UKU Tour 2016: Nottingham WindFarm Women’s Tour

Hannah Pendlebury debuts on theShowGame with a thorough account of Women’s Tour in Nottingham

Women’s Tour is so hot right now. Though London Calling seems but a distant memory after a staggering six weeks between events, teams across the division are keen to get back on pitch post-worlds to channel their inner Kami Groom.

Tour 2 sees the return of top-four finishing Irish team Rebel (their debut at the affectionately named ‘Wind Farm’). Word on the sideline is that everyone wants to play this well-spirited Irish team as they are “just mad craic”. However, with GB Masters disbanding post-Worlds and Mockingjays staying at home, there is certainly room at the top for teams ready to battle hard and earn a semi-final berth.

Added spice also comes in the form of the much anticipated split of London powerhouse Iceni into two evenly-balanced teams. This is a great decision from the reigning national and European champions, as not only does it give them an opportunity to develop and assess their roster in full but it should hopefully encourage an extra edge out of their opposition. The question is – will anyone knock X or Y off course from their current path to face off in the final? Only time will tell, but we’re excited to watch.

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the pools.

Pool S: Iceni X (1), SYC (3), Swift 1 (6), Punt 1 (8)
This should be a spicy power pool, with each team sporting deep rosters with real talent. Certainly both of the London geo teams are keen to test their mettle against each other and it will be interesting to see if SYC can leave enough in the tank to unsettle the top seeds when they meet at the end of Saturday.

Pool play will feature an exciting rematch from Tour 1 between SYC and Punt, with both teams bolstered by their returning GB players from the Mixed and Masters squads. Notable additions for the ladies in vibrant green will include debuts from Nicky Thomas and Emilia Cruz, along with the return of founding member Lucy Barnes. Punt were disappointed last time around not to convert numerous blocks, so hopefully they can hit the ground running this weekend with sharp clinical offence to cut through the well-drilled and athletic SYC defence.

Swift will also prove a tough match up, with a slick offensive look this season that makes great use of their ever-trusty inside flicks and agile cutters. After taking SYC to sudden death in London, they will be hoping to push every team in their pool just as hard in Nottingham. Expect to see a few new faces on their line including Gabi Starek – a Polish player based in St. Andrews tipped by veteran Swift player Kate Farmer as one to watch out for.

Pool T: Iceni Y (2), Rebel (4), Brighton (5), Relentless (7)
Much like the other power pool, the games between the teams in pool T are likely to be intense and hard-fought. They are also likely to feature plenty of hucks, with an array of skilled and powerful handlers who can put the disc deep consistently in the wind.

Rebel had a dominant performance in London where they stormed through to semis only to fall at the hands of GBWM. We expect to see Rebel building on their successes at Tour 1 to finish at the top end of this pool. With a very similar core roster as their last outing to the UK, the girls from Cork will be bringing some junior players to “run the legs off” the opposition. Look out for #0 Bríonagh Healy who is likely to be doing exactly that as she makes her debut appearance on the UK Ultimate scene.

Brighton also had a cracking Tour 1, often scoring more upwind than downwind points in the swirly Sunday conditions of the 5-12 bracket pitches. The conditions in Nottingham should therefore play right into their hands to make them formidable opponents – particularly those of their exceptional handlers Hannah Brew and Nicole Cozens. Expect to see some big plays and well-honed connections from this south coast geo team, along with gritty D and trademark ‘awkward layouts’ from co-captain Beth Mulligan.

Relentless come to Nottingham off the back of a solid first tour. After initially struggling to find their flow in the first game against SYC they gained momentum over the course of the tournament, grinding out a key win against Leeds to maintain a top eight finish. Pool play will provide them with two opportunities for a rematch against both Brighton and Rebel. A fuller squad and fresher legs could well tip final scores into their favour if they can hit the ground running and tidy up their offence. Although they will be missing the presence of unstoppable handler Lucy Hyde for Saturday’s games, this Tour sees the return of the equally speedy Tessa Hunt who will certainly be making her presence felt downfield throughout the weekend.

Amina Malik makes sure at London's Calling. Photo Courtesy of Andrew Moss
Amina Malik (Glasgow) makes sure at London’s Calling. Photo Courtesy of Andrew Moss

Pool U: LLLeeds (9), Crown Jewels (16), Manchester (18), Swift 2 (23)
Pool U has a tasty mixture of developing teams on the rise. With some fiendishly tough pools at Tour 1 Leeds, Crown Jewels and Manchester all finished in the lower seeds. They then each suffered defeats in their crossovers which knocked them out of higher brackets. It is likely that they will arrive in Nottingham with their eyes on the prize, to clinch those wins and rise up the table by the end of Sunday.

Leeds will likely benefit from the wisdom of team legends Felicity ‘Flea’ Perry, Gemma ‘GT’ Taylor and Gemma ‘Speedy Gonzales’ Youlten who will feature on their roster this weekend. With a solid mental focus and snappy sideline acronyms we should see Leeds taking a lot of momentum through pool play and into the 8v9 on Sunday morning, with a real shot at breaking back into the top eight.

In the middle of the pool are Crown Jewels and Manchester. You would expect from such closely-seeded teams that the game between these two could easily go either way so both will be fighting hard. Manchester will no doubt benefit from their close core of 14 players (who spent last weekend on a training retreat in the Peak District!) but Crown Jewels certainly proved at Tour 1 that they are a very capable team.

After a spirited mixture of wins and losses in London, Swift 2 will definitely be looking to continue to build on this performance for the season. Not to be underestimated, they will definitely put a lot of heart into every game.

Pool V:  Nice Bristols (10), Reading (15), JR (17), Black Sheep (24)
Similarly to Leeds, Nice Bristols will also see the return of some familiar faces now that Worlds is over. A number of the top teams would be pleased to see Bristol rise up the rankings and are already vocal about how keen they are to match up against the quality within the Bristol roster. Having used Tour 1 as an opportunity to give their newer players experience in bigger roles they will expect to retain their position at the top of this pool and roll into the 7v10 with all guns blazing.

Reading have come a long way in a single season. In their second year as a Women’s Tour team and sitting comfortably in the middle of the division, they finished Tour 1 with some tight games against the likes of Vurve and Guildford. With a solid combination of their experienced Mixed players and some fresh up-and-comers they will be ready to put a number of scores past big teams like Bristol.

JR are missing a few key players after a generally successful Tour 1. As a team that doesn’t train together they found it challenging to click at first, but eventually found their groove and finished in the middle of the pack. Under the guidance of Jesters handler Giulia Newberry and captain Pip Abbey they will be hoping to continue in this vein, remaining competitive in pool and crossover games with a mid-division finish.

Black sheep have also found it tricky to gel as a team in their first season, but unlike JR they have a fairly consistent roster across all three Tour events. Although we may not see them rocket up the pool in Nottingham, if they can build on this cohesion they will start racking up points against teams and potentially causing some upsets. Watch this space!

Pool W: Hydra (11), Guildford (14), Punt 2 (20), Dragon Knights (21)
Hydra were treated to a pool full of Irish fire for their first tournament as an outdoor team back in May. After toughing it out on Saturday they narrowly missed out on a spot in the top eight bracket following a sudden death loss to Brighton. With a mix of young players from various teams (including some famous sibling connections) they should comfortably top their pool with plenty of legs to take on sixth seed on Sunday morning.

Guildford showed great grit at Tour 1, scoring an impressive six consecutive points to turn their final game against Reading into a sudden death win! Expect to see more of this hard work ethic and positive attitude as they continue to develop as a team over the weekend.

Punt’s second team will be keen for a more successful outing this tour. Kept in the bottom round robin by painfully close losses against Reading and Glasgow, they will be hoping to ascend the rankings and move out of the bottom five. Taking into account the final rankings of these two opponents and Punt’s new additions from the London Calling first team, Guildford will need to make sure they bring their A game for their matchup against this feisty second team.

With a vastly different roster from last season, Dragon Knights approached Tour 1 cautiously and struggled to find their flow until a few games in. They have a slightly slimmed-down roster for Nottingham, but as a group of young and fit players this should work in their favour to help quickly foster chemistry amongst the team. They will also be pleased to face Punt 2 in pool play, feeling that they should have given them a better game. If they can manage to find those all-important connections, teams will need to watch out for their two speedy and committed juniors Hannah and Phoebe.

Pool X: Glasgow (12), Vurve (13), Phoenix (19), Devon (22), Discie Chicks (25)
Glasgow killed it at Tour 1 and will be looking to carry this momentum into Nottingham. They raced up the rankings from 19th to 13th, with some convincing final game scorelines which suggest they could go higher still. With an effective and well-practiced zone, the return of experienced and level-headed handler Kirsty Webb and a few extra legs to boot, we expect to see this team battling up in the top 12 on Sunday.

Vurve had a tough Saturday last Tour with some intense match ups, but seemed to find their feet better once they reached the 13-20 bracket, taking victories over Phoenix and Reading. It will be interesting to see how the London based team fare with a less intense start to their tournament, but they will want to make sure they are at full stride when matching up against the likes of Glasgow and Phoenix.

Phoenix have their eyes on the plate at Nottingham and are determined to conquer all obstacles in their way. This includes the challenge of having a much smaller squad. After a disappointing loss to Vurve in the crossover at Tour 1 where they struggled to get their heads in the game, they will want a strong start to their rematch during pool play. Of course the real test will be if they can play smart and conserve their energy to maintain a strong performance throughout this last game of the day.

Devon had an up and down Tour 1, with some convincing victories over Discie, Swift 2 and Black Sheep as well as tough losses at the hands of Phoenix, Dragon Knights and Punt 2. A very narrow 7-8 loss to Guilford show the potential of this team however, who will be looking to come out on top of meetings with any higher seeded teams who underestimate them.

As the only dedicated new player development team in Women’s tour, Discie Chicks are no strangers to fostering team chemistry over a tournament. This year they established flow especially quickly, along with some audacious plays (one possession saw three successful layout grabs to keep the disc alive!). After some close games and some not-so-close, Discie are still without a win to their names so far this season and will definitely be searching for one (or a few) at Tour 2.

With the international distractions over for now, the domestic teams will be revved up to push each other on the road to Nationals. There are chances for upsets in each group, and there will be tight battles deep into sunday brackets. Iceni will be hoping to remain dominant with both of their rosters, but spreading the squad thin may work into the hands of deep rostered geo-teams looking to topple them. The return of GB players across many teams will add even more fuel to the fire, ensuring Tour 2’s status as one of the most exciting ever.

Featured image from Andrew Moss.

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