WUCC 2018 previews – PELT Ultimate

Open, PELT, WUCC Previews

Aidan Kelly scouts the second Irish team at WUCC, Limerick lads PELT. How will this new look squad do in Cincinnati?

How did they get here?
In what began as essentially an extension of University of Limerick’s college team, PELT have come a long way in their six year existence.

Even since their fledgling days, the team has had Worlds ambitions, as they directly competed in qualifiers against Rebel and Ranelagh for Ireland’s spot in WUCC 2014, coming up short.

Tour 3 Open preview – while the cats are away

Open, Previews, Tour 3

Sean Colfer is in Cincinnati with the cream of the UK crop, but the Tour season continues regardless. This looks like the most wide-open Tour in years, so how might it go?

Tour 3 is going to be an odd situation for UK Ultimate. The best teams are all away in Cincinnati (we’ve been previewing it, maybe you’ve seen) and it leaves the field very open. No Clapham, Chevron and Devon means three of the top four teams from Tour 2 aren’t there, the Irish teams are both over in the USA, and then SMOG and Reading – who have been playing in the top 10 of Tour all season as Open teams – are both across the pond too. All told, it means that this is probably the best chance several teams will ever have of winning a Tour event.

Ka-Pow! come in as top seeds, a reward from their trip to become sacrificial lambs for Clapham’s unerring march to the Tour 2 title. They have a gigantic squad of very solid players with a few stand outs – they’ll be tough to beat because of sheer numbers but also because they have some players that can make things happen against anyone. They’ve beaten most of the teams in the UK already this year and will be feeling confident that they can repeat the feat from a few years ago and win Tour 3. They will be missing some people though, particularly Marius Hutcheson who is with Black Sheep, a Kiwi Mixed team, at WUCC.

Marius Hutcheson – playing for Ka-Pow! at Tour 1 here – won’t be at Tour 3. Photo by Andy Moss.

EMO are second seed. They split their squads at Tour 2 and may well do the same again this Tour, but it would be very interesting to see how they fare against Ka-Pow! with a full team. They are chock full of excellent athletes and if they can all get on the same page they’ll be tough to stop. They used a new line system at Tour 1 and could well go back to that. Ben Poole gives them a lot of room for error because he’s an outstanding athlete and all-around player, but their defensive line will be the difference maker. If they can get turns and breaks then they’ll be the favourite in my eyes.

Fire are granted a third seed they’ll be familiar with, a good spot to build on what has been a tough year. They’ll be missing a couple of players through either injury or picking up with other teams at WUCC, but the squad they have is still going to be pretty tough to beat at this tournament.

Bristol are the other top seed and have had a solid season, but Brighton could be a tough nut to crack for them. They were given a very tough pool at Tour 1 and are a good side – although they, too, are missing several players to WUCC since James Wotherspoon and Tom Mannings are both with Mooncatchers. EMO 2 and Reading 2 join them in their pool, and will be difficult to predict. I think they’ll be battling for third, though.

Birmingham have a lot of good players but have a relatively small number of handlers. Still, their level of overall athleticism will allow them to at least hang with the teams up at the top of the draw. They will play Cloud City (who feature a lot of Herd players so will be familiar with Brum) and Brighton Gritty Legends (who have played Cloud three times this year already) in what could be an exciting pool.

Ka-Pow! will face Flump, who have had a decent season so far despite their relegation at Tour 1, LLLeeds and Camden. Leeds were promoted at Flump’s expense in Nottingham and Camden have been around A Tour all season, so this group could be a really interesting one to watch. Flump and Leeds should both have too much for Camden, but the match between them will be fascinating.

Manchester, SMOG and BAF join EMO in a group with lots of capital letters. Manchester have been pretty good all season and so will fancy themselves to finish in the top two – particularly since SMOG will be missing many of their top players. It’ll be interesting to see how SMOG do against BAF, but I think that’ll be for third and fourth in the pool.

B Tour features some decent teams at the top – Vision, Gravity and Purple Cobras have all been pretty good all year, and Glasgow 2 will feature some good Glasgow players not at WUCC. Tribe and Rebel come over from Ireland so it’ll be interesting to see how they do (Dublin Gravity as well, although they’re in C Tour so are either dramatically underseeded or not quite the force they are in Mixed) and EDI return after some time away – though they’ll be losing some players to Black Eagles.

Outside of that, it’s tough to find many storylines to look for. LED have been pretty good in Mixed but are seeded quite low, and Fluid have been one of the stronger C Tour teams so far. Cambridge will be intriguing since it’s tough to know who they have, but generally I see C Tour sticking to seed.

So, who’s going to win this most open of Open tours? That is the big question. Here’s how I see the top 10 shaking out, but to be honest there’s about five teams who could win. It’ll be fun to see how the tournament ends up without Clapham there to ruin everyone’s fun by winning.

1. EMO
2. Ka-Pow!
3. Fire
4. Brighton
5. Manchester
6. Bristol
7. Flump
8. Birmingham
9. Leeds
10. Cloud City

WUCC 2018 previews – Clapham Ultimate

Clapham, Open, WUCC Previews

Clapham just lost out on a semi-final spot in 2014 so will be incredibly motivated to reach that stage this time around. Here’s how Sean Colfer thinks they’ll end up doing.

How did they get here?
I don’t think I really need to explain this one, but they got here by winning. A lot. Specifically, they’ve won 17 national titles in a row and six European titles in a row to go alongside four Windmill trophies and plenty of other prizes. Most of their roster has played for Great Britain at some point, and a lot of those that haven’t have played for either another national team or age-group Great Britain teams.

WUCC 2018 previews – Ranelagh

Open, Ranelagh, WUCC Previews

Did you think we were going to leave out the Irish? Never! Aidan Kelly gives us some insight on how his club-mates will do in his (cagey) preview for Ranelagh.

How did they get here?

Four time Irish Nationals champions, the Lagh recaptured their All-Ireland title after a two-year dry spell in 2017, beating rivals PELT in the final, which also saw them qualify for WUCC for the second time.

WUCC 2018 previews – Chevron Action Flash

Chevron, Open, WUCC Previews

Another preview ahead of WUCC, this time it’s Chevron. Sean Colfer has his say on how they look going into the tournament.

How did they get here?
Chevron Action Flash have been the second-best team in the UK for eight of the last ten years, finishing third in 2012 and fourth in 2009 – although they did win the European title in 2009. That kind of consistency is incredibly impressive for a team that has based (and prided) itself on bringing in players from the Junior ranks and giving them important roles in an elite team. Established in 1995, they’ve become a fixture of UK and European Ultimate despite the core of the team leaving and moving around – they were once based in Manchester but now primarily train in the midlands.

UKU Open Tour 2 Preview – B and C Tour (Cardiff)

Open, Previews

With B Tour North taking some teams away, the middle section in Cardiff is severely diminished. C Tour is also only four pools, much smaller than usual, so this preview shouldn’t be too long at all.

Cloud City suffered two close losses to the villainous Gravity and the contemptible Leeds before heroically triumphing in the rest of their games at Tour 1. (No comment on who I’ll be playing with.) They top B Tour here, and their reward is a pool against Devon 2, who struggled in B Tour in Nottingham and fellow Devonians ExeTour, who won C Tour last time out, and Brighton Gritty Legends. Gritty faced Cloud twice at T1 and lost both times by a few, but the addition of the word ‘Legends’ gives me pause. Brighton Legends were an A Tour-level team for some time over the past few years and have the kind of throwing know-how and experience to trouble anyone. The pool at first blush looks straightforward at the top with some interesting battles lower down, but Brighton could delight in throwing a spanner in those works.

The other B Tour pool will see EMO 2 fight to maintain their position against Vision, Leamington Lemmings and Red. Red will be pleased to have a shot against their local rivals EMO but will need a lot to go their way to have a shot in that game. They could, however, have a very interesting game against Leamington since the teams finished next to each other at T1, Lemmings in 36th and Red in 37th. Vision had a tough time in Nottingham, finishing second to last in B Tour, but they should feel confident in finishing at least second in this pool.

These pools will all cross, the top two up and the bottom two down. Cloud and the second placed team in that pool will likely play Camden and Bristol respectively, while EMO 2 and Vision should probably play Reading 2 and Birmingham (according to my A Tour predictions, anyway, so make of that what you will). I feel good about Cloud’s chances there, and EMO 2 v Reading 2 would be fascinating in that situation.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Lee

B Tour is more of a seedings stage in this Tour, with the crossing meaning the Tour structure of years past has disappeared. The quality looks lower than it has in the past here too, but hopefully we see some interesting results and games regardless.

  1. Cloud City
  2. EMO 2
  3. Brighton
  4. Vision
  5. Devon 2
  6. ExeTour
  7. Red
  8. Leamington Lemmings

That leaves us with C Tour. Bristol 2 are the top seeds here but are coming off a winless Tour 1, so are not in the best of form. Cambridge, on the other hand, lost in sudden death to Flyght Club (who ended up in B Tour) but won every other game. Their final win was over Plymouth, who top another pool in C Tour, and both finished just ahead of Kent who are the top seed in the final pool. Brixton were a tip I made before the last Tour but they lost a crossover to YOpen and are now seeded below Plymouth despite topping them in the pool. The GB Juniors are in with Bristol 2 and will be intriguing to watch as they usually contain excellent talent but combined with relatively little experience so can find it tough against teams with veteran players who know how to grind out result. The Cambridge v Brixton and Bristol 2 v GB U20s are probably the games that matter here to see who gets to cross up against the B Tour teams, but I wouldn’t be confident that any of these teams would win those crossovers – the best chance probably comes in the 24v25 game, but I’d fancy Lemmings to beat GB U20s.

  1. Cambridge
  2. GB U20s
  3. Plymouth
  4. Kent
  5. Brixton
  6. Bristol 2
  7. Cloud 2
  8. Horsham
  9. South Wales Storm
  10. Reading 3
  11. Sharbear! 1
  12. St. Albans
  13. Sharkbear! 2
  14. Dorset
  15. South Wales Storm 2

UKU Open Tour 2 Preview – A Tour

Open, Previews, UK Ultimate

Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss

Cardiff will be the centre of the UK Ultimate universe for the second time this season over the weekend, with Open and Women’s teams from across the country making the trip to Wales. There are several missing teams though, and this time it’s not just because I forgot to mention them.

Let’s start, then, with the absentees. The Team Who Shall Not Be Named-ron are training this weekend ahead of Windmill in a week’s time, something they’re targeting as a key part of Worlds build up given the plethora of high-quality European teams they can pit themselves against. They played really well in Nottingham, suffering only one loss to Clapham’s D line in the 1v3 crossover on Saturday evening – and even that was in sudden death. They’ve integrated a couple of young players into vital roles over the last couple of years and now seem to be in a really good spot – Seb Allen made some crucial plays in the final, as did Dec Cartwright and others. They’ve moved a few people around too, with Rollo Sax Dixon moving over to add an additional deep threat on the O line and Cartwright offering some calm to the D line, and the addition of former EMO captain Joe Wynder to their O line handling group has given the team a new dimension – they attacked the deep space aggressively and made some big plays at crucial moments. Wynder and Ben Burak both played a D point in an important situation in the final, too, so there’s some versatility there if needed. They still have room to grow for sure but given that they’re starting from a pretty high point that’s a good place to be in.

The Irish teams are both staying away from Cardiff, with Ranelagh also going to Windmill. Both teams played well in Nottingham but the Dubliners were clearly a step ahead of their rivals, the Laghds winning 14-9 in the head-to-head quarter-final. Both teams are quality though – PELT lost only once, to Ranelagh, all weekend and Ranelagh only lost to the two Clapham teams and Chevron. Their absence weakens the field for sure.

Clapham have shrunk down to one team for this Tour so will not encounter their most difficult foe from Windfarm: relentless fatigue. Both teams suffered some niggling injuries and were reduced to 10 or 11 players for the business end of Tour 1, which severely restricted how much they could put in. With one team, and in this field, they should run riot.

So, then, about that field; it’s weak. Six of the teams that finished in A Tour last time out are missing (the four mentioned above, Glasgow for whom it’s a bit far, and Leeds who are in B Tour North) and more in B Tour are also absent. It leaves a field of only 39 teams, the lowest I can recall in some time, and a B Tour of only eight.

The 1-8 pools, at least, feature the kind of teams we’re accustomed to seeing in A Tour. Clapham will beat Devon, Manchester and Brighton on Saturday, and Devon should have enough to top the others but both Brighton and Manchester will be optimistic about their game against each other. Brighton were dealt a tremendously difficult hand at T1 and played pretty well considering that, whereas Manchester notched an unexpected (for me, anyway) win over Fire to send the Londoners tumbling. Manchester look very different this year to previous seasons but proved their battling qualities with a win over an EMO team that had looked good going against Clapham earlier in the weekend.

Chevron taking a long-sought win over Clapham – Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss

Reading top the other pool after finishing as the best non-Worlds Open team in Nottingham (admittedly, a lot of these men are going with the Mixed team but still). Their reward is a Ka-Pow! team who finished eighth after coming in second in the pool with Manchester and Fire but losing out on Sunday. They’ll be keen to show that they earned the place by being better than the teams below them rather than getting slightly lucky with the draw of Fire as a high seed in the pool. They have a really large squad and a lot of very good players so it’s a great chance for them as fourth seed. They’ll have to fend off SMOG and EMO, two teams with a lot of talent who will have been slightly disappointed with their finish at T1.

Camden are seeded 16th and start in A Tour but are coming in off the back of mixed success in Nottingham – they won against Devon 2 in sudden death and topped Bristol 2 comfortably in the pool but didn’t taste victory on Sunday. They’ll face Bristol, who had a decent Tour 1 but lost out in the A Tour crossover against another team in the pool, BAF, and Fire 1. Fire were probably the story of Tour 1 but certainly not in the way that they wanted. I was nine places out on my prediction for them, but I don’t think anyone could have foreseen them losing in the B Tour final to local rivals Flump. They were missing some important players and had a number of key injuries as well, but it was certainly an eye-opening result nonetheless. They’ll be incredibly hungry to show that this was a blip and will doubtless be fired up to play a number of teams they’ll fancy themselves against. BAF are the wildcard – their unpredictable roster makes it difficult to slot them, but I’m guessing they’ll have something similar to what they had at Windfarm so will do pretty well.

In the other 9-16 pool, Flump will be back in A Tour after earning another piece of silverware for the cabinet – their third in four years – and will face a tough group. Purple Cobras have been working their way up in both Open and Women’s and will be a difficult game for anyone, and Reading 2 showed in Nottingham that they’re no slouches. Birmingham had some issues with who was handling the disc in Nottingham but they’re a very athletic team with great chemistry, so they’re going to be tough to beat as well. It’s quite an even pool in my estimation and probably the hardest to pick. Flump have the most experience at this level and are used to grinding out results, while Reading 2 will probably have the greatest variance from top to bottom in terms of ability. Cobras against Birmingham will be intriguing though!

Overall, this is probably the weakest A Tour we’ve seen for some time. That means there are loads of opportunities for ‘upsets’ lower down the standings, and some of the B Tour teams will fancy their chances of breaking into the elite on Sunday. Predictions last time weren’t too bad, with only four teams three places or more away from their final spot (and two bang on – Ranelagh and Brighton) but definitely room to improve. By way of monitoring, I’ve decided that an exact prediction earns three points and a team within two spots of the prediction earns one point. This meant 15 points in Nottingham and I’m shooting for a score in the 20s this time around. It’s going to rain all weekend, allegedly, so see you in the mire.

1. Clapham (by a fair way)
2. Devon
3. Reading
4. SMOG
5. EMO
6. Ka-Pow!
7. Brighton
8. Fire
9. Manchester
10. Flump
11. BAF
12. Purple Cobras
13. Birmingham
14. Bristol
15. Reading 2
16. Camden