Another season is in the books and, for most sides, the off-season is now underway. Sean Colfer takes a look at what happened in Birmingham this weekend, and what it might mean for the European Championships and moving forward for UK Ultimate.
Thomas Cliff looks back at Mixed Tour and ahead to UKU Mixed Nationals this weekend.
Having just experienced the most unstable Open and Women’s Tour seasons that I can remember, it could be easy to forget about the mixed season that preceded it.
However, Mixed Tour wasn’t without its share of uncertainty. 2014’s top squad and the combination of former European champions Bear Cavalry having disbanded, and Cambridge mixed, sixth place finisher at WUCC 2014 having had a severe drop off in top talent, really set the stage for the pack of wolves nipping at their heels to have a shot at the top. Further to this, GB Mixed seniors, GB U23, and Ireland Mixed took many fantastic players away from the rankings, leaving things absolutely wide open.
Mixed Nationals this year is likely going to be a tale of teams who stepped into the void left at the top from 2014, as there is a strong correlation between the Tour rankings and the Nationals line up: seven of the eight teams entered at Nationals finished in the top 12 over the course of the season, with the eighth competitors being 2014’s second-place finisher Pingu Jam. Notable absences are Glasgow, who have a real shot at making Euros in the Open division, and Bristol, who are likewise placed in the Women’s draw.
Elly White introduces the competition for University Women’s Outdoor Nationals
This weekend sees the biggest ever University Women’s Outdoor Nationals with over 30 teams heading to Manchester.
One of the front runners this year, and a team that was mentioned by nearly every team in the questionnaire is Birmingham. The ladies have had a very successful season, getting silver at UWIN and gold at UMON, and are coming into UWON with a very talented squad that could secure themselves another gold. From what I’ve heard, the entire team are star players in their own right, but there are a few that have been specifically mentioned. GB U23 players Grace and Kim Owens’ connection will be difficult to stop, as will rising star and GB U20 player Jess Cowley. There is also a boost from Tilly Salter who has spent a year playing with Saucy Nancy, the college team from Iowa who came 3rd at USA College Championships last year. All of this adds up to a pretty formidable team that I predict to make the semis at least.
Sussex Mohawks will be looking to win UWON for the 4th year in a row, an incredible feat and something definitely within their grasp. They will be very used to playing together after sending a team to the Irish outdoor tournament The Siege of Limerick. Players to look out for are Megan Hurst throwing to Starzy Riordan-Eva and also vice-captain Rachel Clark. For the second year in a row they are fielding a second team, which shows the depth that their women’s club has. Like Birmingham, I will be very surprised if Mohawks don’t make the top four.
Leeds are another team that will expect to do really well. They have train often as a team, and 6 of them are part of the LLLeeds squad this season. Captain Claire Taylor’s strong and versatile throws will be brought down by Ruth Lowe, Alice Beeching and Rachel Finch, all up and coming LLL superstars. Leeds have entered a second team this year, something Claire says was helped by prioritising women’s trainings and games over mixed when recruiting women.
|University of Leeds Women regroup in the huddle.|
Durham is another University that has benefitted from LLL selections this year, and this will be evident in Sarah Clear’s and Mark Clark’s throws as well as Fi Rae’s receiving. They also benefit from the retention of Rebecca Devine, who went to Euros with DED last summer; a formidable lefty handler with pin-point hucks. Durham are another team to enter a second team this year, again suggesting good squad depth as well as a head start on development for next year’s team.
Bangor are the third Northern team to feature club players from Leeds, and after impressive indoor results will be looking to build on their 10th place finish from last year. Ava Grossman, Harriet Brown and Louise Ryan all have throws to watch out for. The North was a strong region at UWIN, coming in 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th and I expect this strength to continue outdoors. Manchester have many of their girls training regularly with the new Manchester Women’s Ultimate club team and Sheffield have the top handling combination of Kat Cheng (LLL) and Charis Lestrange.
Scotland are a consistently strong region across divisions, and Dundee and Edinburgh were both mentioned in a lot of preview questionnaires as the ones to look out for. Dundee have had a very successful season so far, winning UWIN and coming second at UMON, and look like they could continue this streak at UWON. On the Edinburgh team, Abbie Dutton’s cutting as well as the handling of Carissa Tong and Gale Hunter will be formidable for any opponents looking to take down Ro Sham Bo.
Nottingham had a huge team last year and retained a lot of these players, leading to an experienced team this year, including Kirsten Wells of Manchester Women’s Ultimate. A combination of the successful season they have already had and the return of their captain Trina Lam will no doubt see Nottingham challenge hard and achieve a high finishing position.
Also boasting a large roster are the London combination team of UCL, Imperial and Kings. The unfortunate timings of their exams have meant none of the individual Universities could field enough for a team. This is obviously a shame for all three, especially UCL, who had such a strong presence at SEUWIR. People are unsure what to expect from this combination team, which reportedly will feature Iceni and SYC club players as well as some new players from the different Universities. It will be interesting to see how this all comes together in one team, nobody really knows what to expect as none of UCL, Imperial or Kings are regular faces at UWON, but their top players definitely have the experience to make this a successful team.
As well as fighting it out for the top spots, this weekend will be a great chance for second teams and beginners to experience playing competitive outdoors. Three second teams are entered this year (Sussex, Leeds and Durham) which is such a positive things for women’s University Ultimate and will provide all these girls with great exposure to the sport and experience of a more competitive environment. Combine this with the high standards we will see from all the tops teams and it looks like it’s shaping to be a fantastic weekend.
Here are my predictions for the top 5:
Once again, Good luck from The ShowGame to all players competing at University Nationals this weekend!
The university season is approaching its climax and many teams will be glad that Open and Women’s Nationals is returning to Manchester, after last year being hosted at the perennially windy Grove Farm in Nottingham. With BUCS eligibility rules kicking in fully, last year’s comfortable winners from Ireland can’t compete so there will be a new champion this year. For those who don’t know, the qualifiers are:
Last year saw Scotland dominate proceedings open, with every team attending a nationals event (div 1, div 2, indoors and outdoors) finishing in the top 8. This performance helped them get the 4th division 1 spot in front of the Midlands; something that Glasgow will be very glad of having scrapped for the final qualification spot at regionals.
Lastly onto the South East, where Sussex put on a huge demonstration of strength with their 1st and 2nd team proving stronger than anything the rest of the region could muster. This pretty extraordinary statement indicates the depth of their program and suggests they’ll have strong hopes for nationals. The first team will make their usual push for the top four with eyes set firmly on the BUCS trophy. The second team will be hoping to improve on previous showings at Div 1 events (coming last at both Indoors this year and Outdoors last year). Imperial have established themselves as the best of the rest from the South East, and no wonder with big names such as Stephan Rossbauer (Clapham), James Threadgill (Cambridge mixed), David Pryce (Fire) and Phil Sandwell (Ka-Pow). They will have aspirations of a top 8 spot at least.
Three of these four are regional champions and I’m backing them to carry the habit of winning into this tournament and make the most of their strong seedings. Birmingham under-performed at regionals but have a talented squad who are used to winning and could upset their seeding from the start of the weekend in a big way.
Good luck to all teams competing at this year’s BUCS Nationals – keep an eye out for results and tournament review on The Showgame!
This weekend shopparajumpers the Alan Higgs Centre in Coventry was the venue for the UKU University Indoor BUCS Championship. With 16 teams having fought their way through regional qualification all fancied their chances of making the top 8 and claiming BUCS points. The unpredictable nature of the tournament, with most teams having not played each other since nationals last year meant the 5 regional champions: Dundee, Manchester, Cambridge, Exeter and Sussex started as slight favourites with Dundee returning as defending champions.
Thanks to Chris and the whole UU committee! DP @ tSG.
Brighton Ultimate improved by one to gain their highest ever placing of third, and guaranteeing themselves a spot in the upper ‘Elite’ bracket. They will be joined by the Cinderella story of the weekend, Devon ultimate – who have threatened an international breakout before (Nationals 2010 saw them miss out by a minor margin), but are now consolidated as surely the UK’s favourite underdogs as they rise above Fire 1, EMO, and Kapow! to place 4th, after completing a late-game-comeback-sudden-death-victory over none other than Fire, a result foreboded by the epic Tour 2 Matchup.
Fire nevertheless secured the all important qualification, and Kapow! overcame a rollercoaster season to get the crucial win against EMO for the final spot, a result that jars with the two team’s respective tour performances. On to Bordeaux…
A fortnight has passed and the dust has settled on Women’s Tour 3 in Cardiff. With considerably less teams than we started with (15 down from 21) and some great battles at previous Tours, most would have expected Iceni to take this tournament with ease. However things were not quite there for the ‘full fat’ squad with a few key players missing and the Welsh heat taking its toll on many. I have since spoken with some of the Iceni players and they agree that Nice Bristols outplayed the overall champs. I asked Sarah “Saz” Garner, Nice Bristols captain, whether this was the first time that this had occurred and how it felt:
“Yep, this is the first time since the club was formed that we’ve won a Tour, which feels like an incredible achievement. I’m quite tempted to retire my captaincy on this high! I think we’ve all known for a long time that we’re capable of doing it on paper, but we’ve never actually managed to string the right set of results together over one weekend before.”
|Charlie Blair about to get horiztonal in the final. Photo courtesy of Louise Smith.|
Massive congratulations to Nice Bristol on their T3 victory, looking further down the results we see Punt displacing both LeedsLeedsLeeds and SYC to take third, finishing off a great rising season. With the exception of ROBOT (who fell from 4th to 9th) and the rising Nice Bristol 2 team (who grabbed the last top 8 spot) the remaining positions were as expected. A special mention to a Rebel player who in the first game had to be taken off the field by paramedics, we wish you a speedy recovery back in Ireland!
Full official results can also be found here.
The T3 final did little for the overall standings with Iceni still coming out top, Savage do appear rather low down but that would be due to only attending the first two events. On average they would move up a couple slots.
It is promising to see more and more Women’s teams springing up and 3 clubs able to put out regular second teams and still keep the skill level high. I continued to ask SG if this require anything different in training:
“I think we’ve had the skills there for a while. Making the Nationals Final last year, and performing well at our first EUCF (6th and Spirit) did a lot for our individual and team confidence about playing at a high level, and whilst we continue to bring new players into the mix, there are a good core of us that have been playing together for several seasons now and have a good understanding of each other. In the past couple of seasons we’ve upped the intensity of our training sessions throughout the year, so that stepping up a gear at Tour doesn’t come as a complete shock, and I think that has gradually allowed us to start winning those games that previously we didn’t quite have the belief or experience to do.”
Sarah continued by saying that
Now what? Well there is no regionals for the Women’s division, yet, but Nationals is only a month away now. I asked Sarah what will Nice Bristols be doing for preparation
|Punt rise high over Leeds but what team will they bring to Southampton? Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.|
Let’s hope that Nationals and xEUCF is ice cream weather not hot tea.
Looking forward to the return of Charlie Blair? Do keep supporting the World Games squad with the #gbwg2013 hashtag and following them online however you can! DP @ tSG.