EUCF 2016 – the British teams: Iceni and SYC

EUCF, EUCF2016, Iceni, Previews, SYC, womens

In her first piece for The ShowGame, Geegee Morrison takes a look at the two Women’s teams representing the UK at Euros – SYC and reigning champions Iceni.

Over a month on from UKU Nationals, the excitement is building for this year’s European Ultimate Championship Finals. Two Women’s teams will be representing UK Ultimate in Europe; SYC and Iceni. After a last-minute pool change, the two teams will face off once again this weekend in Frankfurt, alongside the rest of Pool X. After an incredibly exciting season, can Iceni bring home another European title, or will SYC prove difficult to defeat?

UKU Tour 3 Review

#ukut3, Cardiff, Chevron, Clapham, EMO, Fire of London, news, Nice Bristols, Open, PUNT, ROBOT, SYC, Tournament Reports, womens
David Pryce, Fiona Kwan, Thomas Cliff and Christopher Bell review Tour 3 with some insight into the rest of the season…

Full standings can be found here for Women’s and here for OpenBut what happened in Cardiff?

Women’s Tour – Fiona Kwan

UKU Women’s Tour Top 8 


1. Punt
2. SYC
3. ROBOT
4. LLLeeds
5. Phoenix London
6. Iceni
7. Relentless
8. Brighton Pretty
After 3 rounds of fierce contest featuring local favourites and some great input from international competition, the 2014 Tour season has come to an end. We’ve seen highs and lows, wins and losses, and our fair share of universe points. But sadly, the bakery is now closed. No more bagels.

This review will itself be a review of the finals for the top 6. There have been some great match-ups this season, as more and more team find themselves in contention to win – 4 different teams featured in the 3 Tour finals, Iceni and Punt being the only teams to appear more than once. 

Iceni’s absence at Tour 3 was to the advantage of other top level teams who came out hard  vying for the Tour 3 trophy, and the UKU title. Here’s how it all went down…


The Final: Bristol vs. Punt
Half time score: Bristol  4 Punt
Full time result: Bristol 16 – 17 Punt

Punt have been the movers and shakers of Tour this year and have had a remarkable season. A strong performance in 2013 raised expectations for the Cambridge/Oxford side, and they didn’t let us down. Consistent finishes in all three Tour events brought them a well deserved victory in the overall tour standings, beating out SYC by 41 points. They’ll also be ranked 2nd at Nationals, a remarkable feat for such a young team.

Coming into Tour 3, there was a still a certain amount of mystery surrounding the Bristol side this year. The result of them splitting their squad at Tour 1, and their notable absence at Tour 2 meant that they weren’t seen together until last weekend. In fact, Punt hadn’t had a chance to play Bristol all season, so this was a new encounter for all players involved. With the Bristol women representing in Lecco in a couple weeks time (and many of the Punt players playing for Cambridge mixed) both teams were well drilled and ready to play. This naturally lead to a high quality contest, and a hard fought victory.

Benefitting from low player turnover from last year in addition to a full season playing together, Bristol came out strong in the first half, and despite strong defensive pressure from Punt, the Worlds-bound side took half decisively at 9-4. 

Moving into the second half, Punt stepped up their defence, resulting in a number of turnovers near Bristol’s endzone which they were able to capitalise on. In a comeback worthy of the final, Punt brought it back to 11-11. From here, both teams fought hard, but Punt made it evident that they came to win. With the combination of Punt’s defensive strength and the wind playing a role in generating turnovers for both sides, Bristol’s offence began to lose steam. Ultimately, Punt was able to overcome their opposition and beat favourites Bristol in sudden death taking the Tour 3 and overall Tour title. 

Despite the upset, Bristol still finished the season in 10th place, with an average of 230 points per event. They go into Nationals ranked 3rd. 

A new addition to the squad this year, Punt’s Hannah Boddy was awarded MVP, and took the lovely glass UKU trophy home with her. Congratulations!


A clip of the winning point from the final, thanks to Matthew Hodgson.

3 vs. 4: SYC vs. ROBOT
Half time score: SYC 7 – ROBOT
Full time result: SYC 15  10 ROBOT

SYC and ROBOT seem to have played each other a lot this season, with Tour 3 being no exception. After losing to Punt and Bristol respectively in the semis, both were looking to give a strong showing in the 3 vs. 4. Both teams played some excellent D in this game, forcing the offense to put up some shaky throws. 

From the beginning SYC came out strong, piling the defensive pressure and generating turns from the seasoned ROBOT side. While ROBOT’s O was solid with all the right decisions being made with no unforced throwaways, SYC’s defense eventually overwhelmed them. Going into the second half, the London women already had a clear advantage. ROBOT however also brought their strong defensive game, using clever poaches to mark out the younger SYC squad. This strategy worked well for them, stopping the quick and athletic style of SYC, slowing the pace to a more manageable speed, and forcing them to use their break throws.

In spite of ROBOT’s best efforts however, SYC had a convincing victory coming second in final standings; ROBOT finishing right behind them in third.

5 vs. 6: Phoenix London vs. Rebel
It’s great to see that Tour is still attracting international teams this far into the season. Rebel proved a real force to be reckoned with in Cardiff, meeting the high standard of Irish ultimate set by Little Miss Sunshine at Tour 2. They proved to be an extremely athletic team, and their short squad of 10 showed no signs of fatigue in their final against Phoenix.

After a sudden death cross-down and overall disappointing finish at Tour 1, Phoenix have been working hard to climb back up the rankings from 13th. As the season has progressed, this new London team has gelled more, and worked hard to get themselves seeded in the top 8 for the next two tours.

In this match-up, Rebel came out strong, going up 4-1. They used their poaches and zone D to throw off their London competitors, forcing turns even when Phoenix was able to break through the cup. They also proved very effective on offense, with great handler play and quick up the line movement which proved devastating to Phoenix’s D. After a well used timeout call, Phoenix were able to adjust their strategy, and come back stronger against the Irish side. They began to shut down the handler movement by putting a poach in the open lane, and reigning in their offense to be more clinical. But despite their best efforts, the damage was already done and Rebel had a comfortable victory in the end. 

A well spirited game which saw both teams finish above seed; Rebel from 8th to 5th, and 
Phoenix from 7th to 6th.

Great job to all who participated – there were some fantastic games over the weekend. Thanks for coming, and see you at Nationals!


UKU Open Tour Top 8 

1. Clapham O
2. EMO
3. Chevron Action Flash
4. Fire of London
5. Zimmer 
6. Brighton Gritty
7. Ranelagh 1
8. Manchester

A Tour – David Pryce

With Clapham consolidating back into one team after a flurry of injuries and the repercussions of the US Open, the full squad were out to prove they still could dominate at home. Overall this was what we were shown, with no real trouble in their pool and a lacklustre performance from Fire of London 1 in the semi final setting Clapham against Chevron in the final. Chevron clearly wanted this game and started off the game with a lead and some were hopeful that they could hold onto this. However, Clapham changed gear and got back into it in the second half, taking the game and the Tour title once again. Not to take anything from Chevron, Rob Schumacher (Clapham #99) tweeted:

A sign of mutual respect as the top two British teams turn on from familiar opponents to face and hopefully overcome bigger challenges; the rest of the world better watch out for Chevron as well as Clapham.

In a windy 3v4 game EMO took the win over Fire of London who end the season back in the top 4. The only team of this 4 not attending worlds, Fire now look straight to Nationals where they will want to take advantage of Clapham, Chevron and EMO having to double peak this season. 

Zimmer finished the season with a very strong performance holding off Rebel and keeping their 5th seed. This all bodes well for their upcoming campaign in Lecco. Rounding off the top 8 at Tour 3 we see the now regulars Manchester and new guard NEO. This meteoric rise through the ranks has surprised some but they have made a statement at Tour that cannot be ignored by competition going into Regionals and Nationals. 

Just outside of the top 8 we see Brighton who have experienced a slight fall, but I fully expect them to come out hard to recoup this at Nationals. The lower brackets of the a tour have seen many teams across the season, with old and new faces in CUlt, Reading, Birmingham and LLLeeds making those last few coveted A tour spots a true battleground.

Chevron Action Flash huddle up for the UKU Tour 3 final. Photo courtesy of Serena de Nahlik.

B Tour – Thomas Cliff

Welcome to crossover country.
In my humble opinion, Sunday morning in B tour is one of the most intriguing spectacles in the tour season, simply because of the sheer amount of movement that is not only possible, but probable, due to 3 sets of crossovers with chances to be promoted or relegated mid tournament.  The top 8 of B tour was unrecognisable from the start to the end of the tournament, with only 2 teams retaining a spot therein.
As always, Saturday is just a scrap for the best possible seed going into the vital Sunday morning games. The only team to rock the boat at the top of the pile were Fire 2, upsetting JR at the third time of asking this season to top their pool.
The crossovers for A tour threw up two upsets, firstly Reading taking a game from Devon and Flump being rudely shunted back down to the B tour by Leeds. As a side note Flump somehow managed to score 8 points in every single game this weekend. One for the statisticians. In the other big games the flair heavy JR pushed DED all the way but they couldn’t quite seal the deal, and Fire 2 had their hot streak ended comfortably by Birmingham’s quick-movement based play. Highlight heavy Devon went on to top B tour with a 17th place finish.
Lower down the bracket, worlds-bound BAF looked imperious, taking out all comers on their way to a crossover against an athletic Sneekys squad. BAF went on to win this, and finished their weekend as high as was possible at 21st; no mean feat from a lowly 31st position start. BAF weren’t the only lower seed to win their crossover in the middle bracket. In fact, everyone did, which ruins the fun a bit.
At the bottom of the bracket all of the newcomers, The Brown, ABH, and Camden struggled to adjust on Saturday. However all 3 managed to hold on to their B tour spots (leaving my foot securely in my mouth). St Albans however weren’t so lucky, falling to a Guildford squad who seem to have left it quite late in the season to let their presence be known.
The season is far from over with regionals an important proving ground for B tour teams looking to make the top flight for nationals. Birmingham showed this and were able to use Nationals qualification to take a step up with their team last year. With regional results just in, it will be interesting to see if any of this year’s B tour teams can make a dent in the top 16 at Southampton.
  
Stu Greer bids for Fire of London 2. Photo courtesy of Serena de Nahlik.


C Tour – Christopher Bell

Guildford went unbeaten in Cardiff as they proved to all that they belonged in B Tour all season long. Passing through their group relatively untroubled, they came up against St Albans in their crossover, before beating ABH  comfortably. In fact, they didn’t concede more than 5 points in a game until they gave up 9 against Tour 2’s C Tour champions; The Brown.

Guilford were the only team to manage the jump from C Tour to B. Rhubarb and Pingu Jam held seed on Saturday to face B Tour teams, while Black Sheep jumped seven seeds by beating Devon 2 and CUlt 2 to top their group. Black Sheep squared up against Camden 1 on Sunday morning, but after a strong first 30 seconds, lost the half 8-1 and were only able to trade in the second half. Rhubarb beat Black Sheep and Pingu Jam beat St Albans, setting up Rhubarb to win the C Tour and St Albans to finish third.

The rest of the division saw a lot of movement – a special mention must go to Curve 2, who started 20th (bottom seed) and went on to win the bottom set of 8 – finishing 13th.  Hampshire managed to improve on their initial seed of 11th to finish 5th, enjoying an unbeaten Sunday along with Curve 2 and Guildford. Many teams finished roughly where they started, with Hammertime, Lemmings, Pier Pressure, Reading 2 and Camden 2 all finishing within one seed of their starting position.

Just as impressive as that of Curve 2 was the performance of Devon 3 – they managed to climb from second-bottom to third in their group, finishing the tournament in an impressive 12th, also an 8 place increase. In fact, they only finished 4 places lower than their second team. This result points to a great foundation for the club, and a real platform for growth in the off season, as we look ahead to next year.


UltiClips review UKU Tour 3 with some great clips from the weekend!

The Tour season comes to a close but there is plenty more to play for! Stay tuned for WUCC 2014 previews and more!

UKU Open and Women’s Tour 3 Preview

#ukut3, Cardiff, Chevron, Clapham, EMO, Fire of London, Iceni, Nice Bristols, PUNT, Ranelagh, ROBOT, SYC, UK Ultimate, Zimmer
David Pryce and Christopher Bell take us through this weekends UKU Tour 3.


Welcome home to Clapham Ultimate and Iceni Ultimate, well played out there! This weekends schedule is here: http://bit.ly/TWR1As


A Tour
The final instalment of this years domestic UK club season is tomorrow! With two events already completed it is still mathematically possible for anyone near the top to take the Tour title. Clapham will be combining both lines into the Clapham D team seeding and EMO will be hoping for the London team to lose their almost inevitable semi final. With only a handful of points between them a big enough gap between these two teams on Sunday evening could be the chance for EMO to take the top spot from Clapham D. However, I don’t think Clapham will be lying down too easily. After learning some tough lessons at the US Open they will only be hungry to return to the UK and stamp their authority on their home turf. 

Hayden Slaughter makes a huge grab over Clapham D at Tour 2. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.


In the pool stages Brighton get a chance to take that champion scalp early once again, with an opening pool play fixture against Clapham. Can they reverse the result after losing in universe point at Tour 2? EMO and Fire of London face off for the first time in this year’s regular season, can the London team take down the Worlds bound Midlands boys? Londoners Flump however have a tough introduction to this years A tour taking on the young and athletic Devon, flamboyant KaPow! and cohesive Rebel. In the D pool I would expect Manchester to come out on top, but new comers NEO took B tour with relative ease and DED have been strong throughout this season so far so it’s far from a foregone conclusion. Chevron will meet old friends and foes alike in the pool as they face Zimmer, Brighton and Clapham in their pool and will be looking to better a final game loss to EMO at Tour 2.

Can anyone take down a combined Clapham close to their season’s peak? Tour 3 sees both the tournament and overall tour title up for grabs so expect fierce competition as the best teams in Britain prepare for Lecco. 


Women’s
Iceni have chosen to pass on this weekends event to train together and get some rest after the US Open, leaving the Women’s tour title open for a number of teams to possibly take. Punt are only 60 points behind Iceni, SYC trail the current champions by 73 and even if Nice Bristols win this even they will not have enough to take first (or possibly second). This year presents a rare chance for a new team to claim the tour title after recent Iceni dominance, but it won’t come easily…

Punt made their first final last tour and showed that whilst they couldn’t take down Iceni they definitely deserved that second place. Now it leaves them to prove that they can take on Nice Bristols who return from the Boston Invite to continue their Worlds preparation. 

Iceni Captain Sonia Komenda makes a bid on Punt player Hannah Body. Photo courtesy of Graham Bailey.


SYC and ROBOT will not let any of this happen lightly. Both teams have had a very strong season and have also had some great battles against each other. Do not be surprised to see some great performances from these women as they push to for their first domestic finals of the year. 

Further down the pack, newcomers Phoenix London and second year team Relentless will be hoping they can firm up their positions in the top 8 with the likes of Leeds, Blink and Swift.

Saturday games to watch: 
Nice Bristols vs SYC (Pitch 3 at 10:40)
Punt vs ROBOT (Pitch 1 at 17:20) 

B Tour

Having finished 2nd last time out, LeedsLeedsLeeds will be hoping to finish in the top 16 this Sunday. In their group are Reading 1 (who they beat comfortably in St Albans), Brighton Echo and Vision. They have yet to face Brighton Echo this season, but they will be expecting to win every game in this group – including regional rivals Vision, who they beat at Northern Winter League on a surprisingly sunny Sunday in Manchester back in February. The Yorkshire lads may very well fancy their chances to get back into A Tour, if looking at the group they would cross with, which isn’t the strongest.

The other group in the top half of B Tour sees JR1, Sneeekys, Fire 2 and Cardiff Storm fight it out for a chance to get back into A Tour – a tough group that’s even tougher to call. JR have been there or there about for a long time now, as far as the A/B Tour line goes. Sneeekys have had an extremely impressive season, having played an entire Tour lower last year, and I’m sure would love to cap a successful season with a spot in the top 16. Fire 2 spent last year in A Tour, though there are some out there that don’t feel Fire 2 have the desire or the pedigree to get back to that level just right now. Finally, there’s Storm, who finished 13th at Tour 2 will have the home advantage of sleeping in their own beds at Tour 3 – which along with only having to do a fraction of the travelling, cannot be underestimated.

The lower half of B Tour is an eclectic mix of teams, some of which have been hovering around those seeds all season, but the majority have played in C Tour at some point this year. Each team will either want to prove that they are definitely a B Tour team (The Brown) or be looking to stake a claim in the middle tier of Open Tour by proving themselves this year (Camden). Expect plenty of close, scrappy games in these pools as each team tries to clamber up the ranks, whilst avoiding the drop back into C Tour.  Rest assured that any team that does find itself facing a crossover at the bottom of the Tour will fight extremely hard to ensure that they stay within the top 32.

Tom Pierce with a layout score for Guildford at Tour 2. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.


C Tour

A more open schedule means that the next instalment of C Tour should see some more movement in the rankings, as teams battle it out in this last chance to improve their seedings this season. 

Further incentive to top the pool is provided by the chance of a crossover into B Tour on Sunday morning. Will any teams be able to make the final push to finish in the top 32? The story that unfolds over the weekend will be fascinating – that much is for sure.

Number 1 seeds, Guildford, may feel this is their time, after sudden-death losses to current B Tour teams in the knock-out stages of the previous two tours stalling their attempts at promotion. They will expect to dominate in their group and continue that form into the Sunday. Rhubarb (3rd seed) will similarly be aiming high after an impressive showing throughout the season so far. Perhaps Pingu Jam can find some extra motivation to convert their obvious talent on the pitch to a rise in the seedings akin to that which they enjoyed at Mixed Tour.

Below the teams topping the pools, there is much room for upset with another six or seven teams definitely capable of going toe-to-toe with the big guns. CUlt 2 will be hoping to go one better after a great performance in Nottingham. Likewise, teams such as Lemmings and Black Sheep have bolstered their ranks as they push to challenge those currently at the top.

It will be very much a case of which teams show up this weekend as to who will be able to provide those shock results – but don’t expect everything to go to seed! There is an incredible amount of potential for some huge changes in the C Tour landscape this weekend, with pride and a place in B Tour as the prize.

Answering The Call…

Bad Skid, Flying Angels Bern, London Calling, news, Previews, SYC, YAKA
James Burbidge introduces the international competition making the trip over the channel this weekend.

Tour 1 became ‘London Calling’ in 2010 when 7 international teams were first invited over to compete in the British event. This year 11 teams are crossing water to play against Europe’s champions, the top-level British teams, and each other in preparation for 3 years of fierce competition. We got in touch with TD (and CEO of UKU) Si Hill and some of the visiting teams to find out what goes into putting on this unique tournament, and what attracts Europe’s top teams to it.

With a massive 96 teams attending this year, Si’s chief worry isn’t the schedule, or seeding the new teams, no – “it’s the carpark. With the recent rain we’re worried about the car park field getting muddy, and we need people to get in and parked efficiently.  We don’t want any delays at the entrance because we’re only a few hundred metres from the M25.

Tour 1 always brings a frisson of excitement to a familiar British tour scene as unfamiliar teams are inserted into the top 16. For Si, this disruption is kind of the point: “For A-tour teams, and our top women’s teams, having strong European squads over brings everyone’s level up. The stronger we make the competition, and the more we play unfamiliar teams, the better everyone gets. That’s the goal.”

 Phil Johnson wraps around for the bid. Photo Courtesy of Graham Bailey.


That was the hope of every international team we spoke to too, with Clapham and Iceni consistently mentioned as clubs they were hoping to pitch themselves against. That’s no surprise; a clean sweep for British teams at xEUCF last year is a clear indicator that British ultimate is doing something right. Viksjöfors captain Stefan Johansson put it most simply: “We want a good preparation tournament before Worlds and London Calling has been on our radar for a couple of years, so we decided it was time to go. Also we know that at the tournament we will play the best European teams, so it was not that hard to justify London Calling instead of, for example, Windmill.”


For Frédéric Risse, the French Open coach, it’s athletic opponents in particular he is trying to find. “We cross the Channel to play athletic and experienced teams. English teams are known for being among the best and we want our player to face athletic and even rough opposition.”

Looking furthest ahead, both France and Austria have entered national teams in preparation for the European and World Championships in 2014 and 2015. With the club season just finishing in France they found the timing perfectly suited their preparation for national teams. They have brought two into the Open division, split equally to give high-pressure experience to the younger members of the squad. Having entered previously in 2012 many of the team have played London Calling before, and some played the British season with Fire last year.

For countries with stronger club scenes, the focus is a lot closer – Lecco, the World Ultimate Club Championships, this summer. A brief glance at the top teams at xEUCF last autumn and a look at the top 16 of London Calling reveals an awfully similar set of teams. Competition is going to be fierce and these teams are going to be familiar with each other. London Calling should give a chance to see how new squads are looking, and what effects winter trainings have had on performance. Unfortunately, though, most travelling teams are unable to bring a full squad; injuries, travel costs, exams and work commitments have prohibited several players from making the trip. FAB look to be worst hit, bringing only 13 of a possible 25 players to London; Bad Skid, meanwhile, may be limited by reported travel times of up to 14 hours.

European powerhouse FAB are making the trip to London for the first time “despite talking about going every year.” At the other end of the spectrum, French women’s team Yaka will be making their fourth trip in 5 years. Their captain Aline ‘Rasta’ Mondiot says the team is looking to make the quarter finals in an increasingly strong women’s division, but admits that will be difficult when 4 players (including herself) will be playing for SYC.

The other international women’s team attending is E6, from Sweden, who usually attend Wonderful Copenhagen (unfortunately cancelled this year). Whilst they have a World’s spot they haven’t been at xEUCF for the last two years. Harriet Andersson, team captain, says the tournament is about “getting as much ultimate as possible before Worlds in Lecco. The team members are spread all over the country due to studies and work, so we don’t get much time playing with each other.”

Holger climbs the ladder at last year’s tournament. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss


That’s definitely not the case for Bad Skid, some of whom have been playing together since they were 14. With some tough losses to Clapham over the last year, we asked if they had any plans for the European Champions. Captain Holger Beuttenmüller said that playing perfectly on both sides of the disc would be key, as well as not getting sucked into playing Clapham’s game. He also admitted that “sure, we have some specific plans against them, but we try to keep them a secret” It will be interesting to see if any special tactics are revealed in the showgame on Saturday or if they are saved for bracket play on Sunday.

Looking beyond 2014, Si Hill is keen to grow the tournament – but only by 4 teams to a maximum of 100. Instead, he’d rather focus on getting more European women’s teams over consistently, and developing the provision of the tournament to make it feel premium. Streaming of games is an option he and the team are looking at, and feelers are out to get some North American competition over. He is also happy to announce that UKU has submitted a bid to WFDF to host the World u23 Championships in 2015 at this venue.

Everything’s set for a seriously good tournament. Again, remember to use the #ukut1 tag for all related social media, and best of luck for all competitors heading to St. Albans this weekend!

London Calling – Women’s Preview

#ukut1, Iceni, Leeds, news, Nice Bristols, Previews, ROBOT, SYC, Women's Tour, YAKA
Charlie Blair introduces the teams who will be starting up the Women’s club season this weekend…

Can you believe it? Here beckons the start of June. The summer has arrived! The season is about to begin! And boy, what a difference a year makes!  London Calling 2014 delivers yet again with another great turn out in the women’s Tour with 24 teams signed up and raring to go. Most exciting however, is that this year promises more depth than ever as preparation for World clubs has strengthened the level of competition ready to descend on St Albans this weekend. Whilst some have complained that Tour maintains a sense of predictability ten years in, the battle amongst the top 8 and the top 12 is finally feeling like a more competitive affair.

There really is no telling just how much the seedings will be turned over in any of these brackets. It would be safe to assume that the three teams contending at world clubs will be found at the summit of Tour. However, in terms of who will take the title, it does seem somewhat likely that Iceni will rule the roost once again.

In preparation for Worlds, Iceni have had a marked overhaul under the leadership of Sonia Komenda and Ange Wilkinson, in recognition of the serious demands required in order to challenge top teams in Italy. They go into Tour 1 extremely well prepared, with months of bi-weekly trainings and professional fitness instruction under the guidance of former Clapham player Paul ‘Voodoo’ Waite who has committed his season to them. Nevertheless, in having not attended the inaugural NFL (Not Fog Lane) a couple of weeks ago, Tour will be their first demonstration of their hard work. With the introduction of a new  ‘north American’ style structure and the complete scrap of vertical stack from their offensive repertoire, will it all come together in time or will others be able to take advantage of their somewhat inexperienced tactics?
Joey Holmes getting off her feet for a D at UKU Club Nationals 2013. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.


Bristol have shown the same dedication and intensity to their training over the past few months, ( in fact Bristol’s impressive team effort in preparation for Worlds has even seen them wangle some TV and radio appearance along the way!) but they have already signalled that teething problems remain. Whilst Bristol take their loss to SYC in the final of NFL in their stride, it may be that they don’t place as highly as expected whilst they continue to find their momentum. However, their decision to split their worlds squad for Tour in favour of using the tournament as further opportunity to harness close connections and rapport amongst players suggests their aim goes beyond taking domestic victory.

It is without doubt that the welcome international cohort we enjoy at London Calling will also have their eyes on victory. This year two teams will be making the trip over: E6 from Sweden, and YAKA from France. In such an important club year, it is a shame that so few Europeans have managed to be enticed. Little is known of the current state of this Swedish team who did not make an appearance in Bordeaux last year. Needless to say, they have always sported a team of extremely hard working and gritty players, with an experienced core leading the way. They will surely be looking for upsets. YAKA should equally expect to fair well on UK soil, having finished above Bristol, SYC and LLL at xEUCF 2013 . Even though they missed out on qualifying for worlds, they will be carrying confidence from taking the title at the recent ‘Siege of Limerick’. However, the loss of their famous talisman since then, Aline ‘Rasta’ Mondiot, who has hopped across the Channel to train and play with SYC this season could prove to be huge.

Indeed, this reshuffle of players as a result of selection and qualification of World Clubs has both seemingly strengthened established clubs and stimulated new ones, particularly in the south. Iceni’s much stricter selection process released a wealth of talented women to bolster clubs such as SYC and Crown Jewels as well as initiate the formation of Phoenix and Free Agents. All will be pushing for the best result possible in the top half of the Tour. Of the two new clubs, we know that despite their newness, Phoenix (formed of ex- Iceni  / Herd players) are serious about competing having exploited the wisdom of local beardy guru, Jaime Cross. Free Agents on the other hand are a motley crew of ex Iceni/SYC who haven’t committed to any trainings this year. Whilst they will be looking to cause trouble, the ‘name tags’ of this team, which include reigning Paga queen Bex Forth shouldn’t assume victory over those that have been working hard all season.

In the face of this new competition, others expecting a top table finish will surely be the legends of ROBOT, the Scottish contingent, Swift, and the big movers and shakers of last season, Punt, who all rounded off last season comfortably in the top 10. Looking further north LLL will also be keen to cement their strength after a phenomenal success at developing an incredibly talented core of young players. They appear to have become a real beacon for attracting committed players in the north, with some team members even commuting from as far a field as Scotland. They mean business!

Nevertheless, those teams who are looking to kick off the season with a more modest seeding, who train less frequently, are still capable of surprises. Whilst the battle for the mid table already looks rather crowded this year, there is welcome room for new outfits Manchester and Devon to ruffle some feathers. Both these teams have been established and managed under the guidance of former GB players who have invested in their local area. Up in Manchester, Julia ‘Jools’ Murray and Claerwen Snell have been providing lots of structure to trainings with guest coaches and fitness expertise on hand. So whilst they may lack experience, expect a well-drilled, well informed, skilled team who know their fundamentals. 

Despite my prediction that a full powered Iceni – desperate to play all together for the first time – are going to storm London Calling, I no longer see a divide between the top 4 and the rest as in previous years. There is everything to play for in the top bracket whether it’s the 3v4 or the 9v10, and woe betide any team that goes to Tour 1 resigning themselves to formality this weekend. Things are looking truly exciting in Women’s ultimate after the 2013 shake-up, and now it really is a case of if you don’t take it, someone else will!

Excitement is building steadily for the season opener in less than 24 hours. Our final preview of international teams is on the way!


London Women’s Ultimate Forum

Discie Chicks, Iceni, Imperial, Kings, London, London Women's Ultimate Forum, LWUF., SYC, UCL, womens
Charlie Blair gives us the lowdown on the meeting of London Women’s Ultimate Forum a couple weeks ago.
 

Ten years ago London was host to a mere 24 female Ultimate players.  The establishment of the women’s Tour opened the door for growth by providing the opportunity for women not merely to play at a competitive and athletic level against one another, but facilitated both the incentive and necessity for other teams to strive to regularly train at such a level.  As such we have witnessed Tour participation swell from only seven teams in 2004 to twenty-one in 2013, four of which represented the capital.

Whilst on the surface this may seem somewhat impressive, a simple comparison with the growth in Open and the fact that only Iceni and SYC attended Nationals highlights the lack of sustainability that London clubs – indeed clubs nationwide – outside of the top tier appear to be suffering from. Thus, despite a steady increase in female participation, our club infrastructure, and thus our development, remains weak.

It is why at the beginning of this month, representatives of London based women’s clubs and those interested and/or affiliated to their development gathered for an open forum to evaluate the current situation. They included: Iceni, SYC, Crown Jewels, Curve, Discie Chicks and a new team, so nascent yet to be named! In addition there was university representation from Kings, UCL and Imperial. It was incredible alone to have a whole cohort of women representing their interests in London, a decade since Alia Ayub and Laura Pearce encouraged women in the UK to talk about what they want from Ultimate for the first time, which led to the inception of the Women’s Tour and the appointment of the first ever UKU Women’s Coordinator.

Representation from all over the London club and university scene.

 

End of Year Review – Women’s Tour 2013

Devon, Leeds, Nice Bristols, PUNT, SYC, UK Ultimate, Women's Tour, WUCC2014, xEUCF
Charlie Blair looks back at the 2013 season and ahead at what’s to come in 2014.

With 2014 just around the corner, the Women’s Tour is about to embark on its tenth year. It is only fitting then that this year was one of landmark achievements, with our domestic battles being heightened by the two qualification spots at WUCC up for grabs.  Moreover, this qualification process instigated pioneering changes to the organisation of the divisions this year; ones that appear to be forcing many women’s clubs to reassess their form and direction.  As tSG reflects on some of the triumphs and challenges of the season, what can we expect from the season ahead? 

The UK Women’s Tour proudly concluded this year’s campaign triumphant in Bordeaux, with representation from four British clubs at xEUCF; a reflection of the depth within women’s ultimate in this country that remains unmatched by any other European nation. As such our clubs were arguably responsible for some of the most spectacular games of the tournament, notably those of the final and the ‘game to go’.

For Bristol, the remaining qualification spot boiled down to yet another match up with their British counterparts, SYC. However, with onlookers commenting that it’s the best they’ve seen either play in years, perhaps no other opposition could have brought out such defining performances from both teams. According to Bristol veteran, Jen Hart: 

‘We were playing for everything. We went three or four points behind and then we had a game changing layout from Bridget Brown and that was the turning point- from then on we were ruthless, we had layout blocks and clinical scores.’


For SYC, such a game took its toll on a 13 woman squad that had lost several players throughout the season to injuries, babies and the Middle East! They too applaud each other for inspirational play but credit the strength of Bristol’s handler movement, unrelenting upon their fatigue. It was a ‘devastating’ loss after having been in the lead, and unfortunately one which seems to reflect the positive start to the season they had, that faded as Bristol began their ascendency and usurped SYC’s place in the Tour 3 and Nationals finals. 

In contrast, this victory cemented a landmark year for Bristol who not only qualified for worlds for the first time in their club’s history but also took home their first ever Tour victory in Cardiff, against Iceni. Not to mention taking home the Spirit prize from Euros for a second year in a row. 

Unsurprisingly then, Iceni are having to respond to the challenges they faced from both Bristol and their European counterparts this season. In the xEUCF final, Iceni, keen to send a strong message to the world having already qualified for WUCC, were pushed harder than ever to defend their title in what was visibly their toughest mental and physical game of their whole season. A victory required some super human efforts from the likes of Fran Scarampi who injected the momentum into her team to see out the game.
Francesca Scarampi making ‘that huge grab’ in the xEUCF final. Picture courtesy of Ingeborg Kuijlaars of Get Horizontal.
For Iceni, 2013 was the beginning of a two year season that culminated at WUCC. Therefore, they took the opportunity to choose a very big squad and train regularly this year. But as Ange Wilkinson admits, this became a ‘bit of a balancing act’ having such a large number of talented and hard-working athletes to manage. Particularly with so many other international commitments demanded from a substantial portion of the team. Consequently, chinks in the Iceni armour did indeed show this year and so looking forward to 2014 they seek ‘a renewed commitment from all our players to really push their own, and the team’s boundaries’. 

Indeed, women’s Nationals this year really brought this issue of commitment to the forefront amidst concerns about how the poor turnout reflected the state of women’s ultimate in the UK. Jen Hart suggests that if there had been more movement at the top of the Women’s Tour than it might have encouraged teams to stick out and push for Euros. As such, the wider significance of their example at Tour 3 is not lost on Bristol themselves, who maintain: 
‘People tend to talk about themselves and their team, but it’s not just about us winning- it was about changing the norm, beating the historical powerhouse that is Iceni; showing the other women’s teams that it doesn’t always have to be the same, showing that with enough hard work and belief you CAN win a Tour final.’
And it is such success that their peers delight in sharing in, and for many of whom, Bristol have been the most impressive team on the Women’s Tour this season. 

Their confidence, communication and strong fundamentals have impressed the leadership of both Punt and Iceni, whilst Megan Hurst of Seven Sisters considers them ‘a real role model for the women’s scene in general’. She sees them as a great example of a geo club who don’t share the graduate pulling power and transport links of London. 

I agree that it is exactly this kind of inspiration that the Women’s Tour desperately needs. Now that Bristol have gone some way to dispelling the predictability of Women’s Tour, it’s not just Iceni who have been encouraged to reorganise their aims and structure after this season. Seven Sisters can only speculate how they will look next year, having decided to focus much more exclusively on home grown and local players rather than being a satellite outfit. Whilst SYC are looking to hold more frequent London trainings and take a bigger squad. As such, this trial period, captain Cesca Tyler is keen to see ‘the SYC Saturday sessions attended by as many London based or close to London women as possible, whatever team played for’. 

Moreover, the success of Leeds Leeds Leeds is testament to the need for strong local foundations. It was these that allowed them to surpass even their own expectations, with captain Hannah Boddy admitting, ‘Euros wasn’t even on my radar in January!’. But despite much of their team never having ever played tour before, they were elated to maintain a consistent fourth place position. Boddy accredits this to the unity formed amongst her players who frequently trained with local geo teams, outside of tournaments and Leeds weekend trainings. In her eyes, the ability to build a successful team from scratch had much to do with a proactive attitude to skills days and local university team success, which has fostered the ‘ambition, talent and dedication of the ladies in the north’.

Nevertheless, the adjustments that some of these clubs intend to make to their organisation can also be seen as a natural response to the simultaneous hosting of Women’s and Mixed nationals this year. It is no surprise that Women’s clubs are now demanding greater commitment (to varying degrees!) from their players, more or less forcing them to make the choice between the two divisions in alignment with the changes to the tournament calendar.  Certainly, Iceni has made that abundantly clear, having organised all training weekends over the mixed tour dates. 

However, this choice will inevitably serve to weaken some other women’s clubs. It was a great shame that the only other team to have somewhat dispelled the status quo of the top four, PUNT, didn’t attend Nationals because the majority of their players committed to mixed instead. Yet captain Magili Matsumiya quite rightly points out, that if we intend to be showcasing in each division at the same event (which is the case in all international tournaments) we need both committed mixed and women’s teams domestically if we want to perform well:
‘I think you could equally say that having mixed nationals alongside women’s resulted in a low show for mixed, in terms of really top teams anyway (eg RGS and Magic Toast were consistently top four at Mixed Tour but all their players are on Iceni/Clapham/SYC/Chevron). What is certainly true is that there currently isn’t a sufficient player base of female players to have high quality mixed and women’s at the same event’.  
Whilst some may lament what appears to be a withdrawal of playing opportunity for women and damaging to the women’s game, in fact this separation is creating more opportunity for women, and of much higher quality. In my opinion, it has simultaneously highlighted the great dearth of female participation in Ultimate and provided the capacity to absorb and develop new talent to resolve that. A greater commitment to either women’s or mixed clubs will also allow them to create a greater legacy that is not totally reliant on a certain generation of players to sustain it. 

So whilst we may not see PUNT return to full force and picking up from where they left off from 3rd place at Tour, we can look forward to what new local outfits have to offer us in 2014, as well as those not distracted by international ambitions. Swift will be looking to develop strength again in the wake of losing players to mixed this season. In addition, there is excitement surrounding the inception of a Manchester based women’s team who have started to train under the leadership of experienced players such as Jools Murray. Equally, World Games star and A Tour regular, Izzy Burke, has already started training up a Devon women’s team as early as this September in preparation for the 2014 season! And if the training shirts and fresh faces in the pictures of their first training session is anything to go by, it appears to be a much needed vehicle for talented juniors to have the opportunity to not simply be exposed to Tour, but train for it. 

Devon Women have their first training. Photo courtesy of Devon Ultimate.
So this year Women’s Tour was a landmark year in terms of long term orientation, with a wakeup call from upsets on pitch, and some artificial cajoling from the UKU’s scheduling off pitch. tSG wishes Iceni and Bristol the best of luck in their preparations for WUCC and will be following them all the way! And here’s hoping that this inspiring commitment from so many clubs and individuals to develop women’s Ultimate will produce the best attended Tour season with the highest quality games to date. Nothing less than what its tenth anniversary deserves!

Awesome! So much going on here at tSG HQ, are you ready for it?
DP @ tSG