Kat Rowland brings us her first preview from the UWIR in the North.
With UXIR and UMIR out of the way, the spotlight turns to the year’s first women’s tournament. Beginners have settled into their teams and the North is becoming a little cold and dark for outdoor training, so UWIR is the next major event. Each team will have their own aspirations, whether that is one of six prized qualifying spots for Nationals, to develop team cohesion, or to beat specific local rivals. Certain teams are expected to dominate, but who knows who might rock the boat? Some final standings are predicted, but aim to exceed expectations and prove me wrong!
Although league trophies are constantly changing hands, certain teams in the North have consistently performed well in indoors. Last year’s victors Leeds will be looking to repeat their success, and have players from GB Juniors (Lucy Cinnamond) and LLLeeds (Captain Alice Hanton) to lead the way. Having played Liverpool BnE (meeting Loughborough and Huddersfield), Leeds will likely have gelled and be ready to face any challengers.
That said, Loughborough are going to want to improve upon last year’s second place, and a revenge-match-final is a possibility. Captain Rupal Ghelani encourages the team not to think in terms of “big names”, as the first-team (all of whom played club with LED, JR or Hydra) are ready to work hard, challenge themselves, and excel in the mental game. Known for their athleticism, Loughborough don’t rely on set plays but aim to excel in fundamentals, and are cheered on by a loud sideline of Haze men.
Surprisingly, Leicester Jesters (third at NUWIR 2016) are not sending teams this year, to “focus on recruitment and teaching,” and come back stronger for outdoors. This will give Newcastle and Manchester added incentive to aim high. Newcastle’s win at NUXIR, to which they sent three teams, highlights the depth of their squad. Intriguingly known as Too Many Pies, Newcastle was the highest-placed Northern team at UWIN last year (fourth), and the losses of several key players might be mitigated by the arrival of Kate Gibson (GB U24), as well as several members playing for SMOG over summer.
Manchester could likewise make a top four appearance. With Emily McCabe (captain of Belfast Open) handling, and a focus on team cohesion from coach Bear Hare (Hydra), Halycon could be surprisingly strong. Likewise, Nottingham play fast athletic frisbee with game-by-game adaptable tactics, and have a lot of experience on the line (Captain Lauren Mounteney from the GB U24s; Monica Persson from Flyght), as well as some Malaysian pickups to hopefully fill the void left by several key players graduating.
The arguably more exciting teams, however, are those that are vying for the last few qualifying spots at Nationals, and will be looking to cause upsets in the pool stages on Saturday.
Huddersfield are fresh from victory at YEUXIR so will be looking to continue their winning streak, and could potentially creep from last year’s eighth place into a qualifying spot this year with the help of GB U24 DP player Tanya Fozzard. Durham (DUF) had a stellar outdoor season (finishing top of Northern teams at UWON) and will be aiming to utilise their ongoing team cohesion, with several of the team having played for SMOG and under the advice and tutelage of coach Annie Glasspool. Durham are hoping to challenge local rivals Newcastle, introduce some spice, and test the top teams. Sheffield (named Phat Ed’s from ambiguous origins!) are likewise hoping to break seed – with Zarah Dixon (GB U24) and Hope Williams (LLLeeds) to head up a small but gelled squad, as well as Sheffield’s traditional preference for indoors, they will be confident beginning their campaign.
Although it is easy to write-off second teams as development squads, the largest women’s teams in the region will send second teams that could realistically threaten the middle bracket. Loughborough usually send a keen and sporty second team eager to prove themselves, and Newcastle (with a third team in which to place freshers) will be on home turf and have the ‘nothing-to-lose’ mentality that could, with a bit of luck and tenacity, see them win the plate!
York have lost several experienced players (Hannah Willett, Gwyn Ng and Martine Ballinger), so might lack the confidence to take on adventurous indoors plays. However after finishing eleventh last year they’ll be wanting top ten at least. The underdog with potential to cause upsets would be Nottingham Trent (famous as the NTUnicorns). With several club players (Pancy Poon, Captain Georgia Spencer and Ruby Coombs) to teach the fundamentals, this is one of the “strongest women’s teams we’ve ever had.” Notably, one of their season’s aims is to improve their sometimes-notorious spirit scores, which hopefully will be high across the board. The Women’s University of Lincoln Frisbee (WULFs) are a comparatively new team aiming for a finishing position in the teens, with wolf-related chants and flexible zones to throw other teams off track.
Lancaster’s Sarah Donaldson (LLLeeds, SMOG) will be playing with a relatively young and inexperienced team who are looking to use UWIR as a chance to learn from more developed teams; they’re called The Fish so listen out for some r-eel-ly awesome fish puns in their chants. Similarly, Sheffield Hallam are a fairly new team hoping to develop their beginners (although watch out for Natalie Ng from Malaysia). Liverpool will be entering Regionals off third place at NUXIR, so their top women will be aiming high.
Good luck to all the women at this year’s North University Women’s Indoor Regionals! I look forward to a weekend of enjoyable, competitive and spirited Ultimate.
Feature photo by Alice Hanton.