UKU BUCS Open University Outdoor Nationals 2015: Division 1

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Harry Mason enlists the power of Reddit to preview Open University Outdoor Nationals.

You will likely have noticed the conspicuous absence of the Women’s Division preview for this year’s Nationals. We are very sorry for this as it is a central goal of ours to offer equal coverage on all divisions. If you are keen to help us cover tournaments then please get in touch!

Coming up this weekend in Grove Farm, we have the last ever Open Nationals, as we move to the BUCS Men’s league structure next season. It quite literally is therefore the Open Nationals to end all Open Nationals. Dating back further than most current players’ careers, it will be sad for some to see it go, but it’s hardly going quietly. With 20 teams and plenty of talent on show, this is sure to be one of the best with the Grove Farm winds promising as always to add some spice to proceedings.

First off, some house-keeping. I would like to formally state that I judge the Yorkshire and East Midlands region to be the toughest region this year. With the old Midlands region gone, and Scotland getting roughly as many bids as teams, the Y&EM region has surely taken up this mantle. They only had two Division 1 spots, despite two Division 2 indoor finals at Open and Mixed Nationals being made up purely of teams from the Y&EM regions. Leeds and Sheffield did well to qualify from this region, but others who just missed out may feel hard done by, and rightly so.

Secondly, the information for this article was collated on Reddit  – so many thanks to the folks at r/UKUltimate for helping out, and up/down-voting to make a community prediction for final results.

Finally, the West and West Midlands region (W&WM) was a bit of a mess, due to Cardiff having waterlogged pitches (“What? Never!” come the incredulous cries of those who attended Mixed Tour 1), and as such qualification was a bit unruly, with no clear winner and certainly less outdoor practice for all involved.

Now, on to the main proceedings…

Top 5 – Teams with a shot at the title

The Reddit favourites were quite conclusive. A massive 4 points ahead of their nearest rivals, Manchester really seem to be intimidating people going in, and no wonder. Captain Steve Dixon’s team was very intimidating indoors, and while (due to a disinclination towards mixed) they’ve yet to prove themselves on a national outdoor stage this season, they once again took the victory for their region. Jose “Pepe” Espinosa and Hamish Rankine help provide valuable high-level experience for this already strong team.

Next up is Birmingham, and it felt bad not putting them first. With an UXON trophy already adding an outdoors victory to their dominating indoor performance this year, it seems that this is very much the team to beat. While I could go on about their disproportionate number of U23 players (four, for those wondering), or the dominating forces of non-U23 players James Wolverson, Lloyd Cheeseman (GB Open) and apparent secret weapon Andrew Potter, I’d instead like to focus on another aspect of captain Tom Hodgett’s team, namely the fact that whenever asked about how they played, they always seem to be talking about what they can do better, and how they aren’t quite clicking yet. All I can say is, we very much look forward to seeing what happens when they do.

Dundee. Dundee. The seemingly inevitable winners of Scottish Regionals. They’ve proven time and time again they can fight with the big dogs of the English, but have still yet to unseat them this season. Captain Alistair Robb’s team is likely to be more fired up than ever to try to smuggle those medals back over Hadrian’s Wall. With Andrei ‘Dickers’ Dick now firmly cemented with his university team mate Asif Arshad in the U23 Open side, this team is very likely going to come out athletic, firing, and willing to post the videos of them dominating you on YouTube.

You can’t win a region as comfortably as Cambridge did and not earn a prediction at the top. Scoring 71 goals and conceding only 4 have left them as clear victors (and left some questioning the minimum two bids per region requirement). Joint captains Chris Barnes and Roland Turnell-Ritson are in charge of a strong side, with 8 out of the 19 players on the CUlt training squad (helping to provide comfort to against any  injury worries). With Austrian-and-yet-somehow-playing-for-GB U23 George Anegg providing strength and discipline, this is a team capable of beating any – especially if they can manage to get Dom Dathan to avoid senior GB Mixed duties for a weekend.

Bath are, similar to Cambridge, another team coming strong out of a weaker region (the only team for their region to break the top 8, or even out of the bottom 4, at Indoor Nationals). Captain Andrew “BIF” Watt hopes to provide a squad with more depth than most, given his second team’s appearance at Divison 1 indoors. More than depth, the ability of star players Danny “RBF” Ryle, Andrew himself, and a possible appearance from still-somehow-trialling-for-U23s Michael Guise builds a solid team looking for some scalps.

 

Next 5 – Teams with a shot at the top 8

Leeds are my personal favourites for an outside shot at victory. Partially due to an outstanding performance at indoors, qualifying two teams to Division 1 Mixed Indoors, winning the unofficial “toughest region”, and an unfair amount of postgrads tipping the experience scales in their favour. Captain Dan Lovesey’s team have already done beyond what even they will have expected for this season. Nicolas Peters (Irish Open), Nick Moss, U23 Will Carter and possibly Robert “Crackerlegs” White (depending on GB Mixed commitments) give you an idea of the strength of this team, and why they were able to catch so many off guard last time.

Next in line is the fearsome force of Heriot-Watt. The rise of John “Stainsbury” Stainsby’s team has actually come very much in line with the fall of local rivals Edinburgh. I’ll leave that one up to the conspiracy theorists. But second place in Scotland, third place at Mixed Outdoor Nationals and, remarkably, 13th place (undefeated) at Mixed Tour 2 last weekend give some very impressive credentials to this team. If they play Dundee at this tournament, I’d advise everyone to drop the disc and go watch. This is a team that gets fired up for victory.

Sussex have underperformed drastically on the national stage this season. Their performances at regional events have narrowly edged them victory, yet they’ve finished lower than regional rivals each time at Nationals. So going into outdoors, we see again that they’ve pulled out a very close sudden death victory to take the title. Captain James “Jallen” Allen’s team has proven they can perform well under pressure. Strong players in John “Shimmy” Maule and Josh “Geezer” George provide strength. The presence as ever of U23 coach Felix Shardlow shows that they know their stuff. The big question is whether they can they pull themselves together and really make a mark, and begin a return to the Mohawk dominance of previous years.

Liverpool are a team which very much like to cause upsets, finishing a very strong 6th indoors. Captain Don Lindop will be hoping to replicate the feat outdoors and players like Manchester Ultimate’s Sion Regan will be on hand to help. After playing in Division 2 last year, it’ll be interesting to see how their nerves hold at the higher level.

Glasgow come off of a big win after Glasgow Ultimate, featuring eternal Glasgow player and captain Rory Curran, the ever loud Peter Casey, and the unfairly young Axel Ahmala/Duncan Webster, took first place at UKU Mixed Tour 2 last weekend. This is a team hyped and looking to prove that 4th in Scotland doesn’t mean much when you get to the national stage.

Dark Horses

Sheffield are a team capable of pulling out surprises. Captain Joe Crellin’s side achieved a high finish at Mixed Indoor Nationals this year, and managed to qualify out of the Y&EM region, possibly denying them a Division 2 trophy. With quality players like Manchester Ultimate co-captain Dan Sumner and U23 Matt Aspin on roster, they certainly have players to push everyone; the question is whether they have enough depth to cause some serious upsets.

Staffordshire were ranked higher by Reddit, but I’ve felt I had to pull them down slightly. An injury to captain Andrew Lewis’s ankle may prove too much of a loss to overcome, despite the team recently being awarded “performance of the year” by their University. If you can stop the Manchester Ultimate connection of Ben Bruin and MU co-captain Tom “Kitty” Perry, you might be have a shot at beating them. Easier said than done, especially with Curtis “Curly” Cobley helping out. However, being the only Open Nationals side without a women’s team means they might find themselves with a surprise star player…

St. Andrew’s never seem to catch a break. One of the lowest seeded by Reddit (despite an impressive 3rd at Scottish Regionals) means captains Ben Murdoch and Martin Quinn are definitely going out with a point to prove. Under the watchful eye of Understanding Ultimate’s Benji Heywood, the team narrowly missed out on BUCS points at Indoor Nationals, and will be looking to rectify that here.

Strathclyde are a testament to the fact that you can finish last in Scotland and still cause worry. I mean, they’ve even named themselves the Dark Horses. Coming 9th at UXON, and with the formidable U23 Cameron “Cagnew” Agnew leading the side, they’ll be looking for scalps. With Miroslav Stankovič and Daniel Proisl gaining experience with Glasgow Ultimate, and Jake Burgess being traditionally strong at the back, this is definitely a team that could upset the seedings

The last in this group looking to trouble the top teams are Oxford. With an insanely experienced side, and a 4th place finish at UXON, this is very much a team to worry about. Captain Rob “Weakside” Sturrock’s team contains players capable of adapting to all areas of the field, with Ka-Pow player Michael West and professional Dylan Freechild impersonator Daniel Burkhardt Cerigo being of particular worry to any potential rivals.

Uni Nationals returns to Nottingham once again.  Photo courtesy of BlockStack TV.

Uni Nationals returns to Nottingham once again. Photo courtesy of Andrew Moss and BlockStack TV.

 

Rounding up the rest

Durham qualified 3rd in the North. Captain Edward Ward’s side may include some interesting selection choices given their UXON performance, where their second team finished higher than their first. The addition of U23 Open and Chevron player Alexis Long to the squad this year will no doubt add a lot of stability outdoors. A team with great young players, and certainly one to keep an eye on.

Warwick ended up right at the bottom of Reddit’s ranking, which may seem unfair. After all, they performed well indoors this season and came a fairly respectable 17th outdoors. However, they may be suffering from lack of depth. Captain Jack Skipper will take his fellow EMO squad-mates Romit “Gromit” Patel and Matthew Kirk and hope to weave their way to victory. The strong winds of Nottingham may help their style, but with only two losses to Birmingham to show against national level teams, it’ll be interesting to see how they perform this weekend.

Cardiff are a relatively unknown force this year. With the rearranging of W&WM Regionals meaning they only had to beat Swansea to qualify, they’ve yet to actually play any Division 1 standard teams. After ending just the wrong side of the swiss draw on the Saturday of UXON, they managed to comfortably see away the teams below them but were unable to test their mettle against the top dogs. As such, captain Alden Cheng’s side come in under-experienced, but also possibly underrated, which they may be able to use to their advantage.

UCL was one of the teams that I found myself disagreeing with the Reddit voting the most. Despite arguing themselves as a strong, mid-level side, I was unable to see who they would unseat further up the rankings. Having GB Mixed player Joe Durst as their coach is undoubtedly a huge gain to captain Kieran Miller’s side, and this being their UOWON debut, the team will gain huge experience, and likely be one to watch in the future. Their loss to Imperial in the semis (and then subsequently winning the 2 vs. 3 game-to-go) meant that they avoided the wrath of Cambridge. In the end, it will come down to how key players Tom Anthony, John Low and Milan Tarascas help pull the team together as they face their first real tests.

After not qualifying for men’s Indoor Nationals, Southampton come to Nottingham with a point to prove. The return of previously injured Maks Tobiasiewicz (Polish U23 open) has undoubtedly strengthened the squad who are captained this year by Luka Banović. The Skunks have always performed at Nationals in the past when required. Disposing with the likes of Exeter and Bristol to make the cut, the team will hope to prove themselves amongst the best this weekend.

Conclusions

Given the strong squad and the already groaning trophy cabinate, I think the title is Birmingham’s to lose this weekend, and I think Manchester is the team that could make them do just that, if they play their game right. If either of these teams don’t end up in at least the semis I’ll be very surprised.

Cambridge and Dundee are likely to make up the semis, as long as complacency doesn’t set in. Both of these teams can play in high winds, and are unlikely to be stirred by anything other than a great performance. Heriot Watt, Leeds and Bath are equally all in with a very good shot.

If Sussex can pull themselves together, then they’re the most likely to round off the top eight. If not, Liverpool, Sheffield, St. Andrews, Oxford and Glasgow are the other teams ready to cause upsets and get those final BUCS points.

UKU UOON 2015

UKU UOON 2015

Here are the final standings, as predicted on Reddit:

1st Manchester

(11 points)

=2nd Bath

=2nd Cambridge

(7 points)

=4th Birmingham

=4th Dundee

(6 points)

6th Sussex

(4 points)

=7th Heriot Watt

=7th Leeds

=7th Staffordshire

=7th UCL

(3 points)

=11th Durham

=11th Glasgow

=11th Liverpool

=11th Southampton

(2 points)

=15th Sheffield

=15th Strathclyde

(1 point)

=17th Oxford

=17th St. Andrew’s

(0 points)

=19th Cardiff

=19th Warwick

(-2 points)

Thank you so much Harry! Great work and good luck to all, grab those BUCS points at #UKUUOON

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