Andrei Mandzuk from Bangor Ultimate takes us through the Northern Region.
The weekend marks the start of the Northern University indoors season, with teams from across the region converging on Leeds to battle it out for prestigious spots at Nationals. The north consistently proves itself to be a strong but very open region, with an array of teams feeling that they’re in with a shot of qualifying. After going through what many felt was a developmental period for the region last year, it is expected to return to full strength with many key players reaching their final years of study.
I shall begin by providing short previews of top teams in the region in order of their predicted seeds. All content below is based on predictions from team captains and information gathered from the UK Ultimate rumour mill.
|One of the biggest regions and what a region! Image courtesy of UK Ultimate.
Manchester will undoubtedly be going into Regionals as top seed after consistently winning the region in recent years, and claiming a silver medal at Division 1 Indoor Nationals last season (ED: Second in 2012, 2011, 2009 and Bronze in 2010). Despite a high turnover from last year’s squad they have retained Chevron player Jake Aspin for another year running. Alongside this, their strength will be sustained by the maturation of GB u20 Simo Low and picking up GB u23 Mixed MVP Steve Dixon as an undergraduate. A 3rd place finish at Sheffield Experienced has shown them to be the region’s top team once again.
Sheffield are a team who’s strength lies in the A Tour experience at the top of their roster with Manchester Ultimate’s Dan Sumner and LeedsLeedsLeeds’s David Sparks. Along with this, their core is completed by the pickup of Will Jackson from Halcyon. They’re expected to run the same strict iso which proved so effective on the large pitches at Ponds Forge last year, and will keep the disc in the hands of their key players whilst challenging teams with athletic man-to-man defence. Although they gathered mixed results, Phat’eds are a team who managed to enter three warmup tournaments and this pitch time together may prove invaluable at the weekend.
Leeds almost caused the upset of the tournament last year, reaching the final and taking Halcyon to double game point. They will look to run a traditional offense, controlled by veteran Nick Moss, and captain Joseph Fisher, both of LeedsLeedsLeeds. They have tended to throw a mix of solid man defence, alongside a poachy zone which looks to prevent breakside throws. With disappointing results at warmup tournaments and losing varsity to local rivals Leeds Met, Regionals is their chance to prove themselves as a force in the North for another year running.
Newcastle are another team who qualified for Division 1 at last year’s Indoor Regionals but have been struck with a high player turnover from last season. This has given role players the chance to step up and it’s expected that Alex Mazzon will top the score sheet, with Ben Withers getting a lot of touches on the disc upfield. Despite getting incomplete rosters to warmup tournaments, and chalking up results at both ends of the spectrum, they’re a team who will be looking to show that their strength runs deeper than in previous years.
Durham are not a team who are known for strong indoors performances, instead using it as a chance to build their team for the outdoors season. Although they’ve suffered with large numbers of players graduating from the team that qualified for Division 1 at outdoors last season, they too will be looking to show a strength in depth that’s built on their impressive collegiate participation. A solid 6th place finish at Sheffield Experienced shows that they’re going to be hungry to push for indoors qualification this year.
Liverpool will be looking to avenge a poor showing at Indoor Regionals last season and show more similarities to their solid performance at Div 2 Outdoor Nationals. With last year’s handler core graduating, Sion Regan will be looking to experienced players Stuart Johnston and Andy Garner to control the disc upfield whilst he produces a downfield matchup to be feared. Despite being a team with their eyes on the bigger picture of outdoors, they’ve shown to be well organised and produced an impressive 4th place finish at Liverpool Experienced. It would be foolish to write them off again this season.
Leeds Met have fostered an impressively growing program in recent years, shown by qualifying for last year’s Division 2 Indoor Nationals after winning the game to go. Chevron player James Mead will look to make plays both on and off the disc, and Cambridge Mixed’s Dave Littler will control the disc upfield. Coming off the back of mixed results at warmup tournaments but a convincing victory over local rivals Leeds at their varsity, this is a team who are hungry to sustain last year’s success.
Bangor are a team who have graduated only one player from last year’s outdoors squad. Despite this, a run of poor luck on the injury front alongside personal issues has left them shorthanded for this year’s Regionals. Expect big plays on both sides of the disc from Daniel McLean and GB u23 Mixed’s Cameron Burgess as the team tries to gel after being forced to take a skeleton squad to Liverpool Experienced.
Lancaster are a team who are going through a rebuilding phase currently and are still reeling from losing all of their Nationals qualifying first team. Despite this, they reached the game to go last year against Leeds Met and will look to go into the tournament to cause upsets this year around. Captain Reece Stanton will aim to find Michael Sharkey downfield for large gains.
Sheffield Hallam are another team who, similar to Leeds Met, pick up a sport-minded group of beginners each year. This is shown by their success yet again in beginners tournaments and is always promising for future years. Hallam, led by GB u23 Mixed’s Alex Walsh will look to take advantage of this, as he tries to find athletic cutters downfield. Teams should expect a hard running defence and tough match-ups all across the pitch.
York are set to be the big story of this year’s Regionals. A team which has been built from the ground up is set to peak this season in spectacular fashion. They have had strong results at warmup tournaments, and been tipped by many captains to be the team to watch. This year’s York team looks to establish themselves as a force in the North. Cohesion gained from the core of the team playing on the successful ‘fun’ team SMOG, and 2 years of university pitch time together will serve them well as they look set for their most successful year in recent history. Joshua Briggs will be throwing the bulk of their assists to tall cutter Max Moseley, although any of their athletic core can be a force downfield.
Hull are an inexperienced team who will be looking to use Regionals to develop. Led by captain Nick Brownbill and tipped to be a team who keeps working until the buzzer, it’s not hard to see them scaring some of the less well organised ‘big’ teams.
Chester are another growing program in the North. Captained by GB u23 Mixed’s Ben Main they produced impressive results at Liverpool Experienced, making their way into the top 8. They are fielding an inexperienced, but enthusiastic team. Main will try to control the disc on offense and their offensive flow comes out of a traditional vertical stack. Going into Regionals with no expectations and everything to gain they can look forward to a productive weekend!
On the back of this all, I’ve based predictions on the surveys we had returned and pre-season results.
As with previous years, Manchester are expected to top the region, albeit not without serious pressure from other contenders, and will hope to go on to replicate their impressive performance at Nationals last year. With impressive pre-season results, and mentions from many captains as being much stronger than previous years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see York secure themselves a second place finish this weekend. Rounding off the qualifiers for Division 1 are Sheffield. Selected by all captains to be up there, and with solid pre-season results, they should be able to secure the final spot.
Division 2 is far more open, with as many as six teams having a genuine shot at making it. Both Liverpool and Newcastle performed well at Liverpool Experienced (despite Newcastle’s depleted squad) and could take the 4 and 5 spots respectively. Rounding off the qualifications places, it’s hard to avoid the romance of a home town varsity rematch in the game to go, with Leeds Met facing off against Leeds Uni. It’s a tough one to call, but I’m tipping Met to win this one and repeat their varsity success.
Outside of the top 6, other contenders for qualification are Durham and Bangor. I suspect Durham’s pedigree for not quite clicking indoors will continue, whilst Bangor’s lack of pitch time together will be their unravelling.
With the Northern Region seeing one of the most open battles to date, I look forward to seeing all the drama and upsets that University ultimate can produce.
Good luck to all competing in Leeds this weekend, and I’ll see you Saturday!
That’s all for the uni indoor regional previews, sadly we were unable to hear from the Western region but good luck to everyone competing across the country! DP @ tSG.