UK University Ultimate 2017/18: BUCS Men’s Second Leagues Preview

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Our new second leagues writer Tom Claxton gives a quick recap of last season, and a preview of who will be the big names fighting for promotion this year.

Welcome to the second leagues: full of grit and determination, where a team’s Nationals prospects can be made or undone in just a single game. And with the weekly league structure it is not just your prospects for this season, but for the following as well. Promotion into the top leagues guarantees a Division 1 or 2 Nationals place the following year. But this requires a team to be near undefeated for the entire year, which is made further challenging by having to play on average eight games a season with a lot of travelling and persuading players to make up numbers.

Three regions (North, Midlands, and South East) have two second leagues (2A and 2B), from which only the top team gets promoted each season. The Western region however only has one second league this year (Western 2A).

Alongside the league system is a set of cup matches, with one cup for each of the four regions mentioned above. The two cup finalists from each region get to go to Division 3 Nationals, along with the seventh and eighth placed teams from the Scotland 1A league. This does mean that there is no qualification for Nationals based on league performance, and it can occur that a team finishes mid-table in their league, yet still makes Nationals. Last season this is precisely what happened to Sussex 2, coming fifth in the South Eastern 2A league, however then becoming one of the cup finalists in a thrilling, giant-killing campaign.

Division 3 Nationals last year culminated in a gold and silver for Oxford and Newcastle respectively, alongside impressive undefeated league performances (and promotions) from both teams. Sheffield achieved bronze last year, but were sadly unable to secure promotion themselves, losing away at Bangor in the final game of the year, upon which Bangor gained promotion via the head-to-head rule.

Elsewhere in the leagues, Southampton managed to edge out of a three-way tie between Plymouth and Exeter 2 to gain promotion from Western 2B league. Imperial, Nottingham Trent, LSE and UWE all maintained unbeaten league records to get promoted, although none of them were successful enough in the cup to qualify for Nationals.

This season will also see the second leagues joined by the eight relegated teams from the top leagues. Will they be able to bounce back up immediately, or will a resident team pip them to the post? Here’s a summary of our favourites for each league this season.

 

North

Northern 2A

Last year saw both relegated teams enter the Northern 2A league. This meant that it was always was going to be tough to be the only promoted team out of Sheffield, Liverpool, and Bangor.

With Bangor promoted (but no-one relegated into the league) our favourites are Sheffield. Only narrowly missing out on promotion last year, captain Tomas Benavides Clark is confident of their chances this season. They have had a good intake of freshers, alongside Jonny Ellis (LLLeeds) attending on a Masters course, it’s hard to see anyone beating them this season. Which should then lead to Sheffield topping the league.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Sheffield
  2. Liverpool
  3. Keele

Northern 2B

This is the largest of all the leagues, with 10 teams taking part. Both relegated teams from Northern 1A (Durham 2 and York) join the league, alongside highly placed finishers Hull, Northumbria, and Durham 3 from last year.

Seeing how well Durham 3 performed last year, our favourites for this year are Durham 2. According to last year’s club captain Dylan Spiers, Max Clifton and Ollie Baines have been heavy losses for the team, but Dom Stafford and Tom Lamport are expected to pick up this slack well. Having a first team training hard to win the top league will hopefully to trickle down to the second team through joint trainings and experienced coaching.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Durham 2
  2. Hull
  3. Northumbria

 

Midlands

Midlands 2A

Last year’s Division 3 Nationals winner Oxford hailed from this league, which was unlucky for the strong resident teams. Leicester won all of their other matches, and UEA joined Oxford in qualifying for Nationals. However this year the residents are joined by another traditionally strong team, Cambridge, who finished fifth in Division 2 Nationals last year.

Their strong finishing last year makes Cambridge our favourites, with captain James Richardson telling us: “I think we still have enough quality to be in with a chance of promotion. Our term hasn’t started yet so I don’t know if there will be a few promising freshers, but we’re always hopeful. I do know of a couple graduate students starting this year.”

Predicted Top 3

  1. Cambridge
  2. Leicester
  3. UEA (Aye-Aye)

Midlands 2B

With Nottingham Trent promoted, and Warwick 2 relegated, this league has more than half of its members as second teams. However the resident first teams have shown that they are more than a match for them, as Worcester were edged out of second place last year by Nottingham 2 on goal difference.

Due to their strong fourth place finish at Division 2 Nationals last year, our favourites for this league are Warwick 2. First team captain Willem Garnier hopes that they can achieve re-promotion, despite a considerable number of the second team players joining the ranks of the first team this year. He is confident that, given last year’s coaching from Andrew Hillman (Clapham Ultimate), and adding “some of the most talented freshers we’d ever seen”, they can be one of the top teams in the league.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Warwick 2
  2. Nottingham 2
  3. Worcester

 

West

Western 2A

This year marks a new change for the Western region. Due to this region having fewer teams than others, the Western 2A/2B leagues from last year have combined into one nine-strong league. This brings strong teams together who may not have had experience playing each other recently, as well as longer journeys for the away teams. Cardiff, Plymouth and Exeter 2 will all be in primary contention for the top spots, alongside relegated FXU (Falmouth) and Winchester.

Whether there is only one promotion spot or two is uncertain, but our favourites are Cardiff. Cardiff captain Dan Finch is “feeling very optimistic this year”, with “a much larger squad with greater depth than we have had in the last couple of years.” They were disappointed in not being able to challenge for Nationals last year, and this year that will certainly be an ambition.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Cardiff
  2. Plymouth
  3. FXU

 

South East

South East 2A

Last year, the teams that placed 2-5 in the league all achieved cup semi-final positions, with the fourth and fifth placed teams, Brighton and Sussex 2 respectively, advancing to Division 3 Nationals. With this experience under their belts, we predict that there will be many tough games this year. Although they missed out on qualifying for Nationals, Chichester and Reading have consistently placed highly in this league.

However they are joined this year by Surrey. Their bronze medal in Division 2 Nationals last year makes them our favourites for this season. Captains Ashley Long (SMOG) and Nick Barker (Fire) have a tough challenge ahead of themselves, as many of last year’s players have left the club, although they do retain Sam Fowler (Fire), and Mike Nally (GB U20) has returned from injury. They are focusing their efforts on introducing players from their former second team into the firsts, with aims of getting promoted back into the top league.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Surrey
  2. Reading
  3. Chichester

South East 2B

The smallest of the leagues this year, with only five competitors. Last year there were many close games, with league winners LSE only narrowly defeating Brunel in sudden-death, and Brunel themselves defeating Kent in a similar fashion. With St. Mary’s joining this year, it will certainly be an entertaining competition.

Our favourites this year are Brunel. Co-captain Harry Pearce is confident about their chances, but thinks it will be tough. “Last year we had an extremely fresher-heavy team and this year it’s looking pretty similar.” Once they start getting more experience Brunel could be quite the contender later in the season.

Predicted Top 3

  1. Brunel
  2. St. Mary’s
  3. Kent

 

All that leaves now is for us to watch this exciting season unfold! Midway through the season we’ll recap the leagues and update our predictions, in case you happen to prove us wrong.

UK University Ultimate 2017/18: BUCS Men’s Scotland Preview

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Oscar Nolan will be previewing Scotland’s university scene this year – here’s his introduction to the season, and our first preview of the year.

It’s that time of year, the university Ultimate season has rolled round once again. Club season is closing up shop for another year until the summer, Euros are over while the GB U24s are slowly getting their act together for their trip down under. Beginners have been recruited and engrained into the clubs at universities across Scotland. The graduates are deeply missing university Ultimate and thinking about masters, PhDs and the like. The opening game of the BUCS league is fast approaching and I couldn’t be more pumped to discuss this. Scotland is a region known for its excitement and a deep history of shock results. This year promises more twists and turns along the way so sit back, relax and let’s delve into the preview of the Scottish BUCS region.

St. Andrews

The reigning champions - St. Andrews.

Benji Heywood is now a “full-time” coach for St Andrews, the big cheese of UKU is now on a salary from the university and even has a desk, I hear. This can only mean one thing: St Andrews are just going to get better and it’s not clear whether anyone in this region can stop them. Over the past two years, winning has been the minimum expectation at St Andrews, their results prove this – UMIN champions and a top eight finish at UMON.

Some losses in the team include Lochlan “Goldilocks” Fisher (now at Edinburgh), Hugo Turner and Keith Fingland. Gabe “GB” Schechter is the man with the plan at St Andrews. Backed to the hilt by his SU with new training wear, logos, and merchandise they are attempting to open their own mega store for us to buy their brand. Connor Rock is looking to make a name for himself while Robbie Jones has achieved his lifelong ambition of becoming a first team player. Also, look to see Hannes Ludewig back in the side and vice-captain Aidan Steer backing Gabe all the way.

Connor Rock (Gabe was apparently too busy to give a preview) downplays the losses of the team and claims he doesn’t need them for greatness. A quick glance at the fixture list shows a packed schedule with Glasgow up first, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling and Heriot Watt. A stiff training regime has been implemented and confidence is high in the camp. It remains to be seen whether this team can continue this rise to stardom or crash down like a falling comet, with many looking to scalp them.

Glasgow

Gone are the days of Rory Curran, playing against Glasgow last year was a strangely enjoyable experience. Ex-captain Axel “Blondie” Ahmala saw his spirit scores improve greatly last season which undoubtedly surprised all in the community. A solid season for Glasgow saw them finish second in the table, third at UMON and a top four placing at UMIN.

Captain Joel Terry would do well to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps this year. The ever-present Christopher Chan is a doubt this year with doctor-hood well on the way. Fortunately for Joel, Alan Jeuken is there to lend a hand while the two ginger all-rounders Iain Campbell and Sam Finlay provide questionable comedic “banter”.

Losses include Duncan Webster and Axel himself but coming through the ranks include Doug Fraser, Fraser Kelly (ex GB juniors) and Julian Grant (ex-St Andrews). The first two games are arguably the toughest Glasgow will face with St Andrews and Dundee coming up. The reading for Glasgow does not get easier with the rest of their games are made up of Heriot Watt, Edinburgh and Strathclyde. It will be a real test but should they perform well in these, you could see them well on their way to Division 1 Nationals.

Dundee

Asif Arshad takes the helm of Dundee for this season. This team saw a difficult start to last year, losing to both St Andrews and Glasgow. They learned from these results beating both Strathclyde and Edinburgh while getting good points from other teams. This all resulted in third place and a trip to Division 1 Nationals placing sixth, and with a bronze medal finish at UMIN.

So, what’s new at Dundee then? Due to a diminished Women’s team Beth Hall will be hoping to play with the guys this year; yeah, you read that right. BUCS is technically an open sport so anyone can play including excellent female players of her calibre. Joe Hill and Angus Milliken have both departed the team in different ways. Fortunately, they have replacements in the form of Johnny Tofalis, Nick Byrne and James McGrath.

The fixtures for Dundee include Glasgow, St Andrews firsts, Heriot Watt and Edinburgh. A busy and hard fixture list, but Dundee won’t be fazed. Their goal is to go out and win everything including all Nationals events and the BUCS league. There will be some stiff competition, but I’m confident that this team will provide good entertainment for all concerned and make it to Nationals.

Strathclyde

Word on the street at the end of last year was Strathclyde looking to put in a second team for BUCS. Controversial, right? You would have thought Edinburgh or Glasgow would stake a claim on the next second team. In the end, they decided not to risk it instead sticking with only the first team, which has done well. Having lost the game to go to Nationals, they ended up fourth in the league last year and will strive to do better this year. Indoor Nationals was a disappointment but Outdoor Nationals was a great success of fifth in the country. In store for the boys at Strathclyde include Aberdeen, St Andrews 2 and Glasgow away with Stirling at home.

Youth appears to be the theme of the team this year with Andrew Warnock (GB U20s) leading the way. Backed by the steady hands of Cameron Mackie, Jonny Shaw and Gio Cabrera (Heriot don’t like to hear his name), he hopes to make a strong push for anything and everything in sight. Having lost only Jack Hughes and Ricky Deng, this could potentially be the strongest Horses team to date. I look forward with great interest to seeing how this team develops. In the words of the captain himself “we may be the Dark Horses but you should never count us out”.

Edinburgh

This year, Chris “Habs” Habgood captains a team that could really do some damage in the league. Last year there were difficulties against Strathclyde and Dundee, but positive takeaways from the St Andrews and Glasgow losses, which overall resulted in fifth place. Outdoor Nationals saw a Division 2 silver medal, and strong performances indoors. This season opens with Stirling and Dundee away while Glasgow and St Andrews 2 will come to the Burgh.

Christopher “Rocket” Burrows, Ian/Duncan/Bella Tait, Erasmus “Moose” Haggblom and Graeme Leamy have parted ways with the team, big shoes to fill here. Long serving Miroslav “easy options” Stankovic returns after a shoulder injury while Ben “Housewife” Preston is still around. There’s a multitude of second years pushing for places, leading the charge include young Teddy “King of the Lefties” Pilgrim and Joe “Sax” Pennington.

One hopes there won’t be issues with a random football team (c’mon eh corn) for pitch time this season. With fifth place finishes over the last two years, Habs sees a strong push for Division 1 indoors and outdoors but only time will tell if this is a team that is capable of living up to their capabilities.

Heriot Watt

Injury central, problems with fitness and not listening to medical advice. This appears to be a running trend within the Watt experience. It paid in the form of a few unfortunate losses and some scores that would worry any captain. The news does not improve from here with the likes of Cammy Dick and Andrew “MVP” Boxall graduating.

Leading the line is captain Fraser Stewart backed by Mike Carrell, Callum McLoughlin and ex-captain Gavin Nicholson. I hear Jonny Ridley is still kicking around Watt, keeping him fit may be the key to the Division 2 lock. Fraser is looking for a rebuilding year this year and finding the freshers to lead the charge up the table in years to come.

Their opening semester games sees away games at both St Andrews teams and Glasgow with Dundee at home. A stiff opening list where I see difficult games ahead, Heriot will not be fazed. The defying cry of “You Watt?!” will ring loud and clear across the pitch throughout Scottish ultimate once again.

St. Andrews 2

St. Andrews who? Last year was a good season for the only second team in the league, they came out on top of the three-way fight at the bottom. Apparently one of their targets last season was Edinburgh, that didn’t go quite as planned. These boys have a lot to do this year and I look forward to seeing if they can beat my prediction.

At the time of writing this article, St Andrews had yet to select captains for the season, showing their real investment in this team. Notable absentees from the team this year include Connor Rock, Aidan Steer and Robbie Jones who have both nailed down first team places. Coming through into the team include Matt Devendran (layout grab at trials) and Jack Symonds (full pitch throws, shock, right?). The Saints are hoping to bring a plethora of young talent into the team this year.

Their first semester games include Heriot-Watt and Strathclyde at home with Edinburgh away. These are tough matches; the seconds will look to take a chunk out of Heriot but the other two games will potentially not go so well. I don’t see this team getting the best of Aberdeen and Stirling at the bottom of the table but I have been proved wrong before.

Aberdeen

The former men’s writer named this team “Aber-doomed” last season but they snatched themselves from the jaws of relegation through a victory against Stirling and achieved a better points difference. They ran Heriot Watt and Edinburgh close last year, but came away with unfortunate losses but were crushed by Dundee, St Andrews and Glasgow.

It seems that it will take a while to rebuild the team back to the glory days but captain Edward Payne is looking to make in-roads this year. Aaron Roberts will be a major loss to the team but he is the only graduate. Edward looks to bring a few young names into the squad this year and push for Division 2 Nationals.

Aberdeen will look to make the BUCS league less of a struggle this year but we all know that the BUCS league is never easy. Up first for the boys in red include Strathclyde, St Andrews first team and Stirling. A short fixture list which includes two difficult opening games and a potential easy winner. Look for Aberdeen to get their Mojo back this year in the BUCS league.

Stirling

Hold the press folks, Fraser MacDonald is still at Stirling, remarkable. Instead of Australia convincing him to stay forever, he elected to come back and take on the presidency role. The role of captain falls into the capable gloves of Finlay Watson/up who has decided to take a break from highlight reels and trips to the disabled bathrooms to focus on Ultimate this year.

The intensity at trainings have been at the highest ever, due to the experienced setting examples left, right and centre. According to the cap, this is the largest squad that has ever played over at Stirling. Finlay will look to Fraser “Franchise” MacDonald, Peter “Clutch” Glasgow, and Daniel “Ding-Dong” McBride to lead the charge. Throw in up-n-coming Ryan “GU” Hill and you start to think this Stirling team might mean business this year.

With Edinburgh, Strathclyde, Aberdeen and St Andrews up first, this is a tough opening fixture list for the boys at Blaze. Aberdeen should be certain points but Stirling will be looking to avoid drubbings from the other teams. Will they make fifth place this year to climb into Division two or will it all go up in a Blaze of glory? Only time will tell.

Predictions

This is the bit where you get a laugh in derision because my predictions will not match yours. But let’s get down to it. I genuinely see St Andrews choking at the last minute and Strathclyde storming through to the top. Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh will have a tough three-way showdown for the third division one spot. I see it coming down to the final day with Dundee just pipping everyone to that precious Division 1 spot. Glasgow and Edinburgh will play in Division 2 this year along with Heriot Watt. The former two teams will likely be in the Men’s Outdoor Nationals’final with Heriot piling into the top eight. Stirling will come out on top of the bottom three with Aberdeen in at second last and St Andrews seconds ending up with the proverbial wooden spoon.

1st Strathclyde
2nd St Andrews
3rd Dundee
4th Edinburgh
5th Glasgow
6th Heriot Watt
7th Stirling
8th Aberdeen
9th St Andrews 2

UKU University 2017: Men’s Outdoor Nationals Division 1 and 2 Preview

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Another great collaborative effort from the UU team previewing the top two Men’s divisions in one!

Given how hard the teams have fought this year in the BUCS league, we figured it would be sad to just brush over the leagues entirely and go straight to a preview. Consequently, we’ve asked all our writers to give one final summary of how the season has gone so far, and use that to predict where they think their teams will finish. If you want to read a more traditionally formatted piece, feel free to head over to this piece on Reddit, after you’ve finished with ours, of course.

As a reminder, the teams were split into five regional leagues. The top three then got spots at Division 1 nationals (+ Strathclyde, who got the wildcard spot by being fourth in Scotland). The next three are all going to Division 2 (except Heriot-Watt and Winchester, who dropped out). The bottom two of each league are also demoted for next season.

UKU University 2017: Women’s Outdoor Nationals Div 1 Preview

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Ali Thomas gives us the Women’s Outdoor Nationals story.
University Outdoor Nationals is fast approaching. Students from all over the country are having to balance intense preparation for the biggest university Ultimate event of the year with dissertations and revision for exams. On the final weekend of April, 16 Women’s teams will battle it out at Grove Farm in Nottingham (affectionately known as the Wind Farm). Unlike the Men’s teams, who have had two terms of BUCS League matches; the women qualified through regional tournament under the North, West, East and Scotland structures that have been in place for the last three years.

UKU University 2017: Men’s Outdoor Nationals Div 3 Preview

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Harry Mason bring you the Division 3 preview with added BUCS League reviews.

Welcome to the true grit of UK Ultimate. The lower leagues. This is where you really earn your stripes in Ultimate. To truly prove yourself as a top team, you need to be near flawless all season. One loss in the cup? You don’t play nationals. One loss in the leagues? You’re unlikely to get promoted this year. And when one loss is so important, you’d better also remember how many games you’re playing. A typical team can play between around 8 games in a year, reaching up to 12 for some teams. That’s a lot of matchdays, a lot of travelling, a lot of pulling in favours, and a lot of haranguing players to come along to games.

There are four regions, each with two lower leagues. The top in each of the eight leagues gets promotion for the next year.

In addition, each region has a set of cup matches. The top two in each cup (those who get through to the ‘final’) get to go to Division 3 Nationals that year. Sure, it’s highly dependent on the draw. And sure, it seems weird that a team can get promoted and yet not go to nationals. That’s how it is.

NB: the final of a cup is not explicitly played, but those two teams that win their semi-finals get to go to nationals. Yes, it took me a couple of tries to understand it too.

Finally, those finishing 7th and 8th in the one Scottish league also go to Division 3 Nationals.

Right, with all that out of the way, here’s a summary of each league and cup. I’ll keep it brief, because we’ve got a lot to get through.

The Siege of Limerick Preview

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Tadhg Bogan previews the up and coming Siege of Limerick tournament.

The Siege of Limerick is back for its ninth edition and is set to be bigger and better than ever. The reputation of Siege has grown year on year, becoming notorious for showcasing some of the finest, intense Ultimate Ireland and Europe has to offer, all with a chilled out party atmosphere.

University Ultimate 2017: Women’s Indoor Nationals

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Our Women’s team take a look into Indoor Nationals coming up this weekend!

With all other indoor tournaments out of the way, we’re left with the toughest and best to go – Women’s Indoor Nationals (UWIN). And there’s no more fitting venue than the soon to be retired Alan Higgs centre. It’s seen some amazing Ultimate over the years, and this tournament is looking to be a fine one to end its position as one of the best remembered Indoors venues in the country.