EUCF 2014 Preview

EUCF2014, news, Previews
Josh Coxon Kelly, David Pryce and Matt Hodgson preview the UK teams heading to the European Ultimate Championship Finals in Frankfurt this weekend…

Open

The team that everyone is talking about in Europe (Clapham) at the moment will be unlikely to head to Frankfurt with an ounce of complacency, especially with what may be a significantly depleted roster as availability dips towards the end of a very long season. Clapham undeniably have the ability and form to win their third successive European title, and looked to be a level above other European competition in Lecco. However, they will be given strong chase by a whole host of elite teams hungry for change, and have also been given the 2nd seed after ballot which will only encourage those with eyes on taking down the London powerhouse.
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Whilst Cheron will be disappointed with their finishing position at Worlds, they will also come out of it a far stronger unit than when they left. Chevron typically perform well in Europe despite fielding smaller (and often younger) rosters, and will hope to climb back up to the semi-finals after finishing outside of the top 4 in Bordeaux for the first time since 2010.

Rich Cowie and Tom Abrams go up together in the final of EUCR-W 2014

Rich Cowie and Tom Abrams go up together in the final of EUCR-W 2014

EMO’s breakout season was slightly dampened by a decisive defeat at Nationals at the hands of Chevron in the semi-finals. EMO finished Tour and Worlds the second best UK team, and must have surely smelt blood in the water in Southampton where spectators seemed to expect the Midlands team to come out on top and make their first ever domestic final. Their youthful hunger may outlast that of other perennial Euros teams, and that will only work in their favour as they will look to break into the top 8 and beyond.
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Without Worlds and the gruelling preparations for such a tournament, Fire have had a quieter season than the three UK teams above them and may find that this benefits them at one of the final competitions of the year. Whilst they lost more of their best players to Clapham this year, their squad has been bolstered by the addition of a growing quota of Warwick and Bear Cavalry alumni. Other than a Finals appearance in 2008 Fire have rarely managed to achieve highly at Europeans, and whilst they may not be at the height of their powers at the moment they will nevertheless be looking to change that this year.

Brighton are no strangers to Europeans, and will, like Fire, be hoping to take full advantage of other teams’ weariness after their relatively extended seasons. With the strong links with Sussex Mohawks and the incessantly creative (and further refined) Hexagon/Flexagon strategies, Brighton will at the very least be bringing something new to the table against competition this year in Europe.
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CUlt mixed took the limelight this year as they rose above rivals Bear Cavalry to come 6th on the World stage. The open team’s qualification for Euros is surely in part due to this very recently gained experience, and the team will be looking to make the most of their first international outing.
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Another team making their debut, Reading have capitalised on a steadily strong season to earn themselves a seriously good chance to gain experience against the best in Europe. This will be a development tournament for them rather than a chance at victory, but one that will undoubtedly benefit this new team massively going forward into next season.

 

Women’s

Iceni find themselves in a similar position as their last few seasons having won Nationals with relative ease, and being the best European team on show so far this year. As always they have kept training up with only the loss of World Games player Becci Haigh and the addition of their two practice players (Renny Norman and Vanessa Lowe) they have hardly lost much from WUCC. With this squad of 24 high quality players and a recent history of European dominance no one will be underestimating the London warriors. Can they hold onto form and finish off the season on a high, and a fourth consecutive European title?

 

Iceni against SYC in the final of EUCR-W.

Iceni against SYC in the final of EUCR-W.

SYC have had a very up and down season and with a handful of players returning from Worlds duty with various teams they brought it all together at Nationals and punched their ticket to Frankfurt. I for one would like to see them finish in the top 10 at Euros. With regular training and scrimmages with the current champs I look forward to seeing their hard work shining through on the field.

Mixed
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Birmingham have been quietly cultivating a strong regional program for a while now. After finishing in 25th position over the Open Tour in their first season in 2013, they snatched a qualifying spot to Nationals out of the Midlands region going on to finish 12th. Their first foray into mixed was this year and after a shaky start (33rd at Tour 1) they continued growing and improving (21st at Tour 2 and 17th at Tour 3). Their start at nationals was a bit conspicuous, eeking out a close win against JR and losing their second game to Brighton Breezy before routing ABH to take second in their group and a semi-finals berth. When it came to the knockout stages, they went down 1-0 to Thundering Herd, tied it up at 1-1 and then never looked back maintaining a lead for the rest of the game and running out 15-8 winners, finishing on a 3 point run to take the finals spot. The final started in a scrappy fashion with both teams trading 2 turnovers before Birmingham unleashed a long upwind huck and punched in the first point. From there Pingu Jam appeared to have the upper hand, taking the half 8-6. They relinquished the lead once, letting Birmingham go up 11-10, before going back up 13-11. But Pingu Jam weren’t able to kill the game and, like in the semi-final, Birmingham finished strong with a 4 point run to end the game 15-13 and take the title.

In Frankfurt…

Whilst Birmingham took the title in the UK, they are fairly untested against the top teams that the UK has to offer, and they’ve never competed at an international level as a club. They have built a solid defense and deep game, but there are questions about their depth and experience. Their group games should provide a nice gauge for their tournament, with a tough matchup against two Worlds teams in UFO and Grandmaster Flash, both of whom appear to have retained a large cohort of their WUCC rosters. Going in as the number 1 seed also puts a target on their back, but if Brum can come through their tough group in second or even first then they could come home with a medal.

Predicted finish: 6th

 

Pingu Jam were two points away from a Cinderella season in 2014. After starting the season seeded 19th, they finished finished their first tour outing with a 21st place finish, dropping two places but winning the 21-28 bracket. This didn’t deter them and, after an undefeated run at Tour 2 to finish 13th, they were able to break the top 8 at Tour 3. Like Birmingham, Pingu Jam would take a loss in their group to eventual 3rd place finishers Thundering Herd. They did however dominate their other two group stage opponents, winning 15-4 over Curve and 15-5 over Flyght Club. In their semi-final matchup against Brighton Breezy, Pingu Jam started slow going down 2-0 to start the game. But after fighting back to 2-2, Pingu took their first lead at 3-2 and lead for the rest of the game, eventually winning with a comfortable 3 point cushion at 14-11.

In Frankfurt…

Pingu Jam have been getting better throughout the season and were points away from a championship, but with the second seed in the west comes a lower seeding at Euros and unfortunately a tough group schedule as well. They have three games on Friday, ending with a show game against their group’s #2 seed Budapest, and then on Saturday they face Thundering Herd (who beat them in pool play at Nationals) first thing followed by the top seeds in their group: CUS Brecia. Despite this, a fair amount of the Pingu squad have international experience to draw on with players who have previously played for GB junior squads. The tough draw for Pingu means they have a tough road to a medals spot, but I think they are certainly capable of challenging for them. If they can use their first two games to get into a rhythm then they have the capabilities to challenge for a semi-finals berth.
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Predicted finish: 7th

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The Herd have always been around the top of the domestic Mixed scene and have competed internationally since their inception. They field one of the strongest second teams in the UK and so if and when their top players attend nationals with their respective Open and Women’s teams, there are strong players ready to step up. The Herd started the year strong with a second place finish at Mixed Tour 1 (their highest finish domestically for a couple of years) before taking 6th and 4th at Mixed Tours 2 and 3 to take 3rd over the Mixed season, behind Worlds attendees Bear Cavalry and Cambridge. They started strong, taking their group with a gritty win over Pingu Jam, grinding out the final few points which were filled with turnovers. However, on Saturday morning they were never able to get into their semi-final against Birmingham. Despite taking the first point the Herd found themselves down 8-4 at half time, and from then on the closest margin was 3 points before Birmingham closed the game out 15-8. In the game to go to Euros, Thundering Herd found themselves up against familiar opponents in Brighton Breezy. Thundering Herd applied good defensive pressure in the first point but Brighton punched it in to take the 1-0 lead. In the early stages this game looked like it could have swung either way, but a battle of a point was won by the Herd to go up 5-3 when Brighton had chances to tie it at 4-4. From then on the Herd would not let go of their lead, taking the game and the final Euros spot with a safe 15-10 win.
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In Frankfurt…

Thundering Herd have a strong pedigree for competing at an international level, even if they’ve never found their way to the top of the standings. The squad from nationals has been bolstered by players on open and women’s clubs which didn’t qualify for Euros in their respective divisions but who have practiced and played with the Herd for the rest of the domestic mixed season. Their schedule is a pretty difficult one though as they face the very real possibility of being 0-3 by the end of day 1, working up from three to one seed in their group on Friday, before facing domestic rivals Pingu Jam to start the Saturday. If they can snatch a victory from at least one of their Friday games then they might carry a bit of momentum into the weekend, but lose all three and they might start the party early. They certainly have the pedigree to compete and a stronger squad than the one that finished 3rd at nationals, and if they start strong and it all clicks when they’re in Frankfurt then they could definitely make a run at the medals.
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Predicted finish: 4th

 

Following

Make sure to follow all the action from Get Horizontal who are working alongside PushPass to film as many games as possible to be released in the coming weeks and keep up to date with UK teams from our page also!

Good luck to everyone going out to Frankfurt, play hard and make us proud!

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