastatingly effective diagonal cuts.

The whole squad was in London, the vast majority in the Mixed division. Only Takaharu Komori and Taku Honna played Men’s, with the other five men in the Mixed team alongside three of the women. It’s likely that Andrew Kunieda, Goku Genshima and Ayumi Fujioka will be key players, along with Kana Kobayashi and Risa Shimada. Whether this team has the power to outlast their opponents given that they’re missing stars like Matsuno and Arakawa remains to be seen, but they’re still very talented and should be able to play that very unique Japanese style well. They also have more WUGC teammates than the other top teams, so that cohesion could play well for them. Still, I see them fifth.

The hosts look like the outsiders here. Their entire team played Mixed in London, and they finished second (in contentious circumstances) at Windmill. You’d imagine that they’ll play well together and that their team chemistry, understanding and cohesion will be excellent. However, it’s going to be tough for them matching up against the teams that are in the draw with them. Filip Stepniak and Filip Dobranowski are two very good players, and the rest of the squad are steady and more athletic than the other teams might be expecting – it wouldn’t be a surprise for Poland to catch some teams out early on in games if they’re underestimated.

Still, seeing this team win a game on home soil would be a massive, massive surprise. They’ve done an impressive job in preparing for this and have worked on their team for over a year. Hopefully they can see some return on that effort, give it their best shot and cause some upsets. Because if there’s one thing everyone loves, it’s chaos caused by the underdog.

1. USA
2. Canada
3. Australia
4. Colombia
5. Japan
6. Poland

Women’s Tour 3: the final epic preview

Previews, Womens

Hani Pendlebury always gives the editors palpitations with her incredibly detailed previews, and this final Tour of the season is no different. Here’s her view.

It is with a mixture of excitement and sadness that I sit down to write my final Tour preview for the 2017 season. As I have said before, this year’s Women’s division has opened up so beautifully to provide teams with the opportunity for weekends crammed with close competitive games. The kind of on pitch situations that are essential to push their play to the next level. So it is disheartening to hear that despite all these exciting developments, regionals has been cancelled due to lack of interest with just six teams having entered.

Whilst I fully understand the UKU’s decision to cancel, ladies – I’m gutted! With a 22-strong division all season we really can do better in making the most of our opportunities to get on the field and play some competitive Ultimate. Yes, you might have to play the game of ‘get spanked by Iceni’ which I realise is not always the most fun. But it’s another opportunity to spend a weekend playing arguably the best sport known to man with your awesome teammates. That is a beautiful thing. Let’s make it happen next year, yeah? Cool.

Right, rant over. Onto the excitement. Let’s see those pools!

    Pool S

The ‘S’ in this power pool definitely stands for spicy… What a hot and fiery group!

SYC (1)
As a team with quality running throughout their deep roster, SYC had a cracking Tour 2. Going undefeated all weekend they managed to bag themselves maximum points and their first ever Tour win. They made pretty handy work of their pool and their closest game all weekend was their fairly comfortable semifinal win over Smog 13-9. So are SYC the ‘new Iceni’, doomed to sit largely uncontested at the top of Women’s tour? My sources would suggest perhaps not. Word on the street is their offence is not looking quite as slick as it has been in previous seasons, leaving enough scope for a plucky young challenger to potentially knock them off their perch. Saying that though, it will definitely be a hard task to take the top spot away from this talented group of players!

Smog (3)
Another team who had a pretty good time in Cardiff is Smog. Described by some as the “surprise package of the season” they showed real class in Cardiff racking up some hefty score lines and pushing SYC closer than anyone else. What’s their secret? They certainly have undeniable chemistry amongst much of their roster, forged by time together at uni in the north and on former Women’s team Relentless. But they also have some quietly talented players who can do serious damage, especially whilst their opposition’s defence are busy downfield trying to shut down this team’s big name receivers. With a few additional legs in Birmingham to help keep their lines that little bit fresher, they are especially hungry for a rematch against SYC which this pool will provide. Honestly I’m not sure what I’m more gutted about – that this is the only pool game from this group that won’t be live-streamed or that Smog aren’t attending Nationals! Well, as a Women’s team anyway…

Swift 1 (6)
Unlike the top two seeds in this pool, Swift had a bit of a mixed bag in Cardiff. With a slimline squad of just 12 players, they didn’t quite have the consistency I predicted they’d need to advance into the very highest bracket. They definitely struggled with the pressure of the live stream too, but held their own against Nice Bristols on Sunday morning to guarantee themselves a top eight finish. It turned out that this was a sorely needed win after dropping down to just 10 players on Sunday after a few injuries. Unfortunately with only 13 players coming to Birmingham I suspect staying in the top eight may be a bit touch-and-go for Swift with plenty of larger squads jostling for position. Either way though, they will certainly dive head first into their pool ready to have a their first crack at SYC this season. Hopefully they can stay healthy all weekend and level-headed in front of the cameras this time around!

Nice Bristols (8)
In my Tour 1 preview, I suggested that Nice Bristols might be taking a slow-start approach to tour this year. As an established club with a strong core of veteran players boasting finely-honed connections, there certainly seemed to be more of a focus on ‘real life’ over the summer for the majority of their more mature players. But now that all of the weddings and hen dos are over I hear that we should see some familiar faces back in red for the final Tour of 2017… Whilst this is sad for the developing players in the club who won’t be making the trip up to Birmingham, it is of course very exciting news for this pool! If previous years are anything to go by I would expect to see Bristol to have a fair shot at the upper end of the seedings – though they will need to make sure there isn’t a single spot of rust in their offence if they’re hustling for a top four seed. Have they been training enough to hit the ground at full speed? I hope so!

    Pool T

The ‘T’ in the second of our power pools should stand for tenacious… Lots of gritty teams on this side of the top eight and I can definitely see plenty of numbers changing hands here!

GB U24 (2)
Although they are sadly back to just one squad again in Birmingham, GB certainly did not disappoint at Tour 2. With both halves of the split squad having finished on the podium following a nail-biting 15-14 finish in their semi-final match up, they certainly proved that they have some excellent roster depth. I reckon the selection committee for the World Championship squads are going to have their work cut out for them in deciding who to cut and who to keep! Either way though, with a decent handful of players returning to their home clubs for Tour 3 it will be interesting to see if they can continue their winning form as a single unit. They definitely struggled with consistency at Tour 1, so hopefully they can come out a bit sharper for their final appearance this season.

Brighton (4)
Brighton’s focus this year has always been peaking at Nationals. But with a squad of just eight players on Saturday and nine on Sunday, they will have to survive a pretty gruelling weekend in Birmingham in the meantime! Not to say that this team isn’t super fit (they are) but I doubt they will find it easy to cope with the fresh legs of their top eight competitors with such low numbers. They will definitely have been doing their best to bribe the weather gods this week in the hope of some blustery weather for zone, but unless the wind is compliant with their wishes I suspect they may find themselves locked out of the top eight by the end of Sunday morning due to sheer exhaustion.

Hydra (5)
Going into Tour 2 at the bottom of their power pool, Hydra knew they had an uphill climb if they wanted to advance up the rankings on Saturday. Although a strong team who have made some seriously impressive progress this year, they unfortunately didn’t seem to hit their stride until Sunday morning in their game against LLLeeds – though in terms of staying in the top eight this was an important one to win! This time around they’ll be looking to put in a more solid effort against the top teams from the get-go. This should be helped by the fact that they will have a few more fresh legs than at Tour 2 to bolster their efforts. However this of course has it’s own drawbacks in terms of team dynamic, so hopefully their new faces will gel quickly at the weekend for maximum effect.

LLLeeds (7)
As another team with their eyes on Nationals, LLLeeds have been using their Tour season to solidify their connections ahead of August. Though saying that, they are definitely out for some revenge in Birmingham against the likes of Hydra and Chaos! LLLeeds have ended up playing tight games against both teams earlier this season which they are hoping will fall in their favour for the final Tour, proving that they are worthy of a top eight finish. Helping them achieve this will be a number of their highly-decorated veteran players, but some rising stars too. In the words of ‘LLLegend’ Gemma Taylor describing their dedicated new talent Emily ‘Harry’ Potter: “Be afraid tour… Potter is coming. The most keen keeno I’ve ever met”. Hopefully LLLeeds can make some magic this weekend to climb back up the rankings and go into Nationals on a high!

    Pool U

As far as I see it, the ‘U’ in this pool is for unshakeable – you could say it’s a bold call, but this one should definitely go to seed.

Chaos (9)
Oh Chaos. As a new team to the circuit this year, they just seem to always be the bridesmaid and never the bride when it comes to seeding! Tour 3 sees them again start at the top of a pool which they should demolish fairly easily. Sadly this also puts them in the familiar position of having been bumped out of the top eight and thus locked out of top four, this time by virtue of Nice Bristols’ re-seeding. However as they are bringing their strongest squad to Birmingham (they will be joined by a nice chunk of their U24 picks) this weekend is their time to prove that they deserve to be taken more seriously – if they can utterly smash fifth place

Swift 2 (16)
Swift 2 had a bit of a struggle with numbers in the run up to Tour 2, taking on a few pickups late in the day to boost their squad. They had a challenging Saturday in their pool, fighting to put points past LLLeeds and Uprising, but they used the lessons from these tough matchups to snag some nice wins on Sunday. This included a frankly superb comeback from 3-7 down to steal a 9-7 win against Brixton! Whilst they have retained a few of their pickups from Cardiff, they are still a relatively tight squad of 13 – an intentional decision from Swift’s captains. Their aim being to develop a core unit within their second team who can take club’s strong legacy forward in future years. Smart development, Swift! I hope it pays off.

The Brown (18)
With their first and only outing of 2017, it’s nice to see The Brown return again to Women’s tour. Though I am a little concerned to hear that much like Brighton they will be taking on a full weekend of Ultimate with just eight players following some last minute drop outs. Whilst I hope that they give it their all, energy management and injury avoidance will be crucial as they find their feet as a team.

    Pool V

Man, ‘V’ words are hard… But after some deliberation, I found a great fit. I’m going to say this pool is vivacious!

Reading 1 (10)
After sending two evenly-balanced teams to Cardiff, Reading have shifted more towards a first and second team split for Tour 3. This is an effort to provide their Mixed players with an opportunity to play together, so expect Reading 1 to be fairly stacked out. Whilst Tour 2 saw both teams lacking the firepower to truly advance up the rankings, this time around they are chasing after a top eight finish and I dare say that’s an achievable goal. No matter where they end up though, teams across the division have been telling me that they are keenest to match up against ladies from Reading. Easy to see why, with the firsts going two-for-two on spirit wins thus far this season. Can they make it three in a row? We’ll have to see, but either way I think they’ll make fast work of this pool and roll on to their seeding match against Chaos with plenty of energy… That’s definitely going to be a game to watch!

Merseyside Women (a.k.a Liverpool) (15)
After being sadly absent from Tour 2 due to low numbers, it is great to see Merseyside Women back on the schedule for their second ever Tour appearance. Based on their performance back in Nottingham which included some very solid performances against mid-table teams, I am really excited to see what level their game can reach in calmer conditions. Whilst I’m not sure they will shoot up the rankings (unless they can topple Reading they’ll only be able to advance a maximum of two seeds this Tour) but with such strong leadership and a host of enthusiastic young players this is certainly a team to watch for the future. I am also super excited to report that they are running a Women’s tournament on the 12/13th September! Excellent effort Merseyside. If you’re not already attending, I heartily encourage you to speak to them this weekend and sign up.

Brixton (17)
After a bit of a gruelling Saturday in Cardiff against the likes of Nice Bristols and Reading 2, I was really pleased to see Brixton putting in some solid numbers in the Sunday round robin – including what sounded like a very intense game against Swift 2. Whilst I suspect they’re going to find pool play equally as tricky this time around, hopefully they can continue to build upon their experiences from Tours 1 and 2 as they progress through Sunday for their third appearance for their debut season. Keep grinding Brixton!

Reading 2 in action in Cardiff. Photo by Sam Mouat.

    Pool W

Pool ‘W’… Some wicked-good teams for sure!

Reading 2 (11)
With their first team coming off the back of two spirit wins, Reading 2 will be arriving in Birmingham with two plate finishes already secured under their belt. Whilst I’m sure there’s something nice to be said about a triple-plate season, these ladies will certainly be fighting hard on Saturday to guarantee their place in the top 12. Despite having fewer big names this time around with the focus on Nationals leading to a truer firsts and seconds split, Reading 2’s roster looks to have plenty of depth left in it to keep them top of this pool, provided they can continue to execute in the more crucial moments.

Red (14)
Red have had an absolutely excellent debut season, losing just three out of their total 12 games so far – all of which have been at the hands of a Reading team! Which begs the question, is this the Tour where they will finally break through and sneak a win in Birmingham? Only time will tell… But either way they’re pretty enthusiastic to get another chance to play each other. After a gutting 3 way tie in Cardiff that left them in the round robin they will at least be looking to secure their place in either the plate bracket, or higher if they can. Another young team with some wise leadership at the helm and heaps of potential, very exciting indeed.

Black Sheep (20)
Another northern team missing from the schedule at Tour 2 were Black Sheep. Perhaps as a consequence of this, they will be bringing a pretty large squad of ladies keen to get another bite at the Tour cherry! This of course will bring the inevitable challenges in terms of cohesion and pitch time management, particularly with the length of time that has passed since Tour 1 compared with the brief break between 2 and 3. But with a focus on playing their own game and having fun as a team, I’m fairly certain Black Sheep will find their flow again without too much trouble for another fun weekend!

Discie Chicks (22)
With their third and final outing of the season, the ladies of Discie Chicks will now hopefully be over those first tour nerves to take on teams like never before! They certainly made great strides in Cardiff with some much longer possessions on offence and a whopping seven points scored in their last game against Crown Jewels. Hopefully this weekend will see them continue to grow and develop in confidence – exactly what this team is all about.

    Pool X

Finally we have pool ‘X’… For Xenia! A pool full of developing teams who are certainly increasing the size of their skills.

Hydra 2 (12)
I’ve already mentioned numerous teams that will be turning up this weekend with a squad of just eight women. Hydra 2 are certainly able to imagine what those players’ legs are going to feel like by Sunday evening, having experienced exactly that scenario at Tour 2! Unfortunately in their case some injuries over the weekend ended up reducing their numbers to just six, resulting in them having to forfeit their final game against Uprising. Thankfully this time out sees them return to a much more full-bodied roster, with an interesting mix of new faces hoping to hold seed in this very enticing pool! Although the ragged line that attended Tour 2 will doubtless know each other pretty well at this point, again cohesion will be key as they progress through the weekend to try and retain their top 12 seeding.

Vurve (13)
After a frustrating Tour 1 Vurve arrived in Cardiff with plenty of gusto – snagging second place in yet another three-way tie, this time with Reading 1 and Red. Unfortunately their Sunday was filled with games not going quite in their favour, including a sudden death loss to Hydra 2! No doubt they will be out for revenge in their last pool game on Saturday where we will see these two teams face off for the third time this season. I would expect to see a very spicy game indeed with both teams giving their all, especially as the victor will guarantee themselves a coveted top 12 finish no matter how Sunday plays out.

Irish Junior Women (19)
I have to confess to you, dear reader, that I don’t know much about this team personally. However my sources inform me that these young ladies from the Emerald Isle will embody all the qualities one would usually expect from any self-respecting Irish team. So with that in mind, teams in this pool should watch out for some keen athleticism, gutsy plays and all round good craic! Certainly as a newcomer to the Tour circuit, they’ll have a perfect opportunity to catch the higher seeds on the back foot. Feel free to shake this pool up, Ireland!

Crown Jewels (21)
And last but by no means least, our attention turns to Crown Jewels. Another development team solidly plugging away in the lower bracket, but definitely making strides with every passing game! Great to see them putting away a load more points in Cardiff – hopefully they can continue this momentum and take things to an even higher level in Birmingham!

So there we have it! That wraps up my previews for Tour 2017 – next stop Nationals. Thank you to everyone who has helped me out this year by providing their insights and opinions, I honestly couldn’t cope with writing these previews without you! But most of all – thank you to all the Women’s players this season for continuing to make the division so exciting to write about. I can tell you for a fact that our Open writing staff are outwardly jealous… Great work all. See you at the fields!

Open Tour 3 preview: the midlands version of B Tour

Open, Previews

Jordan Brown finishes off his Tour previews with B Tour North in Birmingham.

While Tour 2 saw the northern B Tour teams duke it out alone in Salford, this time they’re lumped in with A Tour, C Tour and Women’s Tour in Birmingham. Despite there only being 12 teams in the division again, this time they’ll get the chance to cross over with A and C.

The seedings this time are a tad odd. Birmingham are seeded first despite having a tough season and finishing below BAF who ran out as winners of B Tour in Cardiff. They’re also ahead of Brighton City who will no doubt feel a little stung at missing out on A Tour after finishing 16th two weeks ago.

Further down the seedings, YOpen will be annoyed to be sat behind Fluid who they dispatched in the last game of the weekend.

So while the seedings are a tad messy, it won’t matter too much as the pools are bracketed appropriately, but it could mean some teams will have a bit more fire in their bellies if there’s a point to prove.

Looking at pool E, we have Birmingham 1 joined by JR and Fluid. Birmingham’s campaign has been one of the weakest in years, likely due in no small part to the departure of talismanic handler Marius Hutcheson. Still, Brum are always a force to be reckoned with and as long as they have the rest of their regulars, they should hold onto the top spot once the groups have played out. JR performed admirably having sent a Mixed squad to the last two events, managing to stay in B Tour at Tour 1 and win C Tour in the Welsh capital. Fluid did remarkably well in Salford, coming away with a top eight finish. The Bangor-based team aren’t going to roll over for either Birmingham or JR. This whole pool depends on the strength of JR – they’re Mixed again, so I’d expect Fluid could hop above them.

Pool F features a potentially smarting Brighton. They’ll no doubt be looking to vent some frustration having been bumped by the national squads’ inclusion, meaning that Vision and YOpen will have to batten down the hatches. Vision performed well at Tour 2, finishing fifth overall having come second in their pool. With this season being a bit of a homecoming for the Liverpool squad, they’re looking strong and backing each other up a lot. It may be enough to topple Brighton but they’ve also got YOpen to content with. In Salford YOpen came out of nowhere to beat Gravity and Vision and top the group, only to get knocked back on the Sunday. They’ll maybe begrudge Vision their seeding and, provided they’ve not lost their GB Junior contingent, they could very well do the job again.

Current B Tour (South) champs BAF top pool G which also includes longtime (friendly) rivals Gravity and EMO 2. BAF will undoubtedly be as strong as ever and utilise their blend of young cutters and experienced handlers to do damage. Gravity are well tuned to BAF’s offence and should be able to produce a tight game provided numbers don’t become a factor. EMO 2 sit at the bottom of the group and aren’t to be underestimated. They finished mid-B Tour a fortnight ago and are definitely up to the fight against both BAF and Gravity. With this being a fairly local tournament to them, I’d expect a fairly big squad that will punish fatigue from either of their competitors.

LLLeeds 1 are sitting pretty at the top of group H despite The Brown beating them 12-10 in the last game in Salford. While they’ve been looking strong, LLLeeds can expect a barrage from The Brown who were relentless in Salford when they took third place. Head to Pitch 16 at 12:30 on Saturday and you’ll no doubt see a an absolute humdinger of a match. Red complete this pool. Despite losing all three games two Sundays ago, they only lost narrowly and will come storming out of the blocks this weekend. Still, I’d be very surprised if they beat either Leeds or Newcastle.

Saturday’s quarters are anybody’s guess at this stage, but I think it’ll go to seed in that the top eight will end up in those spots. I can see the potential for upsets if seeds are held after the group stages, but I wouldn’t count on even that being the case. Similarly, for Sunday morning, the only potential for crossing into A Tour is likely to Brighton City if they top their group and beat SMOG or whoever else trails in group A. The only other possibility could be BAF catching a GB U24 team off-guard.

Looking ahead to the semis, I think the seeded top eight are the ones that’ll go through and from there, I’d back BAF, LLLeeds, Brighton and Birmingham.

Open Tour 3 preview: southern teams descend on B-denbridge

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Making his bow for the Show Game, Cloud City captain Andy Sluman previews the first-ever B Tour South tournament.

The town of Edenbridge has the pleasure of hosting the ‘other’ Tour this time around (and will be a test of the venue ahead of Southern Regionals in two weeks’ time). A fortnight ago, B Tour North received mixed reviews as an event. With just twelve teams and a large disparity in quality, many results were one-sided. In an effort to avoid a repeat of that, the scheduling gods have split this 20-team event into a top 12 and bottom eight. The winner of each of the top 12 pools go straight to quarters, while second and third go into a pre-quarter.

    Pool Predictions

Fire 2 had a good weekend in Cardiff, finishing second in B Tour, following on from their disappointing performance in Nottingham. They are the top seeds in Pool A and have been bolstered by four regular first-team players. Camden are without stalwart Tom Bannister-Fletcher after a nasty accident in Cardiff but with Dave Greenberg returning, they are likely to be of a similar strength to last time around. Reading 2 are always difficult to predict given the squad rotation between each Tour. Sources say they’ve rotated out Sam Gunbie but gained Mark Bignal and Dan Tanner, and should therefore be solid round the back with lots of young receivers downfield. Fire 2 should emerge from the pool as victors, but there’s certainly scope for an upset.

Pool B matches up Cloud City 1 with Helix and Plymouth. Cloud City have continued their climb up the rankings this year, and have the same “undeniably strong” squad that finished third in B Tour in Cardiff, along with the addition of Charlie Galloway. Despite high aspirations when merging established open teams ABH and Curve, Helix have underperformed so far, winning just two of their 13 games at Tours 1 and 2. Plymouth improved on their 51st place finish at Tour 1 with a 32nd place finish at Tour 2. Having beaten Helix 15-5 in the Pool stages at Tour 2, Cloud City will be confident of topping the pool.

Devon 2, Bristol 1 and Cambridge 1 make up Pool C. Devon 2 had a reasonably strong Tour 2, finishing 23rd. Their squad has been strengthened by a few of their regular first team dropping down for this Tour, but without their usual third team entering this time around, expect a broad range of skills and experience. Bristol 1 have had an interesting set of results this year. Having beaten Cloud City on Universe in their first game of Tour 1 and respectable showings against GB and Ireland, they then faded, finishing below their second team. They fared much better at Tour 2, finishing 21st, including Universe point wins against Purple Cobras and, interestingly, Devon 2. Cambridge have had a notable change in personnel this year, and were unfortunate to have been so highly seeded at Tour 1. They broadly held seed at Tour 2, finishing 38th. I see Cambridge finishing third in this pool, with a tight game between Devon and Bristol 1 to top the pool.

The final top 12 pool includes Purple Cobras, Brighton Legends and Bristol 2. Purple Cobras shot up the rankings at Tour 1, losing just one game (to Brighton Legends). They then had a solid Tour 2, finishing 22nd. Ryan Harris returns to the team but they will be missing the tallest 5’6” man in British Ultimate, Michele Gansah (ed note – this seems wrong). Brighton Legends are a stalwart of mid-B Tour, using their experience and unconventional tactics to bring consistent results. Bristol 2 have added some “extra height” for Tour 3, but if results in Cardiff are anything to go by, should have a difficult time making headway in this group. Expect this group to go according to seed.

Brixton feel a touch aggrieved to have fallen foul of the new methodology used this year to rank teams by their average performance. Despite finishing ahead of Helix, Bristol 2 and Cambridge at Tour 2, they have been seeded 13th and therefore unable to contest the top eight. I expect them to top Pool E while Kent should top Pool F.

Open Tour 3 preview: expect A Tour drama in Birmingham

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David ‘DP’ Pryce previews the final A Tour of the season.

The final Tour of the season always brings with it some drama. Even the eventual first draft of the schedule kicked up a fuss, but it appears that this has settled down. Clapham have cut down to one team (due to not enough players able to be fielded from their 40-man squad), and Ranelagh, Pelt and Rebel are included in place of their U24 brethren.

The schedule has reverted to a four-pools-of-four structure, as opposed to the top eight and bottom eight pools at Tour 2, where anyone in top 16 can potentially take the title.

In the first pool we have the 16-time National Champions, Clapham, whose combined team would be hard to pick against when choosing a favourite to take yet another Tour title. EMO are their main challengers going by the rest of the season.

It is more interesting to see who will take the seventh seed, and with such a strong showing from Ireland U24 in the last two events Limerick lads Pelt will be looking for this position. They can expect to be challenged strongly by Manchester, who lost to the U24s but took down SMOG (last seed in this pool), in Cardiff.

Having beaten Devon in their pool last time round, EMO will be looking to repeat the feat and get themselves back into a Tour semi-final (or even final) again. But two more Irish additions, Ranelagh and Rebel, will be looking to take down these two UK teams and there’s a good chance that one of them could claim EMO’s place in the top four and avoid a top eight crossover.

Chevron shouldn’t struggle in going through to the top half but again the next three (Ka-Pow!, GB U24 and Flump) could end up in any order. Flump will be looking to demonstrate they deserve their A Tour position after quite the topsy turvy week, finally being rightly left in the top flight. Ka-Pow! have gone from zero to hero (well 17th to eighth to now fifth) but have already lost to both U24 teams, one of which is the last team in the pool. Anything could happen between these three.

The last pool is one where results would suggest another hold for the top seed in the pool (Reading), however recent Scottish and London powerhouses Glasgow and Fire of London 1 will have something to say about that. Fire have had a rather slow start to the season but made up for some lost places by only losing one game (to Ireland U24) at Tour 2. They’ll be looking looking to get back into top eight contention. A short-lined Glasgow will hope to bring a couple more players to be able to truly demonstrate the strength of Scottish Ultimate. GB U24 Canberra will want to give all the teams in this pool a run for their money and will come out strong but I am unsure how they will cope whilst they are all still trialling and still split between two squads (with Mixed players in there too).

It promises to be another interesting weekend, with several of the fial Tour places still very much up for grabs. See everyone in the Midlands!

(Ed note – My probably-very-wrong-as-usual top 10: Clapham, EMO, Reading, Chevron, Pelt, Fire, Manchester, Ranelagh, Glasgow, Devon.)

UKU Open Tour 2: A Tour plus B Tour south

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David “DP” Pryce brings you his outlook on the top two Mens’ divisions in Cardiff this coming weekend.

With Tour “this is why I don’t make predictions” 1, Windmill and a very exciting WCBU out of the way, we move back to the rest of the regular UK season. Next up is what has become a staple of the calendar: Cardiff.

The changes we discussed last time are now in effect and so I will cover the top 16 A Tour plus some mention of the next 16 in B Tour South.