Writer Nic Edwards with her Nationals preview, letting us know the facts and the hype ahead of Division 1 University Women’s Indoor Nationals in Nottingham this weekend.
The elite-level ladies of university Ultimate are heading to Nottingham for Division 1 Nationals and they are set to put on an impressive show!
Edinburgh are hoping to retain their title for the second year running, and they are certainly leading a successful campaign. Aberdeen, Birmingham, Huddersfield and Imperial are the teams looking to challenge their crowning glory. Read ahead for a play-by-play of each pool and what you can expect…
Strathclyde were (aren’t they always?) in a league of their own at Scottish Regionals. With the likes of Hayley Dalmon (Black Eagles, ex-GBU24) and Zsófi Marozsák (Glasgow Ultimate), in addition to their already beastly strong and athletic players, I’d feel confident in saying they’re a safe bet to retain the title of University Women’s Indoor National Champions. They’ve played together for a long time and have a few plays that work in their favour. Shutting them down will be a real achievement for any team.
Leeds are second in their pool and seeded sixth in the tournament, and they have some big players. They could be a threat for a top-four position.
Bangor will unfortunately be missing a few of their core players; nonetheless, this team knows how to use their advantages, and defence is their sixth woman on the pitch: this group of ladies won’t let you win without a fight.
With the likes of Bangor missing some players, I can only imagine the excitement that will be building in Hertfordshire’s minds. Half of their team at Regionals was made up of beginners, so they are very much an underdog story with great potential.
Finishing off this pool is Dundee, coming fifth out of six qualifying spots at Scottish Regionals, but I wouldn’t underestimate them. The Scots always know how to put on a performance and they are looking to cause some big upsets and contest the 9-16 bracket.
Aberdeen had a gritty game in pool play at Regionals that saw them narrowly beat Edinburgh by one point, and put them in a position to sail through to the final. Having won their quarter and semi with relative ease, they truly matched up to Strathclyde but came out with a four point defeat. Being seeded second at Nationals should leave them comfortably in the top eight and in with a real chance of clinging onto a top four spot.
Edinburgh are seeded fifth in the tournament and second in this strong pool. They are a formidable side that took it to Strathclyde at Regionals. They were unfortunate to play Aberdeen so early and lose to them in pool play at Regionals, so I can imagine them coming out pumped and hard for the 3.30pm pool play rematch.
Loughborough may not have been as strong as they were last year at Regionals but there has always been strong progression at the University and, with such a naturally athletic and strong team, this year is no different. They put in an impressive performance at Regionals and have been working on their connections, so they’ll be a team I expect to challenge for a top eight position.
UEA were surprised to do so well on the Saturday at Regionals and, once they realised the position they were in having moved up six seeds, developed some confidence and topped off a successful Regionals with a Division 1 qualification.
Cardiff is bottom of this pool, and they are missing some big players and strong connections from Regionals. They’re using the chance to play on the national stage to boost their ladies’ confidence and develop their abilities.
Birmingham won their region but not without difficulties. Fighting their way to win their pool play match up against Exeter after being three points down showcases the strength of their mental game. This is a team built to bring the glory (and the trophy) back to Birmingham University. They will only be bringing seven players to Nationals, but I wouldn’t let that fool you. More than half of their players have played or will soon be playing for GB. Grace Owen, Ellie Payne and GeeGee Morrison are captained by Ciara Moore to name but a few, and the remainder of their women play with reigning Tour champions Hydra. Their team’s solid performance makes them THE team to get excited about.
UCL took a shocking defeat in the final of the Eastern region, as they lost 8-2 to Imperial. Although they are missing a key player from their regional squad, they have a Hong Kong WUCC pickup – Claire HuiBonHoa – to boost their roster. Their hope is that they have developed their connections enough that they can threaten the top seeds with their expansive play set.
KCL finished third in their region after a 7-2 win against Herts and only took at 6-3 loss against Imperial in the semis. I wonder if it would have been a different final if KCL had played their semi against UCL. I do believe there is a high possibility that KCL will prevail in pool play here against their regional rivals.
Newcastle are a very athletic team and really enjoyable to watch, but they didn’t perform as well as some had hoped at Regionals. They have a strong core of players and are a very experienced team, so hopefully they are looking more cohesive and feeling more powerful heading into this weekend.
Glasgow aren’t as strong this year as they were last, but they still made Divison 1 Nationals and are hoping to improve seed and develop as a team, both through the weekend and in the longer term.
Huddersfield won their region confidently, their closest match being their quarter against Manchester which they won 6-3. Their team is virtually unchanged from last year and they still boast their key players: Elly White, Tanya Fozzard and Isabella Barber-Lowell. They are a team that have been playing together for years and have an incredible connection on the pitch. After finishing just short of a medal last year (fourth), they are ready to give it everything they have to come home with a well-deserved prize.
Imperial dominated and won their region by a substantial points difference. They are a very experienced team with the likes of Claire Baker (Iceni) to captain and a few previous GBU24 teammates as the core of the squad. I’d expect Imperial to challenge Huddersfield for the top of the pool however, unfortunately they will be without Katie Flight (GB and Glasgow) due to her GBX training. I wouldn’t count them out of a top four finish though!
St Andrews are a team with a lot of cohesion and pure athleticism. Even being the fourth Scottish qualifying spot I still suspect they will give Huddersfield and Imperial a run for their money.
Nottingham are a team that never disappoints and has lot of depth; they fought off some tough competition for the Division 1 qualifying spot in the Northern region. With impressive stand outs such as Kat Cheng and Monica Pearson, Nottingham will develop a lot over the weekend and hopefully be able to gel well enough to cause some upsets.
Bath have certainly dropped a few places compared to last year, but their captain assured me that they are underseeded and will be looking to win as many games as possible. I know they’ll be going into the Huddersfield game with the memory of beating them in the 3-4 last year at Nationals.
Ultimately, it’s set to be an epic weekend. Personally, I feel Birmingham may just grasp the win and take home the trophy, stealing it away from the Scots, but I’ll stick with the form book and pick Strathclyde. The top eight is going to be hard fought, and every team that finishes there should be proud, as it is an incredibly contested year. Women’s Ultimate at university level is progressing rapidly and, with the first Divison 2 indoor Nationals happening this year, it is an exciting time to be playing.
A fine fit then, that we get all this display of great Women’s Ultimate during the “28 days of Frisbee, Food, & Feminism”! See the UK Women’s Ultimate Facebook page for more details.
Pool of Death – Pool D
Challengers – UCL, Newcastle, Loughborough & St Andrews
Games worth watching…
14:12 – Birmingham v KCL
15:04 – Bangor v Hertfordshire
15:30 – Aberdeen v Edinburgh
15:56 – UCL v KCL
17:14 – Huddersfield v Imperial
Good luck, and have fun!!
Featured photo by Sam Mouat