Tour 3 Women’s preview – anyone’s to win

Making her debut with the ShowGame, Alice Nicholas has previewed Women’s Tour 3 for us. Here’s her view.

With the top teams away representing the UK at the World Club Championships in Cincinnati, the rest of the Women’s Tour will be descending upon Birmingham this weekend where the Tour 3 crown is anyone’s for the taking. It has been an exciting season so far and this weekend will be no different.

I will be taking a slightly different tack with this preview, giving a summary of each team’s performance this year so far and what we can expect from this weekend. Before we start, I would like to say huge thank you to all the amazing players who allowed me to pester them and answered my questions.

So in no particular order, let’s take a look at the teams.

HYDRA 1 & 2 (seed 1 & 13)
First up we have HYDRA. This club has fielded two teams at every event so far and Tour 3 is no exception. Showing the strength and depth of Ultimate talent that the Midlands has to offer, HYDRA have already enjoyed some big achievements this year. Their first team have had close games against SMOG and Purple Cobras and looked confident against the likes of Iceni and SYC.

Both teams have shown top-flight skills and solid connections on pitch. They are looking to maintain their focus from the start of each warm-up till the final buzzer, even when the occasional mistake is made. It should be an exciting weekend for both teams – as first seeds HYDRA 1 will need to work hard to maintain this, with plenty of teams looking to steal the coveted top spot. It will also be exciting to see if HYDRA 2 can use their ‘home advantage’ to break into the top 10.

Kim Owen reels one in. Photo by Ed Hanton.

Uprising (10)
Anyone who is used to playing the women from St. Albans will know that they always push hard on pitch. Tour 2 saw some close games for Uprising, especially their battle against SMOG which ended on universe point. Unfortunately their relatively small squad suffered a few injuries, which has meant that they have generally struggled a little during the later rounds on Sunday. With a few new recruits this tour, Uprising are arguably bringing their strongest team yet and will certainly give higher seeds a run for their money. Uprising really enjoy playing together and will make for a positive and spirited opposition for any team this weekend.

Reading (Black 6, Red 15)
Much like HYDRA, Reading have shown a vast display of talent all season long, fielding a staggering three teams at Tours 1 and 2. They have matched this with great achievements across the club, especially at Tour 1 with an exciting final where their firsts pushed hard against Iceni to take 2nd place and a huge jump in seeding for Reading Black from 24th to 12th. Tour 2 saw the firsts maintain their magic with a third place finish; Reading Black held onto their 10th seed all weekend long.

Reading Red have not quite reached the same dizzying heights as their other squads. They were disappointed to be locked into the lower bracket by an under-seeded Red 1 at Tour 1 and picked up some injuries at Tour 2. However, they have some extra players this weekend who could help shake things up and climb some seeds. It will definitely be interesting to see how Reading fares as a club with their WUCC players absent, but their depth of talent should carry them through to continued success.

Leeds (8)
The LLLadies of LLLeeds had a disappointing time in Nottingham, falling five places from 11th to 16th. They were also unfortunately absent in Cardiff, having struggled to find numbers for the long journey south. But this has only fired them up to come out fighting on Saturday morning, and prove themselves to every team they face. They are a competitive team, with aims to break well into the top eight bracket. This should be achievable considering that they are starting as eighth seed, though they will have formidable teams in the form of Uprising and GB U20s snapping at their heels. They are going to have to fight hard to keep hold of their position, though if they can achieve that it may well give them both the opportunity and momentum to rise up the bracket.

Rebel (4)
Although they are no strangers to the UK-based club season, this Cork team have yet to play a Tour in 2018. Will this be to their detriment or will they prove to be the wildcard of the season? Rebel are fresh and excited to compete, though with many veteran players absent it will be up to their younger roster to step up. Their goal for the weekend is to play some great Ultimate with a focus on gelling as a team, but this is not going to hinder their competitive spirit as they work to hold seed. Opponents should watch out for cheeky inside breaks from Vice Captain Michelle Leahy and Clíona Doyle’s signature high release backhand. “You can try and stop it but you probably won’t,” says Captain Emma.

The Brown (16)
One of the things I love about the Tour season is that it provides an opportunity for all Ultimate players to compete, from veterans of the game to those players arriving on the club scene for the very first time. The Brown are a team who nurture new talent and give them an opportunity to not just play, but also to step-up to take more responsibility on pitch. Having only appeared at Tour 1 this year. these northern lasses are ready to compete and represent, and encourage expansive play that involves their whole team.

Vurve (12)
Vurve have had a great season so far, mixing experienced players and beginners to created a positive and spirited team environment. This has also been reflected in their performance on pitch. At Tour 1 they came second in pool play to rise three seeds and eventually claim 18th place with some significant Sunday successes. This led them to be initially seeded 13th for Tour 2, which they had to fight to hold on to. However a loss against Merseyside eventually pushed them down to 15th. Going into Tour 3, Vurve have their full squad of uni players from Imperial and York now that exams have ended. This could add a new dimension to their performance, especially considering Imperial’s success at University tournaments this year. You can be sure that this team are not only going to play with a high level of spirit, but also with a truly competitive edge.

Photo by Ed Hanton

GB Under 20s (9)
Seeing younger players always makes me envious that I didn’t even know of Ultimate until Uni. But it is always great to see the future of women’s Ultimate at Tour, and for many of the U20 girls this has been their first experience of senior club level Ultimate. At both Tour 1 and Tour 2 this team managed to maintain seed during pool play and then win crossovers to increase their seed. There has been a huge improvement of confidence and trust within the team, which will be hugely advantageous for not only Birmingham this weekend, but also at the upcoming World Junior Championships in Canada. Coach Hannah Randles is feeling confident for this team of 20 and believes that Tour 3 will give them the final boost of confidence they need heading into worlds. This weekend you can expect to see a competitive and cohesive team, with a sharp defense and a solid offence.

Brixton (10)
This is Brixton’s second Women’s Tour season. Their squad has grown in size, with the addition of a coach as well as some permanent members who have proved very valuable for the team. At Tour 1 they gained seed in pool play with a win over Red 2, but Sunday saw some unfortunate losses in close matches. Tour 2 was far more successful, with two wins across the weekend against South Wales Storm. They have really come together as a team this season, and brought some grit to some top level teams.

Chaos (11)
With the success of their first Tour season last year Chaos were certainly feeling the pressure this year. Seeded in the middle of the pack they ended up in a tough pool against SYC and Reading 1, leading them to maintain seed, but with no wins under their belt. Coming up against the newbies Purple Cobra on Sunday lead to a loss, but they ended the weekend on two wins against both Swift teams. Tour 2 saw more success starting the weekend with two wins against Vurve and Discie Chicks. An unfortunate loss against the GB U20s kept Chaos out of the top 12, finishing the weekend at 13th. The pool for Tour 3 looks promising for this fiercely competitive team, with a re-match against the GB U20s. If Chaos manage to finish the top of their pool, they could be in with a chance of getting into the top eight.

Discie Chicks (17)
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Discie Chicks and everything created by the wonderful Fowzia Mahmood. The importance of this team cannot be overstated, as for so many players it is their first experience of a club level tournament. Discie Chicks introduce countless women to the Tour circuit and there are plenty of Discie alumni who will be playing this weekend, having now moved on to other teams. It will be great to see their established roster step up to help new players this weekend.

Red (3)
This Leicestershire team has also managed to field two teams at Tour 1 this year, but for Tour 3 have come back together again as one squad. Red have proven themselves to be a competitive team, from a live-streamed plate final appearance at Tour 1, to pushing their way into the top eight bracket at Tour 2 with a win against Brighton. They are in a promising pool for Tour 3 which could see them holding onto their initial third seed going into crossovers, and with the WUCC teams away this could be their chance to win the top spot. You can expect a competitive team this weekend with buckets of athleticism.

SMOG (5)
Looking at the results from the last two Tours there’s one way to describe SMOG, and that is consistent. They maintained seed in pool play for both Tour 1 and 2, and their win against Brighton saw them finish in fifth place in Nottingham which they continued to hold in Cardiff. However with most of their first team away playing mixed in Cincinnati, can SMOG continue this trend in Birmingham without falling down the bracket? We will have to wait and see.

Swift (7)
Although they have only managed to attend Tour 1 so far, Swift’s two teams had decent tournaments. Both Swift East and Swift West managed to maintain seed in pool play. However, some unfortunate losses in crossovers led to both falling in seed, leaving Swift East in 15th and Swift West in 14th.

Swift are back to one combined team for Tour 3 but like SMOG they have lost key players to WUCC mixed teams as they represent Glasgow and Black Eagles. However, this will be a big squad of 17 and they are hoping the absences won’t affect them too much. They are left in the capable hands of Amanda Chan (expect layout blocks) and Hannah Rogers (expect big hucks). Unable to go to club Regionals, this is the last club tournament for Swift in 2018, and they are hoping to give everything they have got!

Nicole Lester of Purple Cobras makes a catch. Photo by Ed Hanton.

Purple Cobras (2)
For their first Women’s Tour run, Purple Cobras have achieved a lot. Starting Tour 1 at 13th seed, winning the plate and now starting Tour 3 in second seed, they have shown a huge improvement. The past tours have demonstrated the strength and diversity of this team. Playing with a relaxed style, they have fun while also being competitive and go into Tour 3 with the largest squad yet. They are hoping to maintain their position in the top four, but with the top eight looking strong, Purple Cobras are going to have to fight hard to hold on.