Always challenging, the run up to the University outdoor season seems to have been particularly tough this year with the addition of flooded fields and 80mph winds meaning it has been nearly impossible for teams to get outside. Those who have persisted will be rewarded, however, with the opportunity to represent their University at the BUCS National Championships.
|Ben Powlay in blue for Plymouth University. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss.|
The South Bristol Sports Centre will host those Western University teams hoping to make the elusive top six in our regional competition, and thus a spot at Nationals in Manchester. An expanse of quality, well-drained fields means the tournament has a huge capacity, and clubs have taken advantage of this with most fielding second and third teams. Some fairly exposed pitches means that wind will likely be key factor in this tournament.
Southampton consistently make the final in this division, but last year a determined Bath side meant they had to settle for second. A strong Nationals saw them placed as the highest Western team and sixth in the country. Bring his experience from European competition, William Caldwell (Ka-Pow!) hopes to captain Skunks back to first place, and looks forward to his team playing a quick offence with isolated cuts. Big plays are likely to be featuring GB u23’s Mike Speer and up-and-coming rookie Joe ‘Beans’ Benians.
Predicted to join them in the final are defending champions Bath. They have a star-studded team of GB and Jen players hoping to retain that top spot. Alex Brooks (Jen captain), will have been enforcing his club team’s ethos of elite athleticism on this university squad, which combined with already experienced players Piers Nicholas (GB u20), Michael Guise (GB u20) and Andy Watt (Jen), this is going to be a powerful team looking to retain their spot in Division 1. Watch out for Danny ‘Jumps like a Salmon’ Ryle (Reading Ultimate) leaping over people in the end zone.
Bristol placed in fifth last year, but beat Bath at indoors so are going into the tournament confidently and with eyes on that Division 1 spot. Josh Kyme (GB u23 Open, Chevron) leads a team relying on their athleticism from a standard stack play. This team includes solid handler Joe Brown, who missed the indoor season with a string of injuries and returns to the firsts in a blaze of outdoors glory. With James Bogie (Mythago’s ‘Most Charming Man’), Jamie Lowe (Mythago’s swimsuit calendar ‘December’ 2013) and Ollie Towers upfield, opposition will have a hard time containing the flow these quick guys can maintain. However, translating indoor success to outdoor victories isn’t an exact science, and if the weather turns nasty, it remains to be seen if Bristol have the depth of handling experience needed to deal with the difficult conditions.
Perhaps a controversial prediction is for Exeter to miss out on that Division 1 spot. Despite edging a final victory in Open Indoors at the end of 2013, the absences of Tom Cartwright (Chevron, GB u23) and Rhys Evans (Chevron) means this regional tournament could be a struggle. Squad depth will be tested as inexperienced players have to step up to the first team, some in their first ever tournaments for the University. Don’t underestimate this team however, as under the captaincy of Rob Vile (Devon) and backup from Greg Mann (Devon), this team still has a wealth of ability and will be fighting for those top spots.
Last year saw Cardiff take third, although current form puts them as only an outside chance for taking that Division 1 spot again. However, after an indoor season focusing on player development, this team promises an unpredictable tournament as they move into their preferred outdoor domain. Kei Matsumoto will be leading the plays as usual, with a solid base coming from experienced players Mike Walter and Alden Ching who offer solid handling when required. It is the influx of freshers who may have the largest impact on Cardiff’s standings – Dan Rowland and Ollie Crowther have showed promise on D, and if Cardiff’s outdoor focus this year has paid off, we can expect big things from these rookies.
Swansea have had a fantastic season so far, making Indoor Nationals in both the Open and Mixed divisions. They are hoping to see similar success outdoors, after missing out closely last year. Ben Yarnold (BAF) continues to lead the team, implementing a new playbook for 2014 which is likely to utilise Jacques Laloë’s (Brighton) pinpoint hucks and Matt Bolton’s consistency and experience. A team which has primarily been associated with the social side of the sport, they’ve demonstrated this year that they can put their heads down and cause some big upsets. Expect a good game-to-go on Sunday afternoon.
Seaside team Bournemouth has come a long way since their starring role in the ‘World’s Most Mediocre Callahan’ video this time last year. Captain Mark Shepherd has had an influx of fresh talent to choose from, in addition to some legacy returning players he hopes won’t be too much of a liability. Historically around the seventh place mark in this competition, making Nationals only once since the team was founded, Bournemouth will want to make a dent in some of the top teams and squeeze into that last Division 2 spot. Rapid fresher Henry Pym will be showing his youthful enthusiasm for the disc, whilst Will Burton’s stamina will only be matched by his side-line heckling.
Finally, Winchester have entered Uni ultimate with a very large club considering their infancy. Two teams at Mixed Indoors and showing solid standings from their first team, they will be in contention for those Nationals spots in future years. Phil Rowlandson captains the team to their first ever outdoor regional event, accompanied by familiar face Robin Younge. A strong contingent of freshers complete the team, who are already starting to make impressions at club indoor nationals and the GB junior trials. Expect a lively game from these guys, who won’t just roll over and give you an easy win.