With the drama of Lecco now over the focus returns to domestic competition in Southampton at the UKU National Championships.
|Bristol will once again be looking for a long-wanted win over domestic rivals Iceni. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss|
This year the women’s division grows by two teams to 8, allowing a group into knockout format in which the top two head straight to semi finals. Group A looks less likely to present any upsets as Iceni and Bristol will be hardened returning from the international competition of their WUCC campaigns. Relentless and Manchester will be hoping that tiredness and the dreaded ‘double peak’ seasons of their opposition will give them a look into the top 4. In Group B the qualifying teams seem are less easily predicted. Punt will be favourites to take the top spot, but have had close games this season against both SYC and Leeds, who will be scrapping hard with Dragon Knights and each other for the semi final spot. As well as a National title, teams are also competing for 2 coveted European qualification spots. That there are no further qualification chances after the final, the semis will come with an extra added dose of pressure for all teams involved.
|Chevron will once again be looking to end Clapham’s reign. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss|
The Open bracket once again features 16 regional qualifiers in a straight to knockout format. The top 6 teams will head to Europe, with the top 2 spots starting in the ‘Elite’ division. The final winner takes the first spot, but the second is open to poaching if the winner of the 3v4 and the loser of the final have not yet played, in which case an extra fixture will be played to determine who takes the final Elite division European qualification spot.
Clapham exceeded expectations in Lecco with their exhilarating yet crushing quarter-final loss in sudden death to eventual and repeating World Champions, Revolver. Southampton is familiar ground for domination for this team, and they will look to carry their good form into a 14th consecutive title. They are favourites but with every successive victory comes more pressure to maintain this record. Their route will likely see them face either Brighton or Fire, both teams who will be more than keen to exploit any pressure cracks in the Clapham game. Emo and Chevron are on course to meet on the other side of the bracket, with Devon or Manchester and CUlt looking to trip up the Northern division champions after their 17th place Worlds finish. Up and coming EMO will only have swelled in confidence after a taste of la dolce vita breaking into the top 16, scoring big wins against Freespeed and Melbourne Juggernaut, who knocked Chevron out of the championship bracket. If it happens, this semi is set to be a crowd-pleaser. The 5v6 will not be a ‘game-to-go’ to Europe, as both teams qualify, but this will in turn hike up the pressure on the preceding two games.
|Herd and JR will be battling once again for European qualification. Photo Courtesy of Andrew Moss|
The 8 team Mixed Nationals tournament offers 3 qualification spots for Europeans, and a notable lack of all of the four british WUCC contenders with Bear Cavalry, Black Eagles, CUlt, and RGS. Thundering Herd are a longstanding committed mixed team and will be looking to take this opportunity to rise back to the top of the mixed pile, but they won’t get there easily. Brighton boast one of the largest Ultimate communities outside of London as well as years of pedigree at mixed, and teams such as Pingu Jam, JR and Birmingham will all be bringing young and tight-knit rosters. Curve, ABH and Flyght Club are all longstanding clubs with new talent as well as experienced regulars to draw from, and will also be looking to sneak the wins needed to make the semis bracket. The movement of personnel to the Open and Women’s divisions makes it tough to predict any of the games in this division, but all teams will be excited by the open field as well as the relatively high number of European qualification spots.
Keep an eye on the schedule links for results from the weekend, as well as live streaming provided for the Open semis, and Open and Women’s finals. UTC have created a fantasy ultimate – check it out here! Finally, this tournament will feature a trial of non-anonymous Spirit voting for each team.
As always, best of luck from the showgame to all teams competing this weekend!
Stay tuned for some more Nationals coverage addressing some of the controversies surrounding this year’s event…