Scottish University Open Outdoor Regionals Preview

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Rory Curran finishes off UKU University regionals with Scotland.

Scottish Uni Open Outdoor Regionals will have a different look and feel about it this year. With the introduction of a Women’s sanctioned event running along side the main BUCS open qualifier it’s unlikely many girls will feature in the main event (though they will be fighting for medals of their own). Another change is the introduction of upfront bad weather arrangements meaning teams will travel safe in the knowledge they will be settling nationals qualification one way or another, with most regionals in recent memory having been rained off, this is a luxury that those from the drier side of the country may take for granted. Another big change in Scottish Ultimate is the fact that Edinburgh, after at least a decade of top two finishes, are no longer considered to be part of the top two north of the border their demise has been likened to that of Manchester United, with some going as far as saying Man U and Ro Sham Bo alike are top Division material.

Edinburgh in the final last year, can they repeat? Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.
Everyone’s pre-tournament favourites are undoubtedly Dundee. Since winning both Open and Woman’s Indoor Regionals Dundee have failed to finish top of the Scots in any tournament since. All those in Scotland are aware this is because Dundee have shifted their focus to outdoors in a bid to taste outdoor national success as “they have nothing left to achieve indoors”. Key players Dickers and Footjob will heavily influence the outcome of this tournament, however they will be backed up by a very solid team who have been training hard for months and have half a dozen warm up matches under their belts already. The warm up matches have taught us a few things. Firstly Dundee have more than two big players, they play a quick handler based offence utilising Pierre McCarthy who is as fast as a Ferrari while focussed training by Thomas Parkhill has seen him up his game and look likely to make a big impact at regionals. Pre-tournament favourites with a lot to prove outdoors – Man City?

Most captains tip Glasgow to build on the silver medals they won at indoor nationals with the core of their team having come off the back of a successful debut club season at Tour and Nationals playing for Glasgow Ultimate. Captain Rory Curran will be looking to dictate play with his big throws, and as shown at indoors he has plenty of big men to bring the disc down – most notably indoors Div 1 MVP Joe Crisp, and vice captain Tom Calvert. Most teams will try and mark these guys out so it may be down to the “FarFlung Futures” to show they are better than “good for a beginner” and make a few big plays. Glasgow Uni an era ago were great, there are glimmers of hope they may be returning; the Liverpool of Scottish Ultimate?

Heriot-Watt were tipped by myself qualify for Div 1 at indoors in my previous preview, much to the disgust of their closest rivals. They succeeded, surprising those who doubted them along they way. John Stainsbury will be their key man, and in what could be his final year with the team he will be looking to repeat if not improve upon the team’s indoor triumphs. Owen Martin (imported from America) looked a real talent during the indoor season, but with his style of play was clearly suited to outdoors he is likely to be a key player when unleashed on grass. A team who will work hard for each other and will get blocks, they play with a lot of energy and could beat anyone in Scotland on their day. Everton?

Strathclyde, like FarFlung, have been reaping the rewards of Glasgow Ultimate and their regular high-level training has brought the Horses players on leaps and bounds. The return of GB U23 star Jonny ‘Tubby’ Ferry and the pick-up of arguably the most experienced fresher in Scotland – Asif Arshad – are notable assets that this team didn’t have at their disposal last year. If captain Matt Scott can whip his team into line the Dark Horses will be looking for a top four finish. Tottenham?

Edinburgh are clearly undergoing a rebuilding year having lost a number of key players since beating all but the Irish at nationals last year. Usually Ro Sham Bo rebuild without vacating the top two and many still believe indoors was a blip as opposed to the end of an era. Given the size of the uni, the player base within the capital and ample space to play on the meadows it’s easy to be convinced that Ro Sham will be targeting, if not competing in the final again come regionals. Man U?

St. Andrews’ hosting the tournament and entering three teams clearly shows their intentions. Director of Ultimate Benji Heywood has been rebuilding this squad since it last featured in Div 1 (open) in 2011. He seems to finally have a decent mixture of experienced players in Miles Knight and Ben Murdoch backed up by some promising freshers such as Gabe Schechter all of whom will have benefited from playing together and gaining big game experience at COWIN at the end of February. Could finish anywhere between 4th and 8th. Newcastle?

Aberdeen haven’t had the distraction of indoors having narrowly missed out on qualifying for nationals in what proved to be a very tough region. The North East team has used this time wisely with some rumours of a club team having formed, perhaps as a result of all that extra time they had. Daryll, Danny and Aaron will remain the key men on the pitch, and if that fails you can be sure they’ll be singing/chanting/heckling with enthusiasm on the sidelines. Swansea?

Stirling have had recent success indoors however have failed to shine outdoors. Matt “wrecking ball” Tomlinson (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tk1Cho7tksM) has a point to prove having lost to Dundee 2 last year before the tournament was called off for water logged pitches or as Matt described them “ice rinks”. Matt has managed to convince Stirling Uni to have him back for another year and hopes to make the most of it.  A very small squad, Blaze boast the ability to offer every fresher a ‘frisbee mentor’ to guide them.  Matt will be looking to Anthony Hulatt and Mike Thomas to step up and fill the holes Calum Easton left behind, however he may have to turn to his freshers to help complete the job, F. Blaster having shown most promise outdoors at Stirling Tune up at the beginning of the academic year. Stoke?

So that’s a wee run down of the eight first teams competing for the title of Scottish Champions. It’s a different looking tournament to what the region is used to, and who knows this may be this regions last chance to become British Champions…

My predictions in order:
Dundee, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh, Strathclyde, Flatball, Aberdeen, Stirling.

Good luck to everyone playing this weekend, possibly 18 degs on Sunday! Yippeee!!

Scottish Uni Women’s Indoor Regionals

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With Open regionals over we move to Women’s. The UU committee have surveyed the Women’s captains and Rory Curran, Glasgow (FarFlung) captain has written the preview for Scotland from this resource.

Scottish women’s teams have a very strong history of success at women’s indoor university nationals. Since the 2007-8 season a Scottish team has placed on the podium every single year, more impressive still in the same time period they have provided seven of the ten finalists, and even more impressive than that is the fact that those honours have been shared amongst no less than four teams. Most impressive however is the fact they cleaned up last year taking three of the top four with only the Irish (excluded this year) from the podium clean sweep. Clearly this weekend’s tournament will be a closely contested and high quality affair.

Dundee women much like there male counterparts will start the tournament as strong favourites.
As reigning UK Indoors champions, and having placed as the highest women’s team at Scottish open regionals the last two years they are evidently the team to beat. Pam Knudsen and Ailsa Doak are the key players for Dundee, but a team full of experience, height and talent added to the fact that they have been playing together for years makes them formidable. Expect these girls to win not just in Scotland, but when they go to nationals at the end of November too. Such a strong and large club, Dundee seconds may find themselves placed above a couple of first teams when the final standings are known at the end of the tournament.
Edinburgh (Ro Sham Bo) always fields a strong women’s team and this year would appear to be no different. Led by Simone, Gail Hunter and GBU23/Black Eagles star Carissa Tong. A team who haven’t lost many players with the added bonus of some players returning to the team Ro Sham Bo will be expecting to qualify for nationals and fancying their chances in the final.
Aberdeen came second behind Dundee women at Nationals last year, much of that team led by the experienced handler Emily Magrath remain students, along with the very happy addition of Swift player and previous St. Andrews (Flatball) player Harriet Hopper. Aberdeen will be looking to at least match their open regionals placing (2nd highest women’s team) and making the most of their home advantage meaning a decent nights sleep the night before. These girls will be going to nationals, and would provide a most entertaining semi final against Edinburgh if the schedule allows.
Glasgow (FarFlung) girls narrowly missed out nationals last year and have spent the year training hard using that as their primary motivation and last years captain Amy Clark even found a masters to do so she could put things right. The return of Lulu Geddy Boyd from a year training in America will strengthen an already strong team, as will GB junior Amina Malik and her bestie Jessy Mac who played for Ireland. FarFlung has already shown their collective growth this year winning multiple beginners tournaments whilst fielding more woman than all their opposition. These girls have local rivals Strathclyde “intimidated by the sheer number of them” following a couple of “friendlies”. Entering two teams for the first time in a while, Glasgow girls look to follow in the footsteps of their guys and qualify for nationals.
St. Andrews captain Carmen is now in her fifth year of ultimate and probably lands herself the role of Flatball’s star player as a result of having captained a team to Edinburgh beginner’s victory. St. Andrews girls started the season well in advance of everyone else with their annual pre-season which combined with weekly 7:15am sessions means these girls will undoubtedly have a decent structure on offence. They are always playing hard at the end of the tournament and may well find themselves in the game to go at the end of the day.
Strathclyde will be fielding a fairly new team having only been around for a couple of years. Their most experienced handlers Nyssa Richardson and Amber Lockhart will lead the team along with Nicky Shaw who will be returning from a year of ultimate in Canada. However following the graduation of five key players last year these girls may see this year as a building, rather than purely competitive year.
Stirling boasts the asset of Rhona Gordon, the only girl to play in the semi-finals of Scottish Indoor Open Regionals this year. Ashleigh Spalding will be able to use her speed on Aberdeen’s large pitches. Altogether Stirling are an inexperienced team hoping to cause an upset akin to their open team making the semi finals last weekend.
The division’s least experienced team sees newcomers Heriot-Watt. Captain Sabelle Groves and Shona Whiteley featured at outdoors nationals last year in a fusion with Flatball and continued to improve by playing with Sneeekys over the summer. An athletic team looking forward to their first outing, clearly it’s unlikely that they will go straight to nationals from such a strong region but – in indoors you shouldn’t write anyone off before the tournament starts.
An average of captains’ predictions unanimously go with Dundee winning, followed by Edinburgh. After that Glasgow and Aberdeen are touted to share third and fourth, whilst fifth place sees more disagreement.
If I was to put my neck on the line I’d say:
1. Dundee 
2. Edinburgh 
3. Aberdeen 
4. Glasgow 
5. St.Andrews 
6. Stirling 
7. Strathclyde 
8. Dundee 2 
9. Heriot-Watt.

Can the dominant Dundee get the clean sweep in Scotland again? Only this weekend will tell… DP & JCK@tSG.