Hannah Pendlebury sets the stage for Women’s Tour 2 in Cardiff
When I cast my eyes over the list of teams confirmed for Cardiff this year, I was dismayed. After an excellent showing during what turned out to be a rather hot and sunny weekend in Nottingham, I saw just 18 teams entered. Confused, I thought to myself “what on earth has happened to 10 teams worth of players?”
As my mind furiously whirred away to craft progressively outlandish conspiracy theories involving motorway accidents on the M1 and/or dinosaurs, my eyes read on. Whilst I noted a few teams consolidating to a single squad for the journey across the Severn bridge (notably SYC, Red and Discie Chicks), four clubs had been excluded by virtue of missing the payment deadline. Gutting.
Imagine then, my delight upon seeing a schedule of 21 teams! Clearly our benevolent overlords had granted a payment extension to those delinquent treasurers. Seriously though, thank you to UK Ultimate and the Cardiff TDs for being accommodating, you rock.
But of course, I celebrated too soon. With a last minute drop out from The Brown women my hopes for a lay-in evaporated and we are now down to a 20 team schedule… Still though, 20 teams is better than 18! And whilst it is surprising not to see Exe Ladies at the closest event to home, Cardiff is a bit of a trek for other notable northern absentees Swift and LLLeeds. Although rumour has it that some women of the North will be making guest appearances this weekend- so keep your eyes peeled…
I think that’s quite enough about the teams that aren’t attending Tour 2. Instead let’s see who will be hoping to achieve glory on the fields of Llanrumney!
Pool L – Iceni (1), Nice Bristols (3), Brighton Women (6), Purple Cobras (8)
With Iceni and Nice Bristols starting to crank up the gears on the final stretch before WUCC I expect they will take no prisoners in pool play, just like in Nottingham. These two will both advance into the top four bracket on Sunday, unless something drastic happens.
However, looking to fight it out for 6th seed (on the live stream no less) will be Brighton and Purple Cobras. Cobras sailed through Nottingham undefeated to win the plate, so it will be most exciting to see them flex their muscles against the upper echelons of Women’s Tour. Brighton have a larger squad of fresher, slightly less experienced faces this time out and are missing talismanic handler Megan Hurst. But with players like Fran Scarampi and Marah Neal alongside their capable regular set, they may yet hold onto their seed.
Pool M – Reading 1 (2), SYC (4), SMOG (5), HYDRA 1 (7)
Reading women were the talk of the tournament in Nottingham. Snagging the 3rd seed during pool play with a 13-8 win over SYC 1, they went on to surmount SMOGlobetrotters and Nice Bristols on their way to a formidable final performance against Iceni. However, with SYC coming back together for Tour 2 it is going to be one heck of a fight for the top spot in this pool. SYC Coach James Burbidge was characteristically tight-lipped about his expectations for the weekend- though he did tip his hat to the sheer quality of the field this season. He also informed me that some of SYC’s star players are sitting this one out to rest ahead of Cincinnati… I’m gutted it’s not on the livestream schedule but if you find yourself at a loose end in Cardiff at midday, hustle over to pitch 11 and watch this game!
On the other end of this pool we have SMOG and HYDRA 1. Like SYC, SMOG have some absentees resting up ahead of Windmill next weekend and have consolidated to a single team. However, whereas SYC are all top-flight picks, SMOG’s roster will be aiming to nurture some future stars and this could leave them vulnerable to the big name teams. After a frustrating Tour 1 experience plagued by unforced errors, HYDRA 1 will certainly be looking to exploit any weaknesses and advance a little higher up bracket play this time around. With the ruthlessly speedy Amina Malik as well as Lucy Cinnamond and Amy Van-Zyl on board this time out, I for one rate their chances.
Pool N – Red (9), Reading Red (15), HYDRA 2 (17)
Red women had a truly sensational Saturday in Nottingham, conceding just 2 points in pool play and then advancing to the plate final on Sunday afternoon. Another outfit condensing to a single team for the journey to Wales, they will look to build on this performance. Although Reading will be hungry to score more than one this time around, I expect Red will again sail through this pool and come out with buckets of energy for the 8v9 on Sunday morning to see if they can’t snag themselves a top eight finish.
Unlike the numerous teams who have dropped down to a single squad, both Hydra and Reading have maintained multiple squads for Tour 2. Most impressive is of course Reading who again are fielding three teams by casting their net towards the south coast, though this time they are going for a more loaded approach with a second and third team split. This should therefore make the battle between Reading Red and HYDRA 2 a corker for sure!
Pool P – Reading Black (10), Merseyside Women (16), Brixton (18)
Much like Reading 1, Reading Black also had an excellent time in Nottingham – climbing from 23rd to 12th seed. However, although Reading will have a slightly stronger squad in Cardiff as a true second team, Merseyside will be snapping at their heels after a wet and slippery defeat first game in Nottingham. Whilst sixth seeds may separate these teams, if fortune favours Merseyside anything could happen. Brixton will also be looking to throw their hat into the ring and build on the momentum they built at Tour 1 where they put up some solid scorelines against strong teams and an especially dominant performance against Red 2 in pool play.
Pool Q – Chaos (11), Vurve (13), Discie Chicks (19)
Chaos had a challenging Saturday in Nottingham. Although they had the valuable experience of testing themselves against top teams from the very start of tour, they struggled to put points on the board. They also had a gutting loss to Purple Cobras on Sunday morning which relegated them to the 13-16 bracket. This Tour the schedule is a little more familiar to their starts last year, which may work out a little better and allow them to gain some momentum before they head into placement games. This will likely be reliant on how effectively they can focus against what might prove to be less challenging defences, though Vurve will certainly look to obstruct this after their successes back in Nottingham. Discie are also back together after plenty of lessons during their first outing of the season and it will be exciting to see what Lindsay Bradley and Fowzia Mahmood can bring out of their squad as a dynamic duo out in force on the same squad.
Pool R – Uprising (12), GBU20s (14), South Wales Storm (20)
Uprising were really unfortunate to have been in a pool with the underseeded Reading Black at Tour 1. Their inability to finish at the top meant they were locked out of the top 16 for the rest of the weekend. They took 17th with style, but will no doubt be hungry to climb up the rankings in Cardiff. They will face off against some familiar opponents having bested GBU20s on Sunday in Nottingham, as well as hoping to replicate their previous result in what is looking likely to be their 12v13 match up of Vurve. What I don’t see is them surmounting the 5v12, but you never know… We do love an upset here at The ShowGame!
As for the other two teams in this pool, GBU20s feel like they could rise a few spots after some strong results in Nottingham – but the real excitement is South Wales Storm. By no means a new team to the Women’s Tour circuit they always end up being a bit of a wildcard and with the home advantage they could bring some real spice to the lower bracket! As always, we’ll have to wait and see.