The final instalment of our previews, Alun Pinder takes a look at the men in Division 2 as well.
Division 2 comes to Wolverhampton, bringing 16 teams who missed out on the chance to play Division 1 but are looking to prove they stack up against the rest of the country. This year we have the advantage of an early schedule release, so let’s get the quick hits, pool by pool.
Top seed this year in Nottingham Trent, who led for almost all of the Yorks and East Mids regional final before succumbing to a late surge and being washed away by Loughborough in the game-to-go. The most obvious thing about Trent is height. This is a tall team, but they play with immense patience, holding disc and using a suffocating zone on the turn. Tom Barkley (EMO, Sandwedge) anchors the offense and distorts the opposition’s space on defence, but the whole team have the patience and disc skills to punish any mistake.
Contrastingly, Liverpool are likely to bring a much more aggressive style of play. The connection between Will Carter (ex GBu24, LLLeeds) and Alex Hately (MUC) is well polished and efficient, and the defence is relentless. If teams can disrupt their preferred looks, they may be forced to dig deep and make some uncomfortable plays, but they promise to have some tricks ready for just such a situation.
No word has made its way to the ShowGame’s ears about Hertfordshire, but their record speaks for itself. Consistent visitors to this level, their only unavenged loss at regionals was by one to winners UCL. Expect a strong performance to show that they can reach that level again.
Swansea return to indoor Nationals after growing in strength with a string of outdoor appearances. Going in with nothing to lose, they could prove a tricky opponent for many with high aspirations, particularly in the power pool format, where a poor showing can follow you all weekend. Star first year Ryan Kapma (Evolution) distributes strongly and threatens downfield, while an experienced crew around him make for a threatening team.
Barely missing out on Division 1 (which is becoming a theme amongst top teams here), Dundee are hoping to bring yet more bids back to Scotland, along with a trophy that has remained in English hands of late. Handler core Henry Loan, Nick Byrne and Connor Rock link up well in a deep, experienced team. A tie with St Andrews at Regionals says they can hang with the big boys, although a shellacking against Edinburgh hints that they may have a soft centre if they can be made to crack.
Exeter arrive looking to better last year’s ninth place finish. Academic pressures have stripped away some of their senior players, but a big energetic squad will still make the trip, bolstered by juniors level experience. Kofi Jones (AirBadgers) and Jack Hazzard (Southern Tekkers, GBu17) and a host of Devon 2 players will ensure there are no nerves, and keep everything moving quickly as they look to wear the legs off the competition.
The second representatives from their city at the tournament, Liverpool John Moores are hoping to kick on from last year’s lowly finish of 15th. Players who gained Nationals experience as first years are back and better than before, along with a fresh crop of athletes. They will particularly have their eye on a rematch with Liverpool, and a chance to claim back city supremacy after a Regionals loss.
Sheffield Hallam round out the pool, and will bring a non-stop athletic approach to Nationals. Although shorn of a few players by injury, including possibly captain Rhys Walker, they will throw endless waves of match up defence and devastating speed at all comers. Jasjit Bajwa has developed a knack for finding endzone space, and Connor Lindop plays with incredible heart. Anyone who plays them will certainly be made to work.
With their eyes firmly on the prize, Reading come in at the top of their pool. Losing their Regional final on universe and dropping through the game-to-go, they will be looking to prove they could be a Division 1 team. The game plan revolves around the high risk, high reward high discs, with Ben Peppiatt, Ryan Coones and Sam Benians (all Reading Ultimate) well versed in bringing them down. While they have turnovers in them, they also bring the athleticism to get disc back from most teams, and will hope to shoot their way to the title.
Reigning Division 2 champions Nottingham return for a title defence with one of the most dangerous squads in the division. Playing Regionals without top players, they bring a full strength team this weekend to topple all opposition. The established duo of George Gayton (ex GBu24) and Joel Miller continue to work their magic, while at Regionals Tom Kirby (EMO) returned from placement to announce himself as a threat. With a winning habit when it comes to Nationals, don’t bet against them.
Pool C is filled out by a pair of second teams, Warwick 2 and Strathclyde 2. Both have proven themselves dangerous upsetting the likes of Swansea and Cardiff, and Stirling respectively to reach this level. Warwick will be led by Harry Fidler as they look to continue their traditional success at this level, while Strathclyde have proven themselves in tight games coming through the backdoor bracket at Scottish Regionals. Both, however, will have a tough time in a pool with two divisional heavy hitters.
LSE arrive at nationals, like quite a few others, having lost out in the Regional final and then fallen in a game-to-go. Injuries and other commitments have worn at the team, who will be playing somewhat shorthanded, but still hopeful of reaching the top bracket. Captain Shaun Low (Fire) will marshal the troops, but LSE’s carefully drilled offensive system ensures no player is irreplaceable. In their third consecutive year at this level, can they make a major impact?
Little word has reached us concerning Heriot-Watt. Having managed to play within one point of Glasgow, but fallen short of St Andrews and Dundee, their real level remains something of a mystery. Any team emerging from the reliably strong Scottish region, however, is likely to present a threat, and their top half finish at last year’s event suggests they can bring the fight to the English.
Chichester also return for their third year at Division 2, part of a growing group of reliable qualifiers. This year, though, their presence is notable for the fact that they qualified at the expense of household name Oxford. The reliable Paul Bailey forms the heart of the team, surrounded by the talents of Tom Ladbury and Joseph Clarke. Looking to build on previous middling finishes, this year could be the one that Chichester make waves on the national level.
Finally, and bottom seed of the tournament, Bath 2 return a division lower than last year, but with the same goal; cementing their status as the nation’s best second team. Being a second team means no instantly recognisable names, but a proven record a division higher and thee historic strength in depth of the Bath program means that their goal of breaking into the top half and chasing a medal has to be taken seriously. With an unpredictable style and wide spread of the workload, opponents will have to be careful not to become the latest victims of the 2s.
The power pool format of Division 2 means that even with a published schedule, results are incredibly hard to predict. A particularly appetising prospect looks to be power pool P, which looks likely to bring about a Nottingham varsity rematch, while also including Reading as a third team with their eye on the medals. Coming out of the likely power pool Q, Dundee look to be the team to watch, but Exeter or Chichester could play spoiler.
3. Nottingham Trent
7. Bath 2
Featured photo by Sam Mouat