Felicity “Flea” Perry and Claire Taylor give us their outlook on the Women’s division.
The top of the UK women’s tour is currently a tale of one team – the London based Iceni decimated the field at Tour 1. They won every game with acres to spare. With only 14 points scored against them over six games, they are a well drilled and highly skilled team of athletes. Their performance was impressive to say the least, and their resolute attitude to be the best saw them sail through the opposition at Tour 1.
We could talk about the gusty conditions, but we would just be rehashing old news. It’s Nottingham, it was windy, people played zone, let’s move on. The pitches were in great condition, the tournament was well organised, and the sun even appeared briefly.
Finalists SYC looked stylish in their new kit, and they played slick and efficient Ultimate. New recruits including Hannah Boddy (Punt, LLLeeds), Tanya Zenovyeva (Relentless) and Eyan Sham (Devon) bolstered their team, and they have continued to develop a free-flowing style that is really great to watch. SYC beat Rebel in their semi-final to face the top seed Iceni in the first tour final of the year. SYC worked hard to challenge Iceni, but the reigning champions didn’t ever look under serious pressure and comfortably won Tour 1.
Sadly the UK Women’s Tour will be without the powerhouse that is Iceni at the next event, as they travel stateside to take on the best in the US. We wish them all the best and hope that they have a chance to really test their mettle.
Below first place, the competition was more tightly fought. Having entered WUCC last year in the inaugural Women’s Masters division, ROBOT fielded a much smaller squad at Tour 1 than in 2014. Drawing on connections from LLLeeds and with the addition of some new faces including Kate Ford, Laura Wilson (both Free Agents), and the return of Tasha Nishiyama (LLLeeds), this experienced squad worked well together to finish third (by forfeit; Rebel had to leave for imminent flights home). Rebel of Cork, Ireland have great long shots and talented tall receivers, and their handlers moved the disc effectively down the line and to the break side. This team finished fourth, and are clearly one to watch in the future. Both ROBOT and Rebel will be absent at Tour 2, although more than half of the ROBOT team will be playing for the GB Women’s Masters.
Following a strong performance at Tom’s Tourney, the Uptown Punks (a.k.a. GB U23) finished fifth, losing in the quarter final to the experience of ROBOT, but going on to beat Punt and Nice Bristols A on Sunday. The Punks continue to develop, and we hope the stage of London Calling will see big plays and big bids on Defense, this team potentially challenging for a place in the final. Nice Bristols split their teams evenly, and finished sixth and seventh. This decision followed a pre-season of open trainings and encouraging new blood from local universities, and they have a raft of new players that have masses of potential. To add to this, Nice Bristols have also gained experienced players Cat Parsons (Leeds, Iceni) and Australian legend, Kaz Palmer.
Jen Hart explains that Tour 1 “saw us evenly split our teams … so that the experienced can be on hand to coach the newer players”. She goes on to say that this strategy worked really well, and that by Sunday the “standard of play, levels of understanding and communication from the newer players on both teams was great”.
After the success of last season Punt suffered considerable losses to their squad, retaining just seven players from 2014. At Tour 1 they finished eighth, which is lower than all of last season, but given their personnel losses was seen by the team as a massive achievement. Punt have recruited players from Oxford University (current University Outdoor Women’s Champions) and we’ve been told to look out for, amongst other things, Claire Baker’s “classic full-stretch layouts”. Talented young players such as Camille Kostov and Leila Dennison (U23 Mixed) further add intensity to the squad.
A win over Phoenix in the opening game of Tour 1 saw Dragon Knights move from 15th seed to ninth. They finished the weekend holding onto this seeding, and they are an up-and-coming geo team that will be battling for a top eight finish at Tour 2. The middle of the Tour saw seedings changing rapidly and lots of closely fought games. JR and Manchester battled a long and intense sudden-death point for a place in the top 16, with JR eventually coming out on top. There were also tight games for Swift, Relentless, Phoenix, Glasgow, LLLeeds and Devon. Close score lines may have been attributable in part to windy conditions, but there is no doubt that there will be hard fought re-matches at London Calling.
The depth of the Women’s Tour keeps increasing, all the way to 24th seed. Discie Chicks, who placed 22nd, commented: “With the addition of more development teams this year, it has extended the range of competition at Tour, and now even the lower-end games have been hard fought”. The Discie Chicks were set up precisely to get more girls playing Tour, and every year they encourage most players to move on to other teams whilst they begin recruitment for the next season. This kind of dedication to getting new players involved is fantastic for the development of Women’s Ultimate; we feel humbled by their dedication and tireless work! Following a sudden-death loss in their 21st/22nd placement game the Discie Chicks said that “the girls are fired up for London Calling.”
The top spot will be hotly contested at London Calling. Freshly returned from competing at Disc Days in Cologne, SYC will be keen to win, however the addition of the GB Women’s Masters means that some teams lose experienced players. SYC lose Nicky Thomas, Sarah “Doogs” Roushanzamir and Marie-Sophie Nguyen-Tu, whilst Nice Bristols’ losses include Bridget Brown, Kate Markey and Prisc Lesne. Returning to Tour are Free Agents, a talented team that debuted last season and one to watch as they bring both skill and experience. The Spanish Women’s Masters are also making the trip to St Albans. They bring a squad of 19 aiming “to fight hard until the last minute” and they look forward to “playing well spirited, competitive games”. Familiar faces in this team include coach Kristina “Kika” Burke (ROBOT) and Susie Distler, a founder of Dirty Olive.
Tour 2 presents an opportunity for a number of middle seeded teams to fight their way into the top eight. Swift, Dragon Knights, LLLeeds and Relentless are all set for tough games as they battle it out for a shot at a quarter-final. Any of these teams could come out storming in London and create upsets in the pool games. Brighton Pretty could also challenge for top eight, and they gain back Megan Hurst, their talismanic lefty handler.
After forming last season, Manchester are already fielding two teams at Tour. Their firsts took 17th, although they lose their co-founder Claerwen Snell to GB Women’s Masters at Tour 2. Their open training sessions, and a mission to empower the team by training players to run sessions themselves allows the club to be sustainable in the long term. They’re definitely a team to watch out for in the future.
Vurve and Guilford Ultimate are two new teams debuting at Tour 2. Both focus on regular local trainings, creating opportunities for growing Women’s Ultimate that we applaud. Similarly Manchester, Devon, Brighton (Pretty and Beautiful) and Nice Bristols are geo-focused teams fielding two teams at Tour 2. Development and recruitment focused teams give girls opportunities to play at club level, something that many people agree will improve the standard of competition in the UK and GB’s performance overseas.
Tour 2 is set to be the largest Women’s Tour event ever, with 27 teams entered. With Iceni in Boston, and the addition of another GB squad into the mix the battle for a spot in the top eight is hotly contested. There may well be upsets at London Calling…
[ED: A quick note from UKU – please, absolutely no parking on the driveway and bring your own bottles for taps on site since there is not water at every field. Good luck to all competing!]