Hannah Pendlebury introduces the Women’s division of UKU Nationals 2016
It’s been a long 5 years since any but the letters I, C, E and N have graced the Nationals Women’s division shield. It is time for a change? If you ask the engravers of the UKU trophy cabinet, the answer is a resounding yes. It is certainly true that the ladies in gold and black are by no means unbeatable. Just ask Lemon Grass, the Russian Women’s team who took a sudden death win against the warriors two weeks ago in the show game at Mermaid and Moe.
However a glance at Iceni’s roster sheet for this weekend should tell any self-respecting Ultimate trophy engraver all they need to know. After two tours apart to ensure the development of solid connections, they will be descending on Southampton hungry for more gold medals to add to their impressive collection. It is no surprise that almost every single Women’s fantasy team has at least one Iceni pick – whether from their string of talented rookies or the dominant core of veterans.
So who has the force to knock the warriors off their domestic perch? Naturally time will tell – but here’re my speculations on how it’s all going to play out. Finally, the Women’s division gets some predictions to completely prove wrong!
8th place: Glasgow
Don’t get me wrong – Glasgow are a talented team and it has been most pleasing to watch work up the Women’s Tour rankings. They also have at least one sneaky Swift addition to bolster their roster. However, I can’t not make this pick due to their small roster size. With just nine players making the long journey down to Nationals, this is going to be a testing weekend for these Scottish ladies. Even with their generally young and fit team, I fear they won’t quite have enough left in the tank on Sunday afternoon. That being said, they do have a rather tasty zone which may pay dividends and great throwing accuracy from the likes of Katie Flight.
7th place: Vurve
After finishing 21st overall this year off the back of two Tour events, some might be surprised to see Vurve at Women’s Nationals. However, with a number of interesting additions for their trip to the south coast it will be interesting to see how this team fares. Sadly with another relatively stunted roster of only 12 players and a few bodies carrying injuries, it is unlikely that Vurve will be able to cause any real upsets. That’s not to say they will be an easy win though – if they can find their connections and gel quickly they should be able to offer the lower half of the division a good challenge.
6th place: Crown Jewels
Crown Jewels seem to have deliberately remained a mystery to my previews this season. Having declined to comment on their expectations for Tours 2 and 3, this time I resorted to doing what any normal person would do: I Facebook stalked their roster and bugged their captain till she finally relented! In any case, this looks to be a very interesting team. With a core from their Tour squad and a few very handy pickups from teams across the midsection of the Women’s division, they should be able to put together some quality Ultimate. Sadly I think they might lack the roster depth to take any scalps from the big teams, but they will definitely have a good go regardless!
5th place: Punt
Punt seem to have had a tricky season. Despite having great depth in their club enabling them to field two teams at Tour events, their first team seemed to keep getting shut out of the top eight through key losses. With plenty of highly skilled players across their team for the weekend, it is to be expected that they will be playing a quality of Ultimate worthy of the top four. However unless they can find the mentality to set them on the right side of their close matches, it is easy to see them finishing just shy of the semis.
4th place: LeedsLeedsLeeds
Despite being the only team in attendance to have previously beaten Iceni in a Nationals final, I have made a slightly conservative call for the final positioning of this Leeds squad. Whilst definitely packing a lot of heat on their roster, they may well struggle to match the standard of the more consistently-rostered clubs in the top three as the weekend progresses. However with the appearance of a number of the LLLegacy players for this weekend, it is also possible that they might be able to rely on some old faithful connections to secure a place higher up in the top four.
3rd place: SYC
After taking on a number of fresh faces this season, SYC have used the three Tour events to great effect, bringing their new ‘SYClets’ into the fold. After numerous games went down to the wire in London, they have continued to hone their offence over the summer and are now reaping the rewards of their hard work as they approach Nationals. They will be fierce competition for any team they play, with well-drilled set plays and some very handy ‘get out of jail free’ players for when they find themselves in a tight spot. All in balance I would predict a bronze finish for this team but make no mistake, they will play some seriously competitive, competent Ultimate and look pretty ‘SYC’ doing it.
2nd place: Nice Bristols
As a non-London geo team, Nice Bristols have taken a different approach to the development of their future star players – a necessity when you lack the capital’s pool of pre-existing talent. After starting off the season with a mixed ability single squad, the top teams were pleased to see Bristol with their more familiar line up at Tour 3. This squad trust each other on pitch and have the talent and mental focus to pull out some incredible plays under pressure. Following their second place finish in Cardiff, the ladies in red will no doubt be looking to pick up where they left off and nab that second Euros spot. The journey to the final won’t be an easy one with a likely semi against SYC, but I reckon Bristol will be the team to face off against Iceni in ‘the rubber crumb cage’ this year.
1st place: Iceni
You heard it here first. And everywhere else, most likely. Sorry Len, looks like there won’t be any more letters for you this year. But hey, don’t be upset – your Es look fantastic. Keep up the good work, buddy.
Featured photo by Andrew Moss.