The European Ultimate Championship Finals begin on Friday in Frankfurt. Once again the best 12 Mixed and Women’s teams and the best 24 Open teams in Europe will gather to crown a champion. The ShowGame will be running a series previewing the tournament from a UK perspective, with some additional pieces about how our Irish friends may fare and what to expect from European teams coming as well. Continuing the series, Sean Colfer looks at surprise packages Ka-Pow!
Ka-Pow (I’m not using an exclamation mark every time, I don’t care) had one of the stranger seasons in recent memory. Tour 1 was, to put it bluntly, a disaster. They were relegated to B Tour via a loss to Birmingham, their first time outside the top division of UK Ultimate. They redeemed themselves thereafter, though, and managed to win B Tour in Nottingham before finishing 13th at Tour 3. Overall, they snuck into the top 10 on Tour in a nice comeback from such a slow start. At Regionals they took third place, as expected, and seemed set for a nice run to the middle of the pack at Nationals.
Then they decided to win games that absolutely no one would have predicted they’d win.
A first game win in sudden death over Glasgow was a surprise, but many assumed that Glasgow had lost some of their mojo from a second-place Tour finish overall rather than credit Ka-Pow with an improvement (admittedly, myself among them). The cartoon men showed that was a grave mistake, though, and pushed Clapham in their quarter before taking down EMO 15-12 to reach the semi-finals for third place. They beat Brighton with relative ease, 15-10, before their run came to an end at the hands of regional rivals Fire in the third-place game, 15-12.
That fourth place finish won Ka-Pow a spot at EUCF, something that it would have been difficult to see coming when they opened Tour 2 facing B Tour teams in horrible, windy conditions. However, they pulled themselves off the canvas, shook off the rust and now they deservedly go to battle against the best in Europe. They seem to handle blustery, awkward conditions as well as anyone else given the high level of basic throwing ability in the squad, something that’s really paid off for them late in the year.
Their roster is one of the very few not to have lost anyone since Nationals. The only changes are two additions – Larry Caines and James ‘Spoon’ Wotherspoon, both of whom played for Ka-Pow earlier in the season, have rejoined the team. It gives them a 22-man team that looks to be very solid in all facets. In James Burbidge and Hermann Kaser they have two solid handlers who can keep the disc moving but attack aggressively downfield, in Wotherspoon and GB Mixed player Matt Hodgson they have cutters who can make plays downfield but also use the disc intelligently and they have a number of solid, talented defensive players who can clamp down on their men and make life difficult for the opposition. The one thing that’s lacking overall is probably the kind of game-changing athleticism that some of the other UK teams possess, but a roster of good, solid fundamental players is hardly a weakness.
Their pool has been kinder than it might have been, too. While they have Latvian champions Salaspils, who will be a very tough outfit to beat given their results last year against UK teams, they have Czech team Yellow Block and Austrian team INNsiders. In most years INNsiders would be a very difficult match up, but they have a scarcely believable 10 players on their roster this weekend. Those 10 are all really good players, but it’s difficult to think they’ll be able to keep up with much larger squads over three days.
Ultimately, Ka-Pow can’t have expected that they’d be here after Tour 1. Their comeback has been remarkable, clearly borne out of a great team spirit and hard work on Clapham Common, and anything they can achieve in Europe must be seen as a bonus. Their pool gives them a shot at a crossover, but I think they’re just a step below the level needed for those heights. If the weather is rubbish, though, they could shine. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, after all.