With an in-depth preview, Miyen Ho takes us through the possibilites at this weekend’s women’s nationals!
After the whirlwind of University Mixed Indoor Nationals last November, we’re back with the next hotly-anticipated University Indoor Championships – the Women’s Division! Elite-level women (who are somehow also studying) will be heading up to Glasgow this February for some 5v5 Div 1 action, and it promises to be a competitive show. Read on for a rundown of the 20 teams making their appearance!
ST ANDREWS (1st at ScUWIR, 17th at UWIN 2019)
While the strength of the Ultimate program at St Andrews is well-renowned, most of us probably didn’t expect to see their 10-4 win against the national title-holders in Strathclyde, especially since their team was much closer to the bottom at the last University Women’s Indoor Nationals. So what changed?
Apparently, their secret weapon is Rebecca Mesburis (Canada U20s 2018), but she’s also supported by GB Women’s U20 2019 players Beatrice Bowlby and Tabbi Nutt. They also credit their massive improvement to the entrance of fantastic coaching (by Rachel Turton) and a substantial number of talented freshers (allowing them to send three teams to Nationals). Watch this space – if they don’t find themselves at the top this University Women’s Indoor Nationals, their considerable depth puts them in a great position for University Women’s Outdoor Nationals and beyond!
STRATHCLYDE (2nd at ScUWIR, 1st at UWIN 2019, 3rd at UXIN 2019-20)
The winners of University Women’s Indoor Nationals 2019 (& University Mixed Indoor Nationals 2018-19) are back, and much closer to home this time, looking to defend their two-time National title. Led this year by Karina Aitken (SCRAM; Glasgow) and Gemma Henry (SCRAM; Glasgow), they’ll be bringing a slightly younger, fresher team to University Women’s Indoor Nationals, but we can nevertheless expect the Horses to come out with athleticism, speed, and a hunger to work hard and prove that they can still take the top spot, especially after their tough loss to St Andrews. Look out in particular for pinpoint throws from Gemma to up-and-coming second-year, Aina Shahira, who brings quick feet and steady hands to their offensive system.
GLASGOW (3rd at ScUWIR, 18th at UWIN 2019)
Having tied Strathclyde in their pool at Regionals as well as in their point differentials against St Andrews (both lost by 7), Glasgow comes into University Women’s Indoor Nationals with the argument that they could be Sc2 instead of Sc3. Nevertheless, they’re looking to build on the momentum they created at Regionals while putting on a good show for their home crowd at Ravenscraig. Word on the street is that they’ll be bringing strong pickups to University Women’s Indoor Nationals, including Charlotte Möndel (Germany Beach Mixed) and Leah Dobbs (Hydra). Insiders also note that they often pull out some big around-flicks that need to be stopped if you want a chance at beating them.
DUNDEE (5th at ScUWIR, 12th at UWIN 2019)
As a developing new team entering University Women’s Indoor Nationals for the second time since 2016, Dundee’s coming with goals of improving on their 12th place last year and upping their performance from Regionals. Led by Beth Hall (GB Mixed U24s 2019), they chose to keep their cards close when asked about their roster, but claim to have even abilities across the board. They’re especially keen to see a rematch against Glasgow after a universe point loss in the quarterfinals that had them fighting for fifth.
THE NORTH & WEST MIDLANDS
NEWCASTLE (1st at NUWIR, 5th at UWIN 2019)
If you weren’t living under a rock in November, you’d know about Newcastle’s 15-point streak at Regionals, and would not be surprised that I’m calling them the big team to beat. Their captain, Kate Gibson (GB Mixed U24 2019) doesn’t dwell on these results, instead emphasising their focus on the bigger fish to fry at University Women’s Indoor Nationals. Supported by Emily Atkinson (SMOG; GB U20s 2016), Jo Murnane (SMOG), and Yasmin Gill (RMIT in Australia), they’ll be looking to bring forward their fiery energy, confidence, and hardworking team ethic to Ravenscraig this weekend.
It’s worth noting that nearly all of the captains who responded either put Newcastle as one of their predicted top three or as the big team that they want to play “because they seem so good”. No pressure, Newcastle.
LOUGHBOROUGH (2nd at NUWIR, 2nd at UWIN 2019)
Despite Loughborough’s National silver last season, the captains were humble when asked about their play at Regionals, calling it an ‘over-performance’. Having lost a number of key players to a scary event called “graduation”, they were pleasantly surprised to find themselves the winners of a universe point semi-final against Durham, cementing their Regional silver. However, they might be selling themselves short: led by Beth Wagge (LED) and Sophie Wong (GB Women’s U20s 2019 MVP) and supported by Katie Allen (GB Mixed U24s 2019), they’ve additionally found themselves some strong young grasshoppers in Alice Warriner and Carys Edwards, who both reportedly await offers from the 2020 GB Women’s U20s squad.
NOTTINGHAM (3rd at NUWIR, 4th at UWIN 2019, 1st at UXIN 2019-20)
Coming off a well-fought University Mixed Indoor National win last November, Nottingham is coming in excited & hungry for a second title. Their Regionals performance was strong, having only lost one game all weekend against regional champions Newcastle in the semi-finals. They will be missing a couple of key players from their Regionals team for University Women’s Indoor Nationals including Kat Cheng (Hydra; Mighty Hucks), but they’ll still have Maya Israel (GB Women U24), and exciting talent coming in through their rookies.
DURHAM (4th at NUWIR, 3rd at Div 2 UWIN 2019)
After a big quarterfinal win against Sheffield, Durham is coming in keen to continue their upwards spiral. Given that they’re new to the Division 1 scenes, they’re gearing up for big challenges ahead against unfamiliar matchups, and keen to capitalize on the chemistry between GBW U24 duo Lizzie Plasom-Scott and Sarah Ladd (who reportedly has killer calves). Having seen their women burn defenders deep at University Mixed Indoor Nationals, the pitch size in Ravenscraig will undoubtedly be used to their advantage.
LEEDS (5th at NUWIR, 11th at UWIN 2019)
Despite being the last team to make Division 1 from this region, Leeds is not to be underestimated. After topping their pool at Regionals, a 4v5 universe point loss to Nottingham meant that they were fighting for fifth and the Division 1 qualification, but I reckon that they could be anywhere in the top three of this region. Led by Emily Potter (GB Women U24s 2019), they’re bringing strong handler movement through Sam Burgess, Katie Melville (both GB Women U20s 2019; LLLeeds) and Jess Ridout (Bristol University; GB Women U20s 2016). They’ll be missing Alice Hanton (GB Women) this weekend, but expect the rest of their team to be strong and equally valuable, especially since they’re sending a second team to Division 2!
BATH (1st at WUWIR, 13th at UWIN 2019)
Coming into WUWIR as a very new team unsure of what to expect, Bath managed to exceed their own expectations when emerging victorious with the Regional title. They’ll be looking to capitalise on this energy coming into Nationals, bringing Heather Gibson (GB Women U20s 2016; Hydra), rising star Connie Lynch, and secret-weapon Cassandra Lee, as well as captain Ella Curtis (Midwestern Mediocrity), who’s come back from a year abroad training in the US! While scores were relatively low for this team at WUWIR (averaging at seven per game), expect tight and gritty defence from their wealth of athleticism.
SOUTHAMPTON (2nd at WUWIR, debut at UWIN)
Having entered WUWIR at 10th seed, it’s safe to say that Southampton exceeded all expectations when they emerged as Regional silvers after a tight 8-6 loss to Bath, and a 4-2 win against Bath in their power pool earlier that morning. When asked, the captain refused to attribute this massive improvement to any individual and refused to name any stars, instead crediting their recent successes to the strong commitment and unwavering passion held by all of their players, which has helped them symbiotically push each other harder.
Given that they’ve never been to University Women’s Indoor Nationals before, whether that be Division 1 or Division 2, I’m keen to see how they battle the national jitters and the unfamiliarity of the other regions. If things go right for them, they could shut down Bath once again, and decisively claim one of the top spots!
EXETER (3rd at WUWIR, 6th at Div 2 UWIN 2019, 2nd at UXIN 2019-20)
Exeter came to Regionals this year focused on building team connections, as a new team who hadn’t played much together. Unlike most in Division 1, they don’t boast GB stars but instead pride on being a team of nearly equal capabilities down the roster, from captain Sophie Haden-Scott (Bristol Women) to fresher Charlotte Pounder, who promises youth and speedy feet to watch out for.
BIRMINGHAM (4th at WUWIR, 6th at UWIN 2019)
As a newly-structured team, Birmingham entered Regionals knowing that they’d have to fight for the Division 1 qualification spot. They ascribe their losses at regionals to a defensive system that was tight, but struggled to convert for the score against strong offensive teams with hyper-precise throws. Led by Natasha Taylor (Birmingham Ultimate) and Ellie Payne (GB Women U24 2019, Hydra, Birmingham Ultimate), they’ll be taking the motto “defence wins games” to heart as they focus on getting the much-needed blocks on the national stage.
THE EAST & LONDON
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE INDONESIAL (1st at EUWIR, 10th at UWIN 2019)
UCL has had a tumultuous year so far: after a glittery 2018-2019 season and an indoor regional triple-crown this season, predictions were sky-high for their mixed team headed to University Mixed Indoor Nationals… and they finished 14th.
With that being said, one might argue that the mixed division is no predictor for the women’s division, and I’d have to agree: UCL’s women are coming in strong and experienced, having lost none of their players since their last appearance at University Women’s Indoor Nationals in 2019. Individual stars include Alicia Tan (SYC, GB Mixed U24 2018), Angelica Yeo (GB Women U24 2019), Claire Huibonhoa (WUCC 2018 with Black Kites), Nina Montana Brown (Spain Women 2020) and Miyen Ho (GB Women U20s 2019), but the entire team is expected to be a clinical, well-oiled machine, having two years of training together under their belts.
SURREY (2nd at EUWIR, 2nd at Div 2 UWIN 2019)
Surrey’s 2019-20 squad is making history, being Surrey’s first women’s team to qualify for Division 1, after securing a universe-point win against reigning University Women Outdoor National Champions, Imperial. They’re expecting to lose a few key players for University Women’s Indoor Nationals, but are hungry for a stronger performance from regionals nevertheless. Keep an eye out for Lea Motte’s steady handling skills and Claudia Carnell (Guildford)’s big grabs in the endzone, and get excited for this team’s debut on the Division 1 National stage!
IMPERIAL (3rd at EUWIR, 9th at UWIN 2019, 1st at UWON 2019)
Coming off a strong showing at University Women’s Outdoor Nationals 2019, the DiscDoctors chose to keep things lowkey and developmental at regionals this year after a few dropouts, bringing one team of 10 that featured six development-squad players. Their main aim was meaningful development, which meant rolling lines throughout the weekend and giving the newer players chances to make plays, even on the high-pressure bracket games. Going into University Women’s Indoor Nationals, they’ll be adding substantial experience to their roster, including Claire Baker (GB Women U24 2018), Anna Rydlova (Iceni; Czech Women 2019), and Rebecca Lindsay (GFM), so it’s likely that we haven’t seen their full potential yet!
UNIVERSITY OF EAST ANGLIA (4th at EUWIR, 3rd at UWIN 2019)
Having come into University Women’s Indoor Nationals last year as the underdogs lower in the East & London region sporting flower crowns, only to come out of University Women’s Indoor Nationals with the National bronze, it would be a mistake to underestimate UEA once again. While a universe-point loss to Imperial meant that they had to take fourth in the region, Aye-Aye is hungry to prove themselves and claim another national medal. Look out in particular for the lightning handler duo of Stephanie Lau and Sabrina Gee (both of Norwich Ultimate), who have reportedly cemented their chemistry by solely speaking to each other on the pitch in Chinese.
OXFORD BROOKES (5th at EUWIR, 1st at Div 2 UWIN 2019)
Coming out of a big universe-point win at University Women’s Indoor Nationals to grab the Division 2 gold last year, Oxford Brookes came into this season with sights set on the bigger dogs of Division 1. While they only brought six players, with some carrying knocks, they were excited to grab a decisive win against St Mary’s to secure the Division 1 spot. They’re led by Erin McGready (GB Mixed U24 2019, 2018, 2015; WUCC 2018 with Reading) and supported by American pick-up Leah Robinson, and despite having fewer hours of training together, rely on trust and good chemistry to keep their team flowing. On a wholesome note, they’re simply ‘excited to experience some fantastic ultimate being played, learn a lot and build on the massive experience for future years’.
CHICHESTER (6th at EUWIR, 14th at Div 2 UWIN 2019)
Another team new to the Division 1 Nationals scenes this year after a few years out, Chichester is looking to restart a campaign that had them finishing with the national gold back in 2017. Regionals were a nail-biter for Chichester after a 6v7 universe point loss to Oxford Brookes that put them at seventh seed fighting St Mary’s for the Division 1 qualifications, but they’ll be looking to bring this adrenaline forwards into UWIN. Speaking with captain Emily Teeder, they’ll be working on remaining consistent throughout their games, as they struggled at Regionals with a tendency to pick up early leads before allowing opponents to catch up. Keep an eye out in particular for freshers Ali Brown and Charlotte Hillyer, who promise relentless determination to create open spaces and get D-blocks!
SOME MATCHUPS TO LOOK OUT FOR
NEWCASTLE VS UCL:
Despite a glittery performance at women’s Regionals, Newcastle fell to UCL 8-3 at UXIN. Can the Newcastle women blame their men for that decisive loss, or will UCL’s women them shut down once again? Either way, both teams are reportedly ultra-cohesive units meshing highly experienced stars with speedy & clever supporting players!
LEEDS VS LOUGHBOROUGH
Despite being in the same region, these two never got a chance to faceoff after Leeds’ universe point loss on the 4v5 crossover against Nottingham. Both teams feature young GB handler talent and clinical offensive systems, so it may truly come down to the team that forces more turns on defence. And don’t we all love a defensive game?!
STRATHCLYDE VS IMPERIAL
Both teams are well-established on the UK scenes, each with national titles under their belt. Both teams have lost one or two key players from last season while retaining experienced handlers with chemistry together, and each claim to have focussed on building newer talent so far this season. Their handlers seem to matchup, so it’s a question of what their young cutters will bring to the stage.
BATH VS ST ANDREWS:
I’m pretty curious about the nuanced approaches that Bath and St Andrews have taken to their team mentalities. Both self-identified as new teams, crediting “team dynamics” as the key to their regional successes, but each defined those terms differently. Bath appears to rely on a clinical offensive system that involves a trust-based culture in taking the shots they need, while St Andrews capitalises on athleticism and speed when working the disc through their young talent. It seems to be a question of how their paces measure up, but both promise contrasting offensive plays that should be quite fun to watch!
We all love a shot-in-the-dark prediction that may or may not go horribly wrong. Here’s my top eight!
Snapping at their heels: UEA & Leeds.