Andrei Mandzuk gives us his view on Division 2 University 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!
With the bulk of the focus at Grove Farm this weekend being upon the Division 1 powerhouses, Division 2 has the potential to slip under the radar. Refusing to let that be the case, the dynamic nature of University Ultimate has shaken up the most interesting spread of teams in recent memory. The absence of an Irish representative in the division has left the door open for less established programs to make a statement on the National stage. With mild wind forecasted (and no doubt multiplied by the Grove Farm wind tunnel effect), the victor will be sure to possess scrappy defence and considerable throwing prowess.
All teams will be covered in alphabetically, followed by some predictions gathered through the UK Ultimate gossip mill.
Despite being yet to field a ‘full’ squad this season, Bangor Ultimate enter the weekend well prepared. With a penchant for stubborn zone defence, and a new look offense, Bangor enter the weekend completely untested.
Handler Daniel Mclean will be relied on for big pulls, and finding quick cutter Eric Fitton (Birmingham Ultimate) as a first look downfield. Defensively, Andrei Mandzuk (GB U23 Open & Birmingham Ultimate) will look to direct Bangor’s zone looks, and move the disc quickly following turnovers.
With South West Regionals being heavily disrupted by adverse weather conditions, Bristol will be unhappy to have missed out on a Division 1 spot. Notable absences of throwers James Bogie and Ollie Clark for academic reasons will no doubt hamper the team’s offence this weekend.
These absentees have opened the door for younger players to take over the bulk of the handling, with James Hall (Bristol Open) and Adam Morgan (Jest Ridisculous) touted to step up to the plate. An athletic and deep squad, Bristol are a team who will have no trouble generating turnovers. Their success this weekend will be determined by how well they ‘click’ with a new look offensive line.
A traditionally strong ultimate programme, Edinburgh RoShamBo failed to qualify for Division 1 Outdoors for the first time in recent memory. Coming into the weekend with a point to prove, it would be foolish to write these guys off.
With the core of the team training with Black Eagles and Sneekeys, they won’t be short of match fitness. North American imports such as Andrew Murray will have a big role to play on offense, whilst an athletic man defence will generate plenty of turnovers.
Another traditionally strong ultimate programme, Exeter will provide a tough challenge for any team in the division. Close ties to club team Devon Ultimate have allowed their roster to consolidate strong fundamentals. This has led to a back-to-basics approach to offence, and a strong work ethic emerging as central team values.
The team will look to the very experienced Damien Rumble, and fellow handler Antonio Guerrero to move the disc. Meanwhile their strong system will produce efficient cuts downfield.
Imperial College London
After narrowly missing out on a Division 1 spot at Regionals, Imperial Disc Doctors will be entering this weekend with their eyes set firmly on the top spots. Strong links to club teams Kapow and Flump have allowed the top end of their roster to amass considerable high level experience.
With their squad hampered by injuries and exams, captains Edward Parker (Flump) and James Threadgill (GB Beach & Kapow) will do most of the handling. Meanwhile Phil Sandwell (Kapow) is joined by a rapidly developing spread of cutters downfield. If their new talent can produce big performances, you can expect this team to finish towards the top of the Division.
Kent will be looking to improve upon their standing at last year’s Outdoor Nationals. With experience in the handler set, and enthusiasm downfield they may prove a tough team to beat if the weather turns sour.
Captain Josh Clements, and handler Vid Čalovski will control the disc on offence, whilst a relatively inexperienced but tireless set of cutters work hard downfield.
Portsmouth enter this weekend looking to showcase an innovative and diverse offence, no doubt looking to trouble traditionally inexperienced University Ultimate defences.
The athletic Will Rowledge (GB U23 Open) will be Pompey’s primary deep threat and defender, whilst Liam Berry controls the flow of the disc. They are hyped to be looking forward to a rematch against regional rivals, Surrey.
Surrey secured the top qualification spot out of a tough South East Region. With an experienced roster, they will be looking to challenge for the division title.
Captain Neil Swan will marshal an athletic downfield contingent, who will work particularly hard to get the disc back following any turnovers.
Newcastle Pies are a team well renowned for being able to adapt on defence, and this season looks no different. With Alex Mazzon (GB U23 Mixed & Kapow) returning from placement, Pies are looking to build upon their second place finish last season.
The tall Kris Kerswell (Ex-Warwick Bears) and Mazzon will look to run the offence, whilst trying to find the jumpy Andrew Macgill downfield. In addition to their traditional zone looks, an athletic recruiting class will allow Pies to showcase some fast and bid-happy man defence.
As defending champions at Grove Farm, Nottingham Fling are a team with much going for them this weekend. The tournament being held on their home turf provides the luxuries of a good night’s sleep, and little travel time. In addition to this, Ben Poole (GB U23 Open & EMO) has returned from an ankle injury which kept him off the field at Regionals.
Fling will be looking for handler Liam Reddy (Birmingham Ultimate) to move the disc on offence, with Poole providing a ‘double threat’ first cut. Strong ties to local club teams, East Midlands Open and Birmingham Ultimate, allows the bulk of Fling’s roster to obtain club ultimate experience. This fostering of fundamental downfield abilities, coupled with physical man defence will make them a hard team to beat this weekend.
After beginning this season as a ‘development year’, Hallam have gone from strength to strength. With a promising indoor showing, and victory over an impressive Loughborough squad in the game-to-go at Outdoor Regionals, they will be looking to make a statement in Nottingham.
Captain Anthony Wilson (Reading) will join an athletic group of cutters downfield, whilst the experienced Josh Brassington (GB Juniors) is their primary handler. Additionally, Hallam have picked up veteran cutter Scott Martin (LeedsLeedsLeeds) for this season on a teaching degree who will provide endless bail-out options when youth and athleticism isn’t quite enough.
Stirling narrowly missed out on Division 1 qualification from the traditionally tough Scottish Regionals. With a deeper squad than previous seasons, they will be looking to challenge for the top spots this weekend.
Mike Thomas, Anthony Hulatt, and Fraser Macdonald (Ex-Edinburgh) will look to hit athletic cutters downfield. If their depth can shine through, don’t be surprised to see Blaze placing highly when the weekend is done.
As the top qualifier out of a jumbled West Midlands & Wales Regionals, Swansea will be aiming to build upon their indoor qualification with a strong showing outdoors.
The absence of handler Jacques-Olivier Laloë (Brighton) has been felt throughout the outdoor season, but an athletic and tireless set of cutters will make the job easier for their throwers. Expect Ben Doherty to lead the stats sheet, whilst Captain Andy Partridge (Birmingham Ultimate) will provide experience around the disc.
University of Central Lancashire
A new face in the division, University of Central Lancashire enter the weekend with nothing to lose. After an impressive development season, The Spinners have a new crop of enthusiastic rookies who shall only improve as the weekend progresses.
Captain Niall Lobley and experienced player Richard Adams may be required to do the lion’s share of the leg work on offence, whilst a zone-based approach to defence will make them a frustrating team to play all weekend.
University of East Anglia
After an impressive qualification for Division 1 at Indoor Nationals, University of East Anglia will be hoping for a strong showing this weekend in Division 2. The proximity of active local club team Mustard gives the top end of the Aye-Aye roster significant experience, and allows them to gain pitch time together outside of the University fixtures.
Captain Nick Poole will be hoping for experienced thrower Dan Basson to anchor the offense, whilst hitting a range of athletic targets downfield.
After a breakout season last year, York will be looking to consolidate their strong finish at Indoor Regionals by proving themselves again outdoors.
Max Moseley (GB U23 Mixed & LeedsLeedsLeeds) will provide both deep options and expansive throwing as he looks to get the bulk of York’s touches. With an extremely deep squad, York will be hoping to progress to Sunday’s championship bracket with the legs to push for the top spot.
Predicted Top 4:
Imperial College London, Newcastle, Nottingham, & Surrey.
Bristol, Edinburgh & Sheffield Hallam.
Whatever the results, this weekend is sure to showcase the growing depth of the UK University scene. It should be the hottest contested Division 2 Nationals yet, and despite no BUCS points being on the table, it’s all to play for with next season’s league divisions still to be decided. See you all in Nottingham!
Great work Andrei and good luck to all! #UKUUOON