London Calling – Women’s Division Review

Charlie Blair summarises the events of the season’s first Women’s Tour 

London Calling yet again upheld its welcome tradition of providing impeccable weather to kick off the season. On the still and sunny pitches of St Albans, it also didn’t fail to deliver significant shake-ups, with only four teams holding their original seeds. Nevertheless, there unfortunately remains an apparent divide between the teams in the top and lower halves of the table. In fact, one of the few who held seeding included returning Tour champions Iceni – unmoved from the summit of the standings – as well as Swift, who continued to lead the pack in the lower half.

E6 and Iceni both had more or less straight-forward routes to the final. Other than a close opener between E6 and Bristol Cupboom (won 15-12 by E6), neither finalist conceded more than 7 points until their meeting on Sunday. Thankfully, the final was not such a walkover for either side as the Swedes’ impressive athleticism was a worthy match for Iceni. The temperate conditions really played into the hands of E6, who had successfully been connecting well placed long shots and high grabs all weekend. In addition to the Swedes’ monopolisation of the break side, the Londoners also at first struggled to halt their opponents’ fast flowing play. However, Iceni’s large squad was eventually able to capitalise on tiredness, and after stepping up the one-on-one D saw out the game with a confident offence.
It is disappointing however, that neither Bristol team demonstrated much of a threat to either finalist in the semis, as would surelyhave been expected after E6 only just edged victory in their opening game to Cupboom. Cupbowl, however gave them no such challenge. Granted they had themselves had only just won a tight game to SYC but it seems the depleted size of both Bristol teams left both of them without the energy to push as hard as was needed. This was later confirmed by the decision to forfeit the subsequent 3v4 match between the two sides. The schedule at Worlds will be demanding just as much consistency from them, if not more, and perhaps this was a wasted opportunity to push themselves as hard as they will need to in order to reach their full potential in Italy. The lure to enjoy the afternoon sunshine instead of showing some final game grit surely doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of their future opponents.

Elsewhere the last games of the day proved to be a much more competitive affair with close games between Free Agents and Punt, and SYC and YAKA. Free Agents made the greatest ascension of the tournament to take fifth spot, and their last game could have been an even closer affair if Punt had not allowed the score line to run away from them so much at the beginning. It was only once they ironed out the kinks in their own offence and stopped making unforced errors that they were able to start catching up, but unfortunately for them it wasn’t quite enough.
Jenna Thompson winds up for Iceni – Photo Courtesy of Andrew Moss

That said, Punt had another great tournament and continue to carry through the success of last season, leapfrogging both SYC and LLLeeds, who both began the tournament seeded above them. Certainly, they will have to keep the foot on the pedal at Tour 2, as SYC will surely have them in their sights. Having won a sudden death victory over the Cambridge outfit on the Saturday morning crossover, they’ll know they are capable of a better finish next time round. In fact, I think SYC deserve some credit for in despite of their losses, their close score lines reflect constant battle all weekend. Their victory in their final game to YAKA will have been a well earned reward and a testament to this grit. Unfortunately for the French, it’s safe to say that they were (as predicted) slightly overseeded for this tournament with the loss of key play-makers.

In contrast to the top 8, it was a great shame to see such a dearth of contest in the final games of the day amongst those fighting for the lower ranks. The only competitive result was to determine who finished 11th, between Swift and Brighton Pretty. Whilst it was still a very positive finish for the southerners, it was the Scottish who emerged victorious (15-10) to end the competition where they had begun.

In the rest of the fixtures there was a surprising gap between the winners and losers; considering that by this stage of the tournament you should be playing your most well matched opponents. Admittedly, I cannot confirm the reason behind the forfeit of the match between Relentless and Crown Jewels, but I hope (in the nicest way possible!) that it was enforced rather than mere lacklustre. Earlier in the weekend, Relentless were unfortunate to lose in sudden death to Blink, who ended up only finishing one seed above them. The matchup between them and Crown Jewels therefore surely promised to be a good game.

Equally, the lack of fight is apparent in the remaining score lines, in which none of the defeated teams managed to rack up more than eight points. Yet new outfits Devon and Manchester (who finished five places apart from each other) had played a tighter result in a preceding match against one another which finished 10-13.

This suggests to me that these final game score lines are not a result of disparaging ability but simply a lack of fight and love to play your best Ultimate whenever you get the chance to. I can’t help but feel with a little more focus and discipline, the belief and confidence to become ever more successful will be a natural by-product. To demand high expectations of yourself and your team even in that last, seemingly inconsequential 23v24 game, should not be sapping the fun out of the experience, but another opportunity to do something great. Another opportunity to create another great memory with your team mates, and achieve things you perhaps never imagined you could, no matter if you’re victorious or not. You’ll never know, if you don’t try!

Naturally, looking ahead to Tour, the majority of the teams going to Nottingham will have their seedings bumped up by the departure of our international guests and the pick-up teams who can’t field enough players. Still, let’s hope that the results show a much more linear gradation in the standard of teams rather than such a stark divide between the upper and lower half of women’s Tour. The season has only just began and hopefully everyone now has a taste for battle! Especially for our two teams heading to worlds, they are out of the training ground, and are now well on their way to Italy. From here on out, it should be expected that the fight will only get harder and harder…. Relish it!
1. Iceni (=)
2. E6 (+2)
3. Nice Bristols Cupboom (-1)
4. Nice Bristols Cupbowl (+1)
5. Free Agents (+5)

6. Punt (+2)
7. SYC (-1)
8. YAKA (-5)
9. LLLeeds (-2)
10. ROBOT (-1)
11. Swift (=)
12.Brighton Pretty (+2)
13. Phoenix London (+3)
14. Blink (+1)
15.  Relentless (-2)
16.  Crown Jewells (-4)
17.  Dragon Knights 1 (=)
18.  JR (+3)
19.  Manchester (=)
20.  Lemmington Lemmings (-2)
21.  Dragon Knights 2 (+1)
22.  All Things Brighton Beautiful (+2)
23.  Devon (-3)
24.  Discie Chicks

The season’s off with a cracker of a tournament and can only get better. Stay tuned for more recaps as well as Tour 2 previews!

4 thoughts on “London Calling – Women’s Division Review”

  1. There are in fact 3 teams going to WUCC this summer. ROBOT may be in the new Womens Master Division, but don't forget that we're training hard to represent GB in Lecco.

  2. Firstly,I want to thank Charlie for writing the review. It’s always great to read the write ups especially as it gives you a taste of what the tournament was like in the brackets other than your own. With that said, I think that this is only really the case for lower teams looking up and that the opinion of the top teams looking down is somewhat skewed. Granted, this is the better (and only natural) way round for this to be and it’s likely that this, in a large part, comes down to the fact that the contributors are always from the top teams.
    With this in mind, I just wanted to put across a different view point of the bottom half, especially as the results on the score sheets can sometimes be misleading and it would seem that this is key information that these articles are based on. As an example, the Relentless vs Crown Jewels final was played and after a hard fought match, Relentless came out on top. Unfortunately the score wasn’t reported in only the result, i.e. that Relentless had won so the score was put down as 1-0 to ensure the teams ended up in the appropriate positions.
    The main reason for writing this reply however is with reference to the comment that the ‘final game score lines are not a result of disparaging ability but simply a lack of fight and love to play your best Ultimate whenever you get the chance to.’ I have spoken to quite a few people from the bottom bracket at Tour 1 before writing this and each and every one of them commented that they felt that these words were somewhat unfair. The results of the final games, I feel, were a reflection of how hard the stronger teams fought the whole weekend and how closed the schedule was from the start. The easiest place to start with this is with my team as I can speak honestly for our team knowing the opinions and attitudes of everyone on the team. Dragon Knights started this Tour season with a very different and significantly stronger team than they started the tour season last year however were seeded 17th. We came in with the intention of breaking in to the Top 12 or at the very least, improving our seed out of the bottom bracket. Then we saw the schedule. We had one shot to get out of the bottom bracket. Phoenix London (13th) were a new team this year and started the weekend seeded 16th. They played an initial crossover against another new team, Free Agents (5th) who were seeded 10th. This left our one opportunity to improve seed being against an underseeded Phoenix London. We fought right to the end of the game but they were a strong team and they deservedly beat us 15-10, our only loss of the weekend. From there we set out to show why we had deserved another shot at the middle bracket and until reading this article felt we had done just that. Every game we played we played to win and we played with something to prove. None of our opponents sat back and let us win. They all played hard right to the end. I'm not going to pretend that every point and every turn came about as the result of huge Ds and clinical offences. If they did it wouldn't be the bottom bracket. But every point came because every player on the line had worked hard, had put everything they could into playing D and had tried their utmost on O. Of course silly drops and throw aways happened but it wasn't through a lack of effort.

  3. Charlie commented that 'new outfits Devon and Manchester (who finished five places apart from each other) had played a tighter result in a preceding match against one another which finished 10-13' and this is factually correct. Devon and Manchester had a really tightly fought contest in their quarter final. Maybe that took a lot out of Devon who didn't have enough left for their semi final against a team whose previous game had been lost 15-1 giving them more legs for the latter stages. Maybe it was the sideline guidance that All Things Brighton Beautiful had from several SYC players that gave them the edge. Maybe Manchester finished 5 places higher because as a new team it took them a while to gel but they came together on the Sunday. Maybe having Jools Murray as your player coach for a whole weekend results in fairly significant improvements over the course of even just a few games. Speaking from personal experience, playing against Manchester was one of our toughest games. Both times we played them we got a good lead and took the half. Both times they really brought it back in the second half. That's not the sign of a team giving up. That's the sign of a team that will fight to the end and continually take on advice and work even harder to improve. The work that Jools has done with Manchester has shown just how much can be achieved in a short period of time when exceptional players are willing to share their expertise and help to develop newer players and when newer players are willing to put in the effort to learn.
    Looking around every pitch at the end of the final games every single player looked as though they had given everything over the course of the weekend. The final results had such large gaps because due to the schedule, the closer games had been played earlier in the weekend. A schedule which allows for so little movement, especially when there are certain teams that are at quite significantly different levels can greatly affect how teams perform. Some teams, particularly Manchester, made their way to their final positions the hard way and other teams had fairly easy runs to get to where they finished. It's easy to look at the lack of movement by teams and say that the seedings were fair and the schedule was good but that doesn't account for the fact that in a lot of cases the seedings and schedule made it difficult for there to be movement. It's a catch-22 and I appreciate that it's difficult to find a schedule that pleases everyone especially when there is so clearly a large divide in abilities between the top and bottom teams. With that said though, Tour 1 is always the largest tournament and it always features the most new teams. I would like to think that that would be sufficient reason to have a more open schedule and close it down throughout the tour season so that by Tour 3, when the seedings should have worked themselves out more, you have the least opportunity to move.
    This may seem unfairly critical as I understand completely that The Show Game can only review based on the information provided to them and if no one from the lower brackets steps up to contribute there can be no expectation for the reviews to be reflective of those opinions. I just wanted to take the opportunity to share the other side of the coin and I will gladly help contribute to any future reviews from a 'bottom half' perspective if you ever want one.
    Tour 2 next weekend is set to be an excellent tournament. Having lost quite a few of our players to the GB U20 team that has been entered we may find that the results don't go as well as they did at Tour 1. If that's the case we'll pick ourselves up and continue to fight in each and every game to perform as well as we possibly can. No one enters a tournament to finish anywhere but as high as they can. Whether you're playing at the top or the bottom, even if a game seems out of reach, point by point, you always want to win.

  4. Hi Charlie, as Catherine said I do generally like reading the Show Game previews and wrap ups – it's interesting to see where everyone finished but if I am honest I find this article negative and actually quite patronising.
    Firstly only the Bristol players and coaches know their reasons for splitting their team in two – perhaps they split into lines to help them gel more together, playing against difference opponents – and although it may have left them somewhat tired after a hot, competitive weekend, the merits often outweigh the drawbacks (which I am sure is something the captains weighed up before deciding). In terms of Bristol not playing their last game, I'm sure some of the girls wanted to but at the end of the day would they have really gained all that much from it? Playing against the girls they train with constantly, after a long weekend with small teams, heightening their chances of injury before Boston and Worlds.
    In regards to your opinion on the lower half, this is the part of the article I disagree with the most. I actually think rather than the “dearth of contest” you allude to, I thought the general standard of women's tour picked up this year. Due to the schedule and a sudden death loss, Swift played both Devon and All Things Brighton Beautiful and were pleasantly surprised by both teams. They fought hard throughout the game although you may think the score line didn't say so. The final score does not tell the story of the match.
    “This suggests to me… if you don't try!” is frankly a patronising paragraph. I bet if you watched any of the lower teams play you would see both fight and love of the sport. In fact to play for a team that isn't necessarily at the top or even top half of the country tells me you must really love the sport and want to improve! Additionally, for me final games that aren't really for anything except an odd number are the time to play your less experienced girls, let them try and run the show, try out things you maybe didn't get a chance to earlier and see what happens. Personally if I was captain of one of the teams in the lower bracket (which by the way, Swift are not… 11 is in the top half of 24, not leading the bottom) I would take a step back from the on pitch action. All of this helping to create a fun and competitive match… even if the final score didn't paint such a picture.
    Sorry if this comes across harsh but I just wanted to put these points forward. Ultimate is still a developing sport in the UK, particularly women's ultimate. In the past few years I have seen women's grow stronger and stronger with this year’s tour 1 being one of the best examples of women's ultimate, both at the top and at developing levels.

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