EUCF 2015 – Wroclaw UK Team Previews

EUCF 2015, Mixed, news, Open, Previews, Womens

Today the European Club Championships kick off in Wroclaw Poland. Josh Coxon Kelly, Claire Taylor and David Pryce preview the UK teams looking to bring home some international silverware.

Open

Clapham are chasing their fourth consecutive title in Wroclaw, and further consolidation as the most dominant squad in Europe. The squad has more new players than in recent years, but this didn’t slow down their unbeaten route to the final and a 15th domestic title in Southampton at Nationals. Retaining will be tough work with targets so clearly marked out on their backs, but this team are nevertheless still in the strongest position for gold. Their pool looks the kinder of the two groups starting at ‘elite’ tier, however the Belgian Mooncatchers have capitalised on building momentum at WU23 and EUC to win 15-12 over Bad Skid in the EUCR – C final, and CUSB will be as fiery as ever and mean that pool play may not be a completely straightforward affair.

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Ollie Gordon gets horizontal in the UKU Nationals final. Photo by Andrew Moss.

Chevron Action Flash have recruited even more heavily for the 2015 season. Nationals was their first tournament together with a full squad, and whilst they were unable to overcome Clapham, they showed that they had quickly brought in their new connections (recruits Dom Dathan, and Sam Turner are joined by GB mixed team-mate Steve Kolthammer for this tournament) and looked their strongest in recent years. Their pool is nasty, facing up against Germany’s Bad Skid, Austria’s FWD and France’s Iznogood. With these team’s making up the bulk of their respective international squads, Chevron will be getting stuck in from the first game in Poland.

Brighton City beat Fire in their last match of UK Nationals. Neither of these teams have been able to break into the European elite in recent years, but remain hungry to do so and will take any opportunity given. Fire have had another turbulent year with strict attendance-based rostering, but will surely be sending their strongest possible squad for the final and highest level club tournament of the year. Brighton are in similar territory in terms of looking to break out into a European quarters/semi run, but may miss out on a couple of potential pickups due to roster clashes with Brighton Legends.

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Fire of London and Brighton City will be in the Challenger division. Photo by Claire Baker.

Devon didn’t qualify at Nationals, but welcome another European trip which will undoubtedly help their continuing presence as one of UK’s highest performing clubs. Richard Coward will continue to be a crucial part of the team’s offensive and defensive lines and will provide a thorny matchup no matter the opposition. Ben Hall returns to the roster to further contribute to the athletic mismatches.

EMO took the hardest route Europeans after a first game loss to Brighton Legends at Nationals. Clearly experience is something that this squad needs to regain after such a promising build up to (and including their performance at) WUCC 2014. Competing in Europe will be welcome, then, as an opportunity to test themselves against a wider and stronger field with the aim of restarting that momentum and moving back towards domestic semi-final and final contention.

Women’s

Iceni: current UK and European champions. Photo by Andrew Moss.

Iceni: current UK and European champions. Photo by Andrew Moss.

Nationals saw 8 teams come to Southampton to battle for the two elusive spots to Europeans, and the pride of gold and silver medals at UK Nationals. Iceni and Bristol stormed this competition, once again demonstrating their calibre and talent. A tense yo-yoing 3 v 4 game followed, placing SYC 3rd and Leeds 4th. However, the UK has been offered two more spots for GB women clubs to represent at EUCF, meaning that all four of these teams have been able to attend. Excitingly all have been able to get a team together and will be representing in Poland. With regard to women’s ultimate this opportunity is a big one for teams. It gives players a chance to test themselves outside of Tour, against different levels of play and new styles that are unpredictable. Games like this help players to learn and grow, something that regardless of your level of experience everyone should be aiming to do. For some players this will be the first time playing competitively outside of the UK, and an opportunity for these players to step up their game and really bring it.

 

Iceni are seeded 1st and are representing in Pool A. Coming off a run of winning the last four Europeans’, they will undoubtedly be aiming to continue this. After dominating the UK Ultimate scene it will be interesting to see if any of the European teams can really challenge them. Iceni are taking a full squad, and winning Europeans has always been considered the end goal for this team.

 

Bristol have consistently performed well this season, despite a split squad approach at the beginning of Tour. Nationals didn’t necessarily see all of their whole strength squad, with a few noticeable faces missing. However this didn’t stop them having a convincing win over Leeds to progress into the final and solidify their spot at EUCF.
SYC and Leeds are late additions to the EUCF line ups. Photo by Andrew Moss.

SYC and Leeds are late additions to the EUCF line ups. Photo by Claire Baker.

SYC are seeded bottom of pool A. Gaining a late arrival spot, they have managed to gather a large squad and have continued weekly training in preparation. A year of coaching and dedication all season has paid off with a constantly improving defence and without doubt they will be aiming to cause some serious upsets in their pool.

 

LeedsLeedsLeeds are going to EUCF seeded bottom of pool B, after an unpredictable season, a mixture of new and old players at Tour and Nationals has made for a lot of fun Tournaments. A last minute spot at EUCF means that their squad is returning to Tour size and as always they will play with grit and a constant desire to win, and will be sure to learn a lot while doing so.

 

Teams such as Bristol taking players who were new to Tour, are now providing these players with the opportunity to step up to the European stage. This is obviously great for the development of Ultimate, as it feeds back into the local club scenes, benefiting their respective pods, continuing the on-going regionalised development of these teams – very exciting news for women’s ultimate. The talent Bristol have managed to foster through their development season, is also undoubtedly going to pay off massively for them in the future.

 

In terms of the other 6 clubs from the rest of Europe a surprise may be in store. While a lack of show from the Russians (after Cosmic Girls pulled out), and the absence of any German team is disappointing. After the strength of the Women’s division at EUC in Copenhagen earlier this year there is no reason another club might not be a contender to rival Iceni. Flying Angel Bern (FAB), the Swiss team are seeded second to Iceni and are top of pool B, and the Finnish team Athletico, could be another one to watch.

 

Iceni will play their hardest regardless of the opposition, and they should go home with gold. Bristol, SYC and Leeds had hard fought and tight games all season, and there is no reason this won’t continue at EUCF. While it is always hard to gauge where British teams align within Europe, as four teams representing among ten this is a promising sign that Women’s British Ultimate is constantly improving, and hopefully will result in some top of the table action for all the British teams!

 

Mixed

Reading Ultimate with their first Nationals title. Photo by Andrew Moss.

Reading Ultimate with their first Nationals title. Photo by Andrew Moss.

Congratulations to Reading Ultimate and Black Eagles on qualifying for EUCF in Wroclaw. In what appears to have been the most competitive UKU Mixed Nationals we have seen in a while these teams stood out above the competition as the GB powerhouses in this division.

Reading have had a great year so far with plenty of domestic wins, ending the Tour season in third. They were hardly troubled during qualification with the final being their tightest game where Black Eagles pushed the champions 15-13. As the relative new kids on the block this will be the second visit to the continent for the men on the team, last year the Open team were lucky enough to qualify. This may in some part have led to their return to the big stage but you cannot ignore the fantastic players of both genders on show here. With a European champion Catherine Ashton and no less than five U23 Mixed players (Klima, Denniston, Palmer and Ryle from 2015, Hill from 2013) this team has a lot of class. Also on show are two of the potentially most stat-heavy players in this division: Mark Bignal and Sam Gunbie who stood out at Nationals scoring or assisting in almost three quarters of this team’s scored points. Sadly they are missing the twitter happy co-captain Dan Godbold and his absolutely incredible EUC champion fiance Ania Koscia, couple this with the injured Claire Baker, and any other team would be left short handed. However I can’t see that happening with Reading, which is a testament to the hard work and depth of this team. Let’s see if Europe can stop them.

The Nationals silver medalists can also boast a very strong team. Black Eagles have been in the higher echelons of the Mixed Tour for some time and, like Reading, were not pressed up until their tight game in the final. Their esteemed captain of GB U23 2010 and Fusion fame – James Glover – has brought together some of Scotland’s best (with some added friends from across the border). Notably Mike Noblett (EUC champion) and Niall Wilkinson on the men’s side with the Cambridge imports Frances Dathan, Lucy Barnes (EUC champion) as stand out women. Sadly they will be missing Niamh Delaney (GB Mixed captain and champion), Linda Gilmour (GB Women’s Masters, EUC Bronze) and Robert Anderson (Clapham, GB Open 2012). Having taken the Mixed Tour title this year from being on the rise over the last few, can this bunch of fierce Scottish warriors take Europe by storm?

Doug Olley in the Mixed Nationals final. Photo by Claire Baker.

Doug Olley in the Mixed Nationals final. Photo by Claire Baker.

Both these teams represent some of the work done by the UKU to create a stronger stand alone Mixed division and are taking two very deep, strong teams from the high end of the Mixed tour. In previous years one could argue that due to the choice of Open and Women’s over Mixed, a lesser representation of the UK’s Mixed division was being sent over to Europe. We can see this changing and our hope lies with Reading and Black Eagles this year. Good luck to them and let’s see if UK Ultimate can grab all three championships in Wroclaw this weekend. Stay tuned for coverage (internet dependent!) over the weekend and good luck to all teams taking part!

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