UKU BUCS Men’s Indoor Regionals: East and London

Open, Tournament Reports, University

Phil Sandwell previews the East and London regions 

It would be hard to argue that the new East & London Men’s region deserves more than the minimum number of bids to Indoor Nationals that was awarded to it. A composite of the universities from in and around London (previously part of the South East) and those in the eastern part of the old Midlands region, the new catchment area has been awarded just two spots in each division of Nationals. Despite hosting last year’s twice-over champions Cambridge, and an Imperial team which finished 10th both Indoors and Outdoors, the lack of berths for this year’s Nationals comes as a result of the fact that no other team in the new region made to either division of Indoor Nationals in 2013.
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This means that at least two universities will get the chance to make up for last year through qualification this weekend, but several squads will be looking to take advantage of what appears to be a very close field. No team looks out of contention for the Nationals spots. The inevitable turnover of players at University level, combined with the fact that many teams will be matching up against each other for the first time, could result in a battle for Nationals that is tighter than ever. At this early point in the season teams will fancy their chances against almost any opponent, and the key to securing one of the top four spots may well be capitalising in a single game.

 

Last year’s undisputed champions Cambridge come in as favourites in Group A and will be the team everyone wants to beat. Despite losing two of their American imports, the quality of the squad remains high with the likes of Dom Dathan, Rolo Turnell-Ritson, George Anegg and James ‘JR’ Richardson looking to repeat the success of last season. They are joined by Luke Frett, previously of UEA, but lose Tom Anthony to UCL. Seven of the current Cambridge roster went to club Europeans in Frankfurt, but the club teams’ successes at WUCC and Euros also gives familiarity for the opposition: James Threadgill (Imperial) and Sam Persaud (Brunel) will have inside knowledge of this Strange Blue team. A lack of indoor training time may cause a few early-tournament jitters, and this team will need to gel before they are pushed before crunch time on Sunday. This being said, Cambridge are favourites for qualification if not the title this year.
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King’s College London have fallen short of Nationals qualification in recent seasons, but this year may be their best shot for some time. Larry Caines and Gautom Baruah – two linchpins of the Thrown team – return from injury at just the right time to push their team up the rankings. With the long-term aim of establishing themselves as a top-bracket team, a good performance this weekend could see them pushing for the top four.

 

Roehampton will be using Brazilians Mattheus, Paulo and Gui as the basis of a zone defense whilst looking for their rookies to get on the score sheet. A tough pool and their first game against Cambridge won’t dampen their spirits as they aim to have fun whilst putting in a solid performance over the weekend.

 

This season may well be a transition year for Essex Blades. Although they retain just two of last year’s Indoors team (including the experienced Josh Neville) fifty potential players contended for the remaining eight places. This solid base for development is matched by a conservative target of a top-twelve finish with the aim of bettering their results from last year when they putting in a solid performance at Mixed Indoors and beat rivals UEA.
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Imperial College are no strangers to tough games at Regionals, but after several years of playing second fiddle to the University of Sussex they will be looking to make a change should they match up against Cambridge. The Group B top seed has lost some top-end talent from last year but Imperial have strength in their returning players James Threadgill, Ed Parker and Phil Sandwell, who are joined by Sam Thompson, previously at Durham.  With eyes firmly on qualification, this team will be gunning for the final.

 

Standing in their way are Charlie Perrett, Dan Hammond and Adam Tilley, who have the clear goal of taking the club they founded to Nationals in their final year. With experience from Latvian national player Aivis Asaritis and new players Connor Wood and Rushian Show, the University of Hertfordshire may be the dark horses of the tournament. The home team declare that they’ll be “giving everyone the D” – particularly local rivals the University of Bedfordshire, in revenge of a recent varsity defeat.

 

In Group C UEA are looking to grow from the team that missed out on qualification last year. Despite losing several players from last season’s failed bid, Dan Basson provides the experience to find deep threats Ewan Berry and Max Jones, with Jake Opher back from injury and looking to make up for lost time.
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UCL captain Kieran Miller will be looking to return his team to University Ultimate’s top flight with the addition of Tom Anthony, who tasted victory with Cambridge last season, ex-GB Junior Milan Tarascas and gentle giant Lalo. Their influx of talent is coached by Joe Durst, previously of Johnny Bravo and Cambridge Mixed, who will be aiming to make an early season statement by taking the Silverbacks to the top.

 

LSE head up Group D, but having had the majority of last year’s team move on as well as no indoor training sessions, they have limited hopes for the tournament. Their first group games against lower ranked opposition will help them find their feet, but the Beavers will need to gel quickly or face a challenging backdoor route to qualification.

 

Unlike many teams that hope to strengthen over the course of the tournament, Brunel University will be relying in the chemistry built over the past few years to give them an early edge. Last season’s new players have made the step up to the Brunel first team and put up a good fight in challenging for Nationals.

 

A poll of the team captains puts the expectation heavily on Cambridge and Imperial to occupy two of top four spots by the end of the weekend, but the remaining two spaces appear very much up for grabs. UEA, LSE, UCL, Brunel and King’s have all been tipped as potential qualifiers but with so few bids to Nationals, competition will be fierce. Anything could happen before the final buzzer on Sunday afternoon.
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Finally, an honourable mention goes out to St Mary’s University, the newest club in the region. Founded by Harry Sheridan and Mikey Davis, they have had a promising start to their first season with strong membership numbers but were unfortunately unable to enter ELUMIR before the deadline closed. Expect an enthusiastic performance at their first tournament at Mixed Indoor Regionals in two week’s time, and best of luck to them!

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