UK University Ultimate 2017/18: Women’s Indoor Regionals Preview (North)

news, Previews, University, Womens

Kat Rowland brings us her first preview from the UWIR in the North.

With UXIR and UMIR out of the way, the spotlight turns to the year’s first women’s tournament. Beginners have settled into their teams and the North is becoming a little cold and dark for outdoor training, so UWIR is the next major event. Each team will have their own aspirations, whether that is one of six prized qualifying spots for Nationals, to develop team cohesion, or to beat specific local rivals. Certain teams are expected to dominate, but who knows who might rock the boat? Some final standings are predicted, but aim to exceed expectations and prove me wrong!

UK University Ultimate 2017/18: Women’s Indoor Regionals Preview (East)

news, Previews, University, Womens

Isabel Goh presents her preview on the East Region ahead of Women’s Indoor Regionals.

With the top two finishers of the University Women’s Indoor and Outdoor Nationals for the 2016/17 season coming from this region last year, the East region crown seems to be anyone’s for the taking. With five qualifying spots for University Women’s Indoor Nationals (UWIN) up from four last year, it can only mean more thrilling games in a highly competitive region. This preview, peppered with quotes from the various team captains, will hopefully get you psyched for the weekend because it promises to be two very exciting days!

UKU Nationals 2017 – A Review

Mixed, Nationals, Open, Review, Tournament Reports, Womens

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.

UKU Nationals 2017 – Predictions

Mixed, Open, Previews, Tournament Reports, Womens

Now that we’ve published all three previews, here’s what our ShowGame team think will happen at Nationals. We’ll give you a projected top four in every division with some discussion afterwards, and a collection of things to watch as well. Hopefully we don’t look too ridiculous come Monday evening…

UKU Nationals 2017 – Women’s

news, Previews, Tournament Reports, Womens

Hannah Pendlebury returns from WFDF World Games fame to help with further Women’s coverage of UKU Nationals in Birmingham.

After seven years on the beautiful south coast, UK Nationals has finally changed its relationship status to “It’s Complicated” and split from Wide Lane. It has instead packed its bags for the grizzly midlands, leaving an orphaned Facebook page and Twitter handle in its wake.

Whilst it seems that the stats and fantasy league tables have also been left adrift back in Southampton, this year’s competition did remember to pack a punch in terms of exciting opportunities for the Women’s division. Inside the UKU suitcases heading to Birmingham this weekend are; a guaranteed World Club Championships 2018 spot, two bids for the forthcoming European Club Championships and nine live-streamed games – so plenty of glory still to play for.

Whilst we will be getting a change of scenery, there is one thing that I don’t expect to be different about Women’s Nationals this year. That being – it’s really a battle for second place. I know you should never say never and I mean absolutely no disrespect to any of the teams attending, but Iceni just look indomitable at this level. But more about them later… For now, let’s see who else will be battling it out for a shot at Euros!

Seed #8: Reading

Reading Women have had a phenomenal season so far this year. As a club better known for their elite Mixed squad, 2017 marked their third year entering the Women’s division, with two very capable teams attending each Tour event. The final rankings of those squads (ninth and tenth respectively) show an obvious depth of female talent, with an especially impressive underdog story in the shape of their second team who were seeded at the very bottom of the division back in June.

Having chosen to take an even-split approach earlier on in the season, Tour 3 gave us an opportunity to see what the upper half of the Reading roster are capable of. As it turned out, that was some pretty high quality Ultimate! Reading 1 finished sixth overall in Birmingham, losing just one game all weekend against overall third-ranked Hydra and securing some pretty dominant wins against Chaos, SMOG and LLLeeds en route to the 5v6.

Whilst I wouldn’t put money on Reading being in the top four by the end of Sunday without their Mixed superstars, they are no strangers to starting at the bottom and battling their way up. They certainly seem to have developed a supportive culture which entices top experienced players and brand new talents alike: their roster features a savvy handler in her 18th year of playing, a cutter in her first year of Ultimate (this will be her fourth outdoor tournament ever), plus a little bit of everything in between!

With the spread of abilities in their ranks, Reading remain a bit of a wildcard going into Nationals. Either way you can be sure that they will execute some confident Ultimate this weekend and maybe they will snag another spirit title to their already impressive haul for the season… Stay tuned to find out!

Seed #7: Chaos

After initially missing the boat on entry to Women’s Nationals this year (much of their roster had Mixed Regionals commitments) Chaos won the game of ‘fastest finger first’ to bag themselves a golden ticket to Birmingham in their debut season. And what a season it has been!

As a brand-new entry to the Women’s Tour circuit, there seemed to be a certain amount of ‘always the bridesmaid, never in the power pool’ when it came to Chaos’ seeding this year. Although they had a great vision at the start of the season with two dedicated coaches and plenty of talent on their roster, injuries and squad inconsistencies seemed to prove an Achilles heel. Whilst they certainly had some great games this year (and developed some gritty rivalries along the way) the results would suggest that they didn’t quite manage to maintain their magic throughout an entire weekend, leaving them unable to climb very far up the rankings.
With the honeypot that is London Ultimate seeming to throw together a new team every few years involving largely the same collection of faces, I hope Chaos put down some roots and stick around for a few more seasons. (Stay together for the kit ladies! It’s so cool!) In all seriousness though, Chaos will no doubt be looking forward to testing themselves against the very top end of UK Women’s Ultimate, since the schedule kept them apart for much of the domestic season. They will also surely be keen for another in a long line of matches against LLLeeds, whom they knocked out of the top eight back at Tour 1 with an epic 20 minute sudden-death point!

However, in order to rise above their seventh seed Chaos will need to handle some significant roster shuffling, with just 11 of their original 21 squad members present at this event. One of the handiest of the new faces will surely be Sarah Melvin of Ireland Mixed, who comes highly recommended from coach Conor ‘Hogi’ Hogan as “one of Europe’s best players in 2015, easily”. Only time will tell if Chaos can utilise players like Melvin to make an impact on Nationals and end their first season on a high.

Seed #6: Rebel

Rebel are one of my favourite teams to play against. Not only are they friendly and superbly spirited, but I love their gutsy, huck-heavy playing style. Hailing from Cork, they make up the Irish contingent for the EUCR-West region.

Although Rebel made an appearance at Tour 2 this year, their roster at Nationals will be much more akin to their team from last season. This makes a great deal of sense, as rather quirkily their qualification for UK Nationals 2017 is based on winning the All-Ireland Championships back in 2016. This was a great achievement but sadly a feat they couldn’t replicate this year, losing to Dublin-based Gravity 15-7 after the ladies in green took an early lead and Rebel struggled to adjust.

Rebel dedicated a lot of time and resources to developing their team in 2016, attending a high number of foreign tournaments – including all three Tour events. Whilst this was a great experience, it has proved unsustainable for the club as a whole, so Rebel will be coming to Birmingham a little less well-prepared than they may have been if money were no object! But with a reliable core of players who are willing to work hard for each other and who ranked second overall for the 2016 season, I wouldn’t count them out for a serious shot at semis if they can bring their A-game.

Seed #5: LLLeeds

LLLeeds have had a solidly consistent but fairly muted season so far, finishing either eighth or ninth at each Tour event for an overall ranking of seventh. However, taking a sneaky peek at their roster on Ultimate Central, this is one of the tastier looking LLLeeds squads I have seen in a little while! Add in some extra spice in the fact that nearly 50% of their roster are only playing Sunday and suddenly you have a potential recipe for some interesting results indeed…

As I have mentioned in earlier previews, LLLeeds are a club with a great legacy. This includes the accolade of being the last team to beat Iceni in a UK Nationals final back in 2010 – though I doubt we will see a repeat of that particular performance this year. Whereas in more recent seasons they have brought out the big guns for Nationals to sneak up the rankings and snag the odd last-minute Euros spot, the increased overall strength within the division will certainly make this a harder task for Birmingham.

Although the change of venues should provide some slightly gustier conditions which will suit LLLeeds’ throwing prowess, I would expect them to hang tough against the top four but fall just short of taking any scalps in pool play. This would of course lock them out of the final, but with their reinforcements arriving on Sunday morning there would still be a route to the 3v4 if they can replay the magic of seasons past! I for one am looking forward to seeing what they can pull out of the hat in Birmingham.

Seed #4: Brighton

I have to admit, Brighton really surprised me at Tour 3. With a comparatively miniscule squad of just nine players (the commentator’s dream) I had made the call that whilst the majority of their squad was fit as hell from Beach Worlds prep, they would fall to fatigue and tumble out of the top bracket. Oh boy, was I wrong.

The last time they were in Birmingham, Brighton played the schedule like absolute champions. By going hard in their early pool games on Saturday and posting up some impressive points differences, they secured themselves second seed and a two-game Sunday. They then went on to take a commanding early lead against SYC in their semi-final, though they eventually lost in sudden death as their legs and brains finally started to falter… But not for long, finishing out the weekend with a 15-8 win over the GB U24 Women.

Looking at Brighton’s roster for Nationals you will spot eight of the nine players who last made the trip up to Birmingham, with the singular loss of Avril Hunter to Reading Mixed. They have also bolstered their ranks with a few extra pairs of legs, including some younger players by way of a long-established connection with Kent’s Ultimate scene and a few home-grown names too.

Naturally Brighton will hope to play the schedule in their favour by winning their pool on Saturday, avoiding the semi-final matchup against Iceni on Sunday morning. However, taking down Nice Bristols will be no mean feat – and it is yet to be seen whether the new pairs of legs will be kill or cure for this tightly-knit Brighton unit. But if they can peak at Nationals as planned and recreate some of the dishy throws and sensational grabs they had at Tour 3 I wouldn’t put it past Brighton to cause an upset. Definitely one to watch!

Alice Beeching under a lot of pressure from SYC. Photo by Claire Baker for the ShowGame.

Seed #3: SYC

Despite their considerable roster changes coming into this season SYC have performed very well, earning the top overall ranking in the Tour standings for 2017. They undoubtedly have plenty of athleticism across the board and some extremely handy international additions who have made a real impact. Tessa Bertozzi, Nina Hintner and Amanda Fung all made huge contributions in the SYC games which I had the pleasure of watching at Tour 3 – both on offence and on defence.

However what SYC will have needed to do since July and now is iron out their unforced errors. In both of their Sunday games at Tour 3 they came out with intense defensive pressure, but initially failed to convert off the back of a fairly messy offence peppered with simple mistakes. If they want to push for the very top spots this weekend, SYC will need to make sure they come out clean from the start. Hopefully under the watchful eyes of coaches James Burbidge and Marie-Sophie Nguyen-Tu, this is something they can achieve.

In terms of the schedule SYC might feel a little hard done by, being seeded third considering their overall finish over the Tour season. However, this actually works to their advantage as they will safely clash against Iceni in pool play and are therefore guaranteed to avoid being knocked out by the warriors during semi-finals. Though that is not to say that they couldn’t be bested to the final by another team instead! Provided that all goes as per the predicted seeding, SYC’s semi will in fact be a rematch from their Nationals 2016 semi-final against Nice Bristols. Whilst the ladies in red took the win last time, this will likely be an intense game and by no means a foregone conclusion. If SYC can come out at their very best I wouldn’t discount them advancing to the final clinching that all-important Euros spot.

Seed #2: Nice Bristols

I said it at the very beginning of this season and I’ll say it again now – I think of all the teams attending Nationals, Nice Bristols have the best shot at beating Iceni. Watching their full-strength squad take the Tour 3 title back in July, it was clear that Bristol have a seriously deep roster which combines both experience behind the disc and sheer athletic power downfield. This is not at all surprising when you consider just how stacked this team is with international level players, with 14 of their 23 players this weekend having represented their home nation at one point or another.

Having turned down their ticket to Euros last year, it would seem that Bristol are more focussed this season, presumably hoping to place high enough to secure a spot at the forthcoming World Club Championships in Cincinnati next year. However, this goal did not prevent them from taking their usual approach to the Tour season as a whole. As in 2016, they dedicated their first two events to developing their up and coming players whilst some of their more experienced teammates attended various ‘real life’ commitments.

Whilst you can’t argue with Iceni’s approach of pocketing the best existing players and pushing them to even higher levels as a model for success, Bristol’s home-grown approach gives them a unique edge of that you have to respect. Aside from the odd Aussie and northerner here and there, the overwhelming majority of their roster are born and bred west country players which suggests excellent connections and speaks volumes to their ability to retain talent.

Even though Nice Bristols have my vote for the ‘best of the rest’ this year, it will still be a very steep mountain to climb if they want to claim their first National Championship. Bristol’s offence at Tour 3 was undoubtedly effective, but their hopes will surely be dashed unless, like SYC, they can tidy things up and convert their blocks more consistently and efficiently. But if they can keep their eyes on the prize and a hold onto their second place seeding until Sunday afternoon at least they can look forward to a small advantage: at least they’ll be used to the double-incline upwind downwind conditions of pitch one already!

Seed #1: Iceni

After taking a hiatus from the UK domestic scene for Tours 2 and 3 in favour of focussed training sessions and international exposure, Iceni will be making their debut appearance at the new Birmingham venue hungry for another gold medal. But most importantly, they will be eager to cement their guaranteed spot at World Clubs in 2018!

Having taken on a number of extremely talented rookies this year (including some key picks from fellow London based team SYC) I wondered at the start of the season whether Iceni may have some teething issues as new faces settled into familiar systems. Based on their dominant showing at Tour 1 and international performances this season, I’d say things are going fairly well inside the warriors’ camp. Heading stateside for the US Open was a particularly valuable experience in the run up to next year, providing the team with opportunities to test their plays and find out what they might need to do to close out tough games at the pinnacle of Club Women’s Ultimate. It also boosted their confidence, showing that they can deliver a really high standard of play even before reaching their intended peak.

Nationals always forms a key part of Iceni’s season and with everyone expecting them to rip their way through the division to take the top spot, the pressure is certainly all on them to come up with the goods. Looking at the disc skills, game awareness and athletic talent amongst their oh-so-deep roster I have every confidence that they will do this. Taking it one game at a time and focusing on executing their style of play, they will continue to identify the open space, move the disc quickly and sail through the weekend on a cloud of blocks. And whilst we all like a good underdog story I am sure that you, dear reader, are just as excited to watch them dominate as I am!

Iceni will also be taking forward a very exciting element from the US Open, organising two forums at Nationals on Sunday afternoon to discuss gender equity and diversity in the UK Ultimate scene. I am really excited about these events and am sure that they will lead to discourse and action which will help to ensure that all players feel welcomed and encouraged into our community. I also encourage you to attend! Have a look here or speak to an Iceni player on Saturday to find out more.

To summarise ahead of this weekend, I’m going to make a somewhat bold prediction. I’m not known for my attempts to be an Ultimate oracle (I usually leave that type of thing to Sean as he’s better at taking the inevitable abuse that follows) but this time I’m going to go for it. I think this tournament will go exactly to seed. Don’t like it? Think your team is vastly under-seeded? Well, then prove me wrong!

See you on the fields!

Feature image by Claire Baker for the ShowGame.

Irish Women’s Nationals: can Rebel be pulled back by Gravity?

Ireland, Irish Ultimate, Previews, Womens

Aidan Kelly previews this weekend’s Irish Women’s Nationals, and sees a potential upset brewing.

This weekend, Dublin’s fair city is due to welcome female Ultimate players from across the country as it plays host to only the second ever stand-alone Women’s All-Ireland Ultimate Championships.

Before 2016, the event had been packaged alongside its Open counterpart. However, in an effort to promote Women’s Ultimate in the country, as well as removing any conflicts around teams with male coaches having to pick between playing or coaching, the first ever WAIUC was hosted by Uproar in Maynooth last year. The event was a huge success and saw Rebel Ultimate claim their first ever title in the division, seeing off the heavy threat of Dublin Gravity in the final.

The Gravigals will be looking to go one better this season. Photo by Elizabeth O’Sullivan.

The scene has witnessed a number of changes in the last twelve months. Last year we saw seven teams from five clubs, while this time around there are six from three. While Dublin Youth Unicorns, Jabba the Huck and UPELT are out this year, we’ve been struck by a newcomer in the form of BOLT. While it’s obviously sad to see fewer teams in the division, the fact all three clubs entered are fielding two teams each shows the strength in depth that these sides are creating.

With days to go, all early signs point to a repeat of last year’s finale. Both Rebel and Gravity have had strong seasons so far, with the Cork ladies previously travelling over to Tour 2 and the Dubliners fighting it out with some of Europe’s best over at Windmill and Disc Days Cologne during the summer.

Rebel, captained by the current IFDA Female Player of the Year Rosie O’Mahony, will no doubt be hungry to repeat their successes from last season and with the ever-united core of players developed by the dominating varsity team, University College Cork, it will take massive performances from their rivals to steal the crown. The champions also currently hold an impressive record against Gravity, having already beaten them a few weeks back at Munster Munch, an invitational Women’s tournament hosted by the Ireland Junior Women. And, with EUCR also just around the corner, I feel that the girls from ‘The People’s Republic’ will look to use this weekend as a strong base for their preparations.

BOLT are looking to cause an upset in their first year as a club. Photo by Eva Normoyle.

However, it needs to be said that Gravity, led by the team of Sinead ‘Shinners’ O’Flemming and Kate Boylan, have had a very interesting shake-up this term. Since the collapse of former champions Jabba the Huck, the club has stepped forth as the only Women’s team in Dublin, allowing for many of Jabba’s top players and young college starlets to integrate into the ranks. This added depth, along with the addition of renowned coach Ian French, has meant that Gravigals are as serious a threat to Rebel’s title hopes as they have ever been. Should these two teams make the final, as many may predict, it’s going to be a hell of a showdown between Ireland’s finest. If Gravity can flawlessly execute their game plan when it counts, I can see them bringing the gold medals home to Doyle’s Pub come Saturday night.

Looking to provide a shock are newcomers to the division in the form of BOLT Ultimate. An amalgamation of ladies from PELT (Limerick) and Tribe Ultimate (Galway) in the west, this young club will need to pull out something big to conduct an upset on the big two. The brainchild of seasoned Ireland international Aine Ahern, this thunderous crew are hoping to surge through their opposition and make a name for themselves. While the potential goal of toppling their more established rivals might be out of their reach for year one, I forecast that this storm creeping in from the west will look to show what they’re made of as they descend upon Dublin.

Women’s Tour 3: the final epic preview

Previews, Womens

Hani Pendlebury always gives the editors palpitations with her incredibly detailed previews, and this final Tour of the season is no different. Here’s her view.

It is with a mixture of excitement and sadness that I sit down to write my final Tour preview for the 2017 season. As I have said before, this year’s Women’s division has opened up so beautifully to provide teams with the opportunity for weekends crammed with close competitive games. The kind of on pitch situations that are essential to push their play to the next level. So it is disheartening to hear that despite all these exciting developments, regionals has been cancelled due to lack of interest with just six teams having entered.

Whilst I fully understand the UKU’s decision to cancel, ladies – I’m gutted! With a 22-strong division all season we really can do better in making the most of our opportunities to get on the field and play some competitive Ultimate. Yes, you might have to play the game of ‘get spanked by Iceni’ which I realise is not always the most fun. But it’s another opportunity to spend a weekend playing arguably the best sport known to man with your awesome teammates. That is a beautiful thing. Let’s make it happen next year, yeah? Cool.

Right, rant over. Onto the excitement. Let’s see those pools!

    Pool S

The ‘S’ in this power pool definitely stands for spicy… What a hot and fiery group!

SYC (1)
As a team with quality running throughout their deep roster, SYC had a cracking Tour 2. Going undefeated all weekend they managed to bag themselves maximum points and their first ever Tour win. They made pretty handy work of their pool and their closest game all weekend was their fairly comfortable semifinal win over Smog 13-9. So are SYC the ‘new Iceni’, doomed to sit largely uncontested at the top of Women’s tour? My sources would suggest perhaps not. Word on the street is their offence is not looking quite as slick as it has been in previous seasons, leaving enough scope for a plucky young challenger to potentially knock them off their perch. Saying that though, it will definitely be a hard task to take the top spot away from this talented group of players!

Smog (3)
Another team who had a pretty good time in Cardiff is Smog. Described by some as the “surprise package of the season” they showed real class in Cardiff racking up some hefty score lines and pushing SYC closer than anyone else. What’s their secret? They certainly have undeniable chemistry amongst much of their roster, forged by time together at uni in the north and on former Women’s team Relentless. But they also have some quietly talented players who can do serious damage, especially whilst their opposition’s defence are busy downfield trying to shut down this team’s big name receivers. With a few additional legs in Birmingham to help keep their lines that little bit fresher, they are especially hungry for a rematch against SYC which this pool will provide. Honestly I’m not sure what I’m more gutted about – that this is the only pool game from this group that won’t be live-streamed or that Smog aren’t attending Nationals! Well, as a Women’s team anyway…

Swift 1 (6)
Unlike the top two seeds in this pool, Swift had a bit of a mixed bag in Cardiff. With a slimline squad of just 12 players, they didn’t quite have the consistency I predicted they’d need to advance into the very highest bracket. They definitely struggled with the pressure of the live stream too, but held their own against Nice Bristols on Sunday morning to guarantee themselves a top eight finish. It turned out that this was a sorely needed win after dropping down to just 10 players on Sunday after a few injuries. Unfortunately with only 13 players coming to Birmingham I suspect staying in the top eight may be a bit touch-and-go for Swift with plenty of larger squads jostling for position. Either way though, they will certainly dive head first into their pool ready to have a their first crack at SYC this season. Hopefully they can stay healthy all weekend and level-headed in front of the cameras this time around!

Nice Bristols (8)
In my Tour 1 preview, I suggested that Nice Bristols might be taking a slow-start approach to tour this year. As an established club with a strong core of veteran players boasting finely-honed connections, there certainly seemed to be more of a focus on ‘real life’ over the summer for the majority of their more mature players. But now that all of the weddings and hen dos are over I hear that we should see some familiar faces back in red for the final Tour of 2017… Whilst this is sad for the developing players in the club who won’t be making the trip up to Birmingham, it is of course very exciting news for this pool! If previous years are anything to go by I would expect to see Bristol to have a fair shot at the upper end of the seedings – though they will need to make sure there isn’t a single spot of rust in their offence if they’re hustling for a top four seed. Have they been training enough to hit the ground at full speed? I hope so!

    Pool T

The ‘T’ in the second of our power pools should stand for tenacious… Lots of gritty teams on this side of the top eight and I can definitely see plenty of numbers changing hands here!

GB U24 (2)
Although they are sadly back to just one squad again in Birmingham, GB certainly did not disappoint at Tour 2. With both halves of the split squad having finished on the podium following a nail-biting 15-14 finish in their semi-final match up, they certainly proved that they have some excellent roster depth. I reckon the selection committee for the World Championship squads are going to have their work cut out for them in deciding who to cut and who to keep! Either way though, with a decent handful of players returning to their home clubs for Tour 3 it will be interesting to see if they can continue their winning form as a single unit. They definitely struggled with consistency at Tour 1, so hopefully they can come out a bit sharper for their final appearance this season.

Brighton (4)
Brighton’s focus this year has always been peaking at Nationals. But with a squad of just eight players on Saturday and nine on Sunday, they will have to survive a pretty gruelling weekend in Birmingham in the meantime! Not to say that this team isn’t super fit (they are) but I doubt they will find it easy to cope with the fresh legs of their top eight competitors with such low numbers. They will definitely have been doing their best to bribe the weather gods this week in the hope of some blustery weather for zone, but unless the wind is compliant with their wishes I suspect they may find themselves locked out of the top eight by the end of Sunday morning due to sheer exhaustion.

Hydra (5)
Going into Tour 2 at the bottom of their power pool, Hydra knew they had an uphill climb if they wanted to advance up the rankings on Saturday. Although a strong team who have made some seriously impressive progress this year, they unfortunately didn’t seem to hit their stride until Sunday morning in their game against LLLeeds – though in terms of staying in the top eight this was an important one to win! This time around they’ll be looking to put in a more solid effort against the top teams from the get-go. This should be helped by the fact that they will have a few more fresh legs than at Tour 2 to bolster their efforts. However this of course has it’s own drawbacks in terms of team dynamic, so hopefully their new faces will gel quickly at the weekend for maximum effect.

LLLeeds (7)
As another team with their eyes on Nationals, LLLeeds have been using their Tour season to solidify their connections ahead of August. Though saying that, they are definitely out for some revenge in Birmingham against the likes of Hydra and Chaos! LLLeeds have ended up playing tight games against both teams earlier this season which they are hoping will fall in their favour for the final Tour, proving that they are worthy of a top eight finish. Helping them achieve this will be a number of their highly-decorated veteran players, but some rising stars too. In the words of ‘LLLegend’ Gemma Taylor describing their dedicated new talent Emily ‘Harry’ Potter: “Be afraid tour… Potter is coming. The most keen keeno I’ve ever met”. Hopefully LLLeeds can make some magic this weekend to climb back up the rankings and go into Nationals on a high!

    Pool U

As far as I see it, the ‘U’ in this pool is for unshakeable – you could say it’s a bold call, but this one should definitely go to seed.

Chaos (9)
Oh Chaos. As a new team to the circuit this year, they just seem to always be the bridesmaid and never the bride when it comes to seeding! Tour 3 sees them again start at the top of a pool which they should demolish fairly easily. Sadly this also puts them in the familiar position of having been bumped out of the top eight and thus locked out of top four, this time by virtue of Nice Bristols’ re-seeding. However as they are bringing their strongest squad to Birmingham (they will be joined by a nice chunk of their U24 picks) this weekend is their time to prove that they deserve to be taken more seriously – if they can utterly smash fifth place

Swift 2 (16)
Swift 2 had a bit of a struggle with numbers in the run up to Tour 2, taking on a few pickups late in the day to boost their squad. They had a challenging Saturday in their pool, fighting to put points past LLLeeds and Uprising, but they used the lessons from these tough matchups to snag some nice wins on Sunday. This included a frankly superb comeback from 3-7 down to steal a 9-7 win against Brixton! Whilst they have retained a few of their pickups from Cardiff, they are still a relatively tight squad of 13 – an intentional decision from Swift’s captains. Their aim being to develop a core unit within their second team who can take club’s strong legacy forward in future years. Smart development, Swift! I hope it pays off.

The Brown (18)
With their first and only outing of 2017, it’s nice to see The Brown return again to Women’s tour. Though I am a little concerned to hear that much like Brighton they will be taking on a full weekend of Ultimate with just eight players following some last minute drop outs. Whilst I hope that they give it their all, energy management and injury avoidance will be crucial as they find their feet as a team.

    Pool V

Man, ‘V’ words are hard… But after some deliberation, I found a great fit. I’m going to say this pool is vivacious!

Reading 1 (10)
After sending two evenly-balanced teams to Cardiff, Reading have shifted more towards a first and second team split for Tour 3. This is an effort to provide their Mixed players with an opportunity to play together, so expect Reading 1 to be fairly stacked out. Whilst Tour 2 saw both teams lacking the firepower to truly advance up the rankings, this time around they are chasing after a top eight finish and I dare say that’s an achievable goal. No matter where they end up though, teams across the division have been telling me that they are keenest to match up against ladies from Reading. Easy to see why, with the firsts going two-for-two on spirit wins thus far this season. Can they make it three in a row? We’ll have to see, but either way I think they’ll make fast work of this pool and roll on to their seeding match against Chaos with plenty of energy… That’s definitely going to be a game to watch!

Merseyside Women (a.k.a Liverpool) (15)
After being sadly absent from Tour 2 due to low numbers, it is great to see Merseyside Women back on the schedule for their second ever Tour appearance. Based on their performance back in Nottingham which included some very solid performances against mid-table teams, I am really excited to see what level their game can reach in calmer conditions. Whilst I’m not sure they will shoot up the rankings (unless they can topple Reading they’ll only be able to advance a maximum of two seeds this Tour) but with such strong leadership and a host of enthusiastic young players this is certainly a team to watch for the future. I am also super excited to report that they are running a Women’s tournament on the 12/13th September! Excellent effort Merseyside. If you’re not already attending, I heartily encourage you to speak to them this weekend and sign up.

Brixton (17)
After a bit of a gruelling Saturday in Cardiff against the likes of Nice Bristols and Reading 2, I was really pleased to see Brixton putting in some solid numbers in the Sunday round robin – including what sounded like a very intense game against Swift 2. Whilst I suspect they’re going to find pool play equally as tricky this time around, hopefully they can continue to build upon their experiences from Tours 1 and 2 as they progress through Sunday for their third appearance for their debut season. Keep grinding Brixton!

Reading 2 in action in Cardiff. Photo by Sam Mouat.

    Pool W

Pool ‘W’… Some wicked-good teams for sure!

Reading 2 (11)
With their first team coming off the back of two spirit wins, Reading 2 will be arriving in Birmingham with two plate finishes already secured under their belt. Whilst I’m sure there’s something nice to be said about a triple-plate season, these ladies will certainly be fighting hard on Saturday to guarantee their place in the top 12. Despite having fewer big names this time around with the focus on Nationals leading to a truer firsts and seconds split, Reading 2’s roster looks to have plenty of depth left in it to keep them top of this pool, provided they can continue to execute in the more crucial moments.

Red (14)
Red have had an absolutely excellent debut season, losing just three out of their total 12 games so far – all of which have been at the hands of a Reading team! Which begs the question, is this the Tour where they will finally break through and sneak a win in Birmingham? Only time will tell… But either way they’re pretty enthusiastic to get another chance to play each other. After a gutting 3 way tie in Cardiff that left them in the round robin they will at least be looking to secure their place in either the plate bracket, or higher if they can. Another young team with some wise leadership at the helm and heaps of potential, very exciting indeed.

Black Sheep (20)
Another northern team missing from the schedule at Tour 2 were Black Sheep. Perhaps as a consequence of this, they will be bringing a pretty large squad of ladies keen to get another bite at the Tour cherry! This of course will bring the inevitable challenges in terms of cohesion and pitch time management, particularly with the length of time that has passed since Tour 1 compared with the brief break between 2 and 3. But with a focus on playing their own game and having fun as a team, I’m fairly certain Black Sheep will find their flow again without too much trouble for another fun weekend!

Discie Chicks (22)
With their third and final outing of the season, the ladies of Discie Chicks will now hopefully be over those first tour nerves to take on teams like never before! They certainly made great strides in Cardiff with some much longer possessions on offence and a whopping seven points scored in their last game against Crown Jewels. Hopefully this weekend will see them continue to grow and develop in confidence – exactly what this team is all about.

    Pool X

Finally we have pool ‘X’… For Xenia! A pool full of developing teams who are certainly increasing the size of their skills.

Hydra 2 (12)
I’ve already mentioned numerous teams that will be turning up this weekend with a squad of just eight women. Hydra 2 are certainly able to imagine what those players’ legs are going to feel like by Sunday evening, having experienced exactly that scenario at Tour 2! Unfortunately in their case some injuries over the weekend ended up reducing their numbers to just six, resulting in them having to forfeit their final game against Uprising. Thankfully this time out sees them return to a much more full-bodied roster, with an interesting mix of new faces hoping to hold seed in this very enticing pool! Although the ragged line that attended Tour 2 will doubtless know each other pretty well at this point, again cohesion will be key as they progress through the weekend to try and retain their top 12 seeding.

Vurve (13)
After a frustrating Tour 1 Vurve arrived in Cardiff with plenty of gusto – snagging second place in yet another three-way tie, this time with Reading 1 and Red. Unfortunately their Sunday was filled with games not going quite in their favour, including a sudden death loss to Hydra 2! No doubt they will be out for revenge in their last pool game on Saturday where we will see these two teams face off for the third time this season. I would expect to see a very spicy game indeed with both teams giving their all, especially as the victor will guarantee themselves a coveted top 12 finish no matter how Sunday plays out.

Irish Junior Women (19)
I have to confess to you, dear reader, that I don’t know much about this team personally. However my sources inform me that these young ladies from the Emerald Isle will embody all the qualities one would usually expect from any self-respecting Irish team. So with that in mind, teams in this pool should watch out for some keen athleticism, gutsy plays and all round good craic! Certainly as a newcomer to the Tour circuit, they’ll have a perfect opportunity to catch the higher seeds on the back foot. Feel free to shake this pool up, Ireland!

Crown Jewels (21)
And last but by no means least, our attention turns to Crown Jewels. Another development team solidly plugging away in the lower bracket, but definitely making strides with every passing game! Great to see them putting away a load more points in Cardiff – hopefully they can continue this momentum and take things to an even higher level in Birmingham!

So there we have it! That wraps up my previews for Tour 2017 – next stop Nationals. Thank you to everyone who has helped me out this year by providing their insights and opinions, I honestly couldn’t cope with writing these previews without you! But most of all – thank you to all the Women’s players this season for continuing to make the division so exciting to write about. I can tell you for a fact that our Open writing staff are outwardly jealous… Great work all. See you at the fields!