Our Women’s team take a look into Indoor Nationals coming up this weekend!
With all other indoor tournaments out of the way, we’re left with the toughest and best to go – Women’s Indoor Nationals (UWIN). And there’s no more fitting venue than the soon to be retired Alan Higgs centre. It’s seen some amazing Ultimate over the years, and this tournament is looking to be a fine one to end its position as one of the best remembered Indoors venues in the country.
We’ve got a region-by-region breakdown for this preview. Teams from Scotland (6 teams), the North (6 teams), the Midlands (4 teams) and the South (4 teams) will all be looking to bring home the trophy, and ideally some extra bids to Nationals for next year. I’m then going to be bold and try to predict a full finishing line-up, based on how much the writers have managed to talk up the teams in their previews.
Scotland, by Nicky Shaw
There are six teams from bonnie Scotland heading south to Coventry, with drive times of about 5 to 8 hours. These teams are looking for a good competition, high-level Ultimate and some quality opposition with which to contest the top spots. With the Under 24 GB development squad really pushing its new recruits with fitness schedules and throwing routines, I’m expecting the standard to be very high.
Firstly, Edinburgh, who dominated at Regionals. Despite a sudden-death win against Strathclyde early in the day, they won the rematch final more comfortably. They are looking for at least a top five position at Nationals, which I believe is achievable given their height and range of skillsets. Adapting without Natasha ‘Tushy’ Lim will be interesting, but the strength of the squad is in its depth, with both Julia ‘Jules No Rulez’ Kelly and Bella Tait looking very strong at Regionals. Watch this space.
Hayley Dalmon was overjoyed to lead Strathclyde to silver, and is very much looking forward to the challenge of Nationals. Particularly to replaying Birmingham after a nail-biting game at University Mixed Indoor Nationals (UXIN). They are looking to finish top eight, with their squad ranging from the experienced Katie Flight to fiery-haired Ruth Tayler.
Aberdeen earned third at Regionals with impressive flow from Eleanor Taylor, Harriet Hopper and Allie Macgregor. They are looking forward to playing some English teams and developing their squad, as they will be losing a couple of players to graduation and the end of the never-ending PhD life. Meanwhile, Glasgow are looking to rediscover their A-game after a disappointing fourth at Regionals. A little birdie tells me they were looking strong in pre-UWIN friendly games last week, with run-through defence and very quick play. Captain Tabetha Ridgway has ambitious goals, wanting to finish in the top three at Nationals – an aim that could be achieved if they stay focused and do what they do best.
Finishing fifth at Regionals, St. Andrew’s captains Emily Madoff and Gabi Starek’s top priority is to have fun. The super smiley team want to improve together and play quality Ultimate. Bringing cookies as their tournament scran and dancing to Kiiara, it will be hard to wear down this team’s mental attitude. Positivity can win games and St Andrew’s will undoubtedly use this to their advantage. Heriot-Watt placed 6th, beating the strong Glasgow second team in the game-to-go. Sarah Finnie is aiming to climb the seeds to finish in the top eight with her squad. The team are looking forward to playing English opposition and will work through any zone thrown at them. Warming up to Shania Twain, they will be be ready for anything!
North, by Giulia Newbery
With University Women’s Indoor Nationals fast approaching we can expect to see our six Northern teams put up a strong fight against the contending regions!
This year’s top dogs are Leeds and Loughborough. With friendly rivalries across both their Women’s and Mixed teams, they are set to finish on a high. These teams showed tremendous resilience against each other at Regionals, with Leeds just scraping a 6-5 final win over Loughborough. Leeds captain Alice Hanton spoke of the excitement that game brought the team, especially when Loughborough began to pull themselves back into the match after a timeout. Both Leeds and Loughborough have already showcased the strength of their women this season, so are bound to challenge any team they face. Certainly after their sudden death loss to Birmingham at last year’s Nationals, Leeds are keen to get their revenge! My prediction is for both to finish in the top eight bracket, potentially within the top four. Go smash your pools ladies and show the nation what the North are made of!
Leicester and Manchester women have come out hard this year, with Manchester surprising all with the vigor they played with at UWIR. Both teams have had a turnaround in their game play this year, with strong finishes in Mixed too. Following an intense 3v4 game at Regionals, both teams played their hearts out and fought hard for the finishing spots. Manchester has worked solidly to get a team to Nationals this year – kudos to you girls! Leicester have been developing their chemistry over the past couple of years and are more than ready to exploit this at Nationals. Let’s hope both teams compete with the same ferocity they took to Regionals – my prediction is that they’ll fall just outside the top eight bracket. This is a brilliant opportunity for both teams to build a powerful reputation for themselves!
Last but definitely not least are Newcastle and Nottingham. With Newcastle finishing first at Regionals last year and in the top eight at Nationals, they seem to have struggled to maintain this high gear so far. Speaking to captain Dianne Lopez, Newcastle are looking to incorporate long throws into their game – Leeds know the game they play and quickly latched on to their short game at regionals to shut it down. Nottingham has always had notoriously strong women. Their game against Loughborough at Regionals ended in a draw and (as Nottingham’s coach Ben Poole points out) it was a nail-biting edge-of-your-seat twenty minutes! No team turned over for the first six points! I’d like to predict both teams to also finish just outside the top eight bracket alongside Leicester and Manchester.
The North has an abundance of tough women that are sure to rock the boat at Nationals. With every year bringing new talent onto the scene the region demonstrated exactly that at Regionals in October. Above all, every captain has mentioned how excited they are to play Ultimate, and this resonates through their play and spirit. I’m thoroughly looking forward to watching the teams compete with the rest of the University Ultimate scene and showing everyone how formidable we all are!
West, by Ali Thomas
The West of England is home to some of the best university level ultimate in the country, especially Women’s Ultimate. After a women’s regionals that had more universes than the multiverse theory, four teams emerged triumphant: Birmingham, Bath, Cardiff, and Bristol.
Let’s start with Bristol. Interestingly the only university in the top five of the region which didn’t bring a second team to Regionals, these girls still have masses of depth. Their proximity to Nice Bristols means that they have access to very high quality trainings, and their captain Hannah Smith assures me that they have been rigorously planning for their trip up to Alan Higgs, even thinking to bring team hot water bottles to stave off frostbite. Despite this excellent foresight and preparedness, their fourth place finish at Regionals means I can’t really predict them in the top half.
Next up, Cardiff, who managed to bring a whopping three teams to Regionals. Three women’s teams! When some universities struggle to field just one! This hard-running, ‘No Frills’ team make use of simple but effective tactics, and I can say from personal experience that their person D is very good. Jo ‘I play GB’ Lewis has taken over the captaincy for this term and has apparently been running trainings with army-like levels of efficiency. They may find teams with very aggressive defence somewhat challenging; however, I have confidence that Cardiff will do well regardless.
Bath is a team which, in their own words, has not much height but a great deal of depth. They also managed to keep pace with Birmingham in the regional final for a good few points, which should definitely be a testament to their slick offence. These girls will be looking to bloody some metaphorical noses and are certainly a team to watch.
Finally, Birmingham. I’ll be honest, it’s really difficult not to fan-girl uncontrollably about this team. They’ve won Regionals as far back as anyone can remember, they win Nationals more often than not, and their squad is stuffed with girls who’ve played for GB U23 (to give you an idea of how much they win, one uBu girl was recently overheard complaining that she was running out of space on her wall to hang her medals). Emma ‘No Nickname’ Klima is finally back from injury and will doubtless be making up for lost time by leading her team to victory. They play very simple ultimate, but are so athletic and well drilled that it is incredibly effective. I’ll be very surprised if they don’t win Nationals, and I doubt I’d be the only one who’d need treatment for shock.
East, by Georgina ‘Geegee’ Morrison
What is there to say about the East? This region has been notorious over the years for showcasing some of the best university athletes in the country. And this year is no different. With players bleeding down from superstar teams such as Iceni, SYC and Brighton there is certainly some great potential, not to mention the talent from the non-club players. With last year’s Regional champions Oxford unfortunately absent this year, who can avenge the East?*
Chichester Cobras have had a storming season so far. Battling through Mixed Regionals to qualify for Division 1 Nationals, they were certainly a threat to the Women’s Eastern Regional crown. This team is tall, sneaky, and athletic – as well as being difficult to mark against with impressive overheads in their arsenal. An intense regional final against UEA saw them steal the game 9-2, securing their first ever UKU Regional title (in any division). While Cobras do not appear to boast many of the bigger names in Ultimate, the girls clearly holster many years of experience in other competitive sports such as Netball and Handball. A recipe for unrivalled bids and a threat to the top spots against Leeds and reigning champions Birmingham.
UEA Aye Aye came out of nowhere this year. Starting at tenth seed, Aye Aye clambered eight places up the table, demolishing other top 10 teams and seizing silver. Like Cobras, this team are not afraid of challenging opponents in the air. Their slick offensive movements from Georgie Hill and leadership of newly-appointed captain Eve Holland creates a difficult-to-stop machine, the disc flowing through all hands to the endzone. “It is such an achievement for our team to even make Nationals so we are going to play under no pressure just to gain experience, to have fun, and to do the best we can!” says Eve ahead of the weekend. It’s been a few years since UEA qualified for UWIN, so the team is excited to match up against the best the UK has to offer.
After a successful regionals, KCL Thrown finished third, only losing once in a tight 4-5 loss against Chichester in the semis. A London university with a London club roster, they notoriously utilise their deeply experienced members such as Karen Kwok (Iceni) to slice the disc through to fresh and long-standing members. Their squad boasts incredible player retention with several players in their final year of university Ultimate. Speaking on behalf of the team, Megan Tracey says “I expect these women especially will be bringing their A-game, and we all aim to make sure that their university Ultimate experience ends in a high!”. Last year KCL finished a respectable 13th/20, and they are challenging for a higher finish in 2017.
*Editor’s note: Oxford qualified 4th in the region. However, their Sports Fed declined the opportunity to submit their paperwork on time. At time of writing, it looks as though Sussex will be claiming the final bid to UWIN. Do be aware of the dangers of a wildcard team! Sussex Mixed got a wildcard bid to Div 1 in UXIN this year, and ended up a respectable 11th/20. If their women do take the spot, they’re sure to come out tough.
Summary, by Harry Mason
I’m very, very excited to see how Nationals turns out this year. I was able to watch the Birmingham vs Leeds final last year, and it had all the hallmarks of a great Ultimate game: bids, high discs, controversy, and athleticism. If anyone is close enough to go along and watch, it will definitely be worth your time. This article has only managed to scratch the surface of the rivalries and passion involved. Great games and matchups can come out of nowhere, but they’ll undoubtedly leave their mark on all of the athletes this weekend.
Now, on to the difficult job of predictions. Usually, I avoid predicting all the finishers, since it tends to breed complaints and I wanted to try it this time just on the strength of my writers’ arguments (and also glancing at the regional results). I’m sure I will be proven tremendously wrong, and look forward to seeing how the weekend pans out.
- St. Andrew’s
Feature photo by Andrew Moss.