The season has finished; let the postseason commence. The EUCR process starts this weekend with two UKU Regionals events, one in the north and one in the south. We’ll be previewing all three divisions at these events ahead of Nationals in Birmingham in late August. David Pryce continues the previews (and tries to suspend his bias as one of the SYC coaches) with the women’s division!
Only two teams entered the northern region in the women’s division, SCRAM and Red. That means, with two places available, that both have qualified for Nationals. And, having seen SCRAM play at Moor Lane, I’ve been very impressed by their athleticism with players like Ellie Taylor and Hayley Dalmon high on my list of the fastest and agile players in the division, maybe even in both Mixed and Women’s. They will be giving every team great games in Birmingham but let’s focus on the upcoming weekend. There are four spots up for grabs and six teams in attendance. I spoke to some of the captains and key players this week.
Ola Kulikowska is one of the head honchos for this team and is looking forward to the competition ahead of this weekend:
Don’t think we’ve faced any of the top four yet so that will be pretty good.
With it being the first time Uprising have entered Regionals, she also said their aim was to have good quality games:
We’re bringing a mixed squad of regulars and players who haven’t played with Uprising before [and are] hoping to beat seed.
This aim is not unobtainable but hinges on their result against Chaos x Brixton (due to the schedule being a round robin) which I can see being a stormer!
Chaos x Brixton
Chaos and Brixton have been figures in London Ultimate for a few years, but this year merged to form a single team. Chaos President Illia Affuddin explained their journey this year:
This season has been a new experience for both Brixton Women’s and Chaos as we’ve merged to form a bigger London based women’s team. We’ve had progressive success over the last three women’s ranking events, finishing in plate position at Moor Lane. For this weekend, we’re hoping to maintain our momentum and play some good, textbook frisbee. We’re really excited to play against SYC and Bristol as we haven’t had a chance all season! We’ve had a really great season so far with this team and some great insightful coaching from Chesca Tyler Weddell and Richard Harris who we can’t thank enough!
This team has potential to push the likes of Bristol, Iceni and SYC but I am not sure an upset is on the cards. That Uprising game is the one to decide the best of the rest.
At first glance at the schedule many will be thinking: “who on earth is Throwback?” With a little poking, you will find that Chesca Tyler Weddell is the one of the women to speak to:
Throwback has come about this season based loosely on an idea Fran Scarampi and Lucy Barnes had last year about a late-season team, which sadly didn’t get off the ground.
In discussion with players on the GB women’s masters beach and grass squads we realised there are number of women at this level who, for whatever reason, are not playing with a club. At the moment we seem to have a critical mass of players in this situation and so a new team seemed a no-brainer. Additionally it offers an opportunity for a group from the GBWM grass team to play together before Euros in October.
Based on our initial discussions it looked like it was going to be a masters team, however we soon realised there are a number of women below 30 (below 24 in fact!) in the same boat. It has become a team for women who have played at a high level but who don’t have a club at this point in time. This weekend we have three U24s on our roster alongside a range of masters.
Our main aim for Regionals is to qualify for Nationals. Several of our players have played in previous Nationals finals, and this tournament means a lot to us! The aim is to enjoy playing and offer new competition to the division, who knows how we’ll do.
We’re really excited to see Bristol, Iceni and SYC in the women’s division together for the first time this season, and it’s cool that the format gives us a chance to play them all. We have huge admiration for the time, effort and dedication all the women’s division players and coaches put into their teams, and we’re really looking forward to coming together to play!
Now I have some mixed (and potentially biased) opinions on this team. I love a new team adding more variety to the women’s division, particularly one with the experience this team has. It will be great for the under-24s on this team and for the younger players they come up against. It also allows those players who might not necessarily be able to commit to a well-established club a vital playing opportunity ahead of master’s euros later in the year. However, it’s important for the division that they do not take players from those well-established clubs, which I know they have been working hard NOT to do, and are clear in their communication around this. I think they still need to work to get that exactly right, especially if they are to continue as a team, but I am definitely looking forward to seeing them play.
The calibre of players on this team is exciting and the names we expect from GBWM are all known throughout UK Ultimate. This team has the potential to take down at least one of the top three. The only issue for them will be cohesion, as ever for a team that doesn’t have a focus on regular training. They will be relying heavily on their experience and if the likes of Bristol, Iceni and SYC are on point and ruthless, Throwback will struggle to keep up.
The next three teams could end in any order and so I will focus on them and their paths to this point. I would be very surprised if any of these teams didn’t make Nationals.
This season was always posed as a development one for SYC. With high retention and a lot of players that want to build over the next four-year cycle, the potential in this team is astounding. Put this with a new coaching staff and additions from the U24 program and you have a great set of ingredients for a club.
Being involved with this team has been an absolute pleasure and even stepping back subjectively the ethos and mentality of this group of athletes is infectious.
With their return to the UK season at Moor Lane they took every game as it came and were able to take the win in impressive style. This will be their first big challenge on home soil this season and will be looking to ensure every player gets to show what they have and qualify for Nationals. I am struggling to name stand out players for these next few teams because the level is just so high across the board.
I might be biased, but I know this group won’t just be good. They will be SYC. [Ed note – oh god]
Iceni is led by an impressive group: Fiona Kwan and Karina “Coops” Cooper as captains plus non-playing coaches of Adam Lothian and Jaqueline Verralls. Like the rest of the top three we haven’t seem them at full strength yet, but Coops said:
We have mostly a full squad. We’re missing a few players, some for the weekend and some unfortunately experienced long-term injury earlier in the season. There are lots of new faces this season and they’re proving to be an excellent bunch on and off pitch, so it’s great to be kicking off crunch time together.
When discussing the team’s aims are for this weekend she added:
Our measurable goals are to qualify and vie for the top podium finish. We also want to represent at Euros and get a successful result. Our material goals are to provide our teammates with a positive environment in which they can develop their maximum potential as players and also build some solid connections as pals off pitch. The banter this year has been tops.
She struggled to answer about which game she was most looking forward to:
Hard to choose one. There is a lot of variety, talent and experience headed to Regionals this weekend. Games will be hard fought as we battle for those spots at Nationals. What more could you ask for? We absolutely love playing our sisters in red though – Bristol. That’s one hell of a club!
Iceni have the history and the capability to win this and the next two major events. With a lot of player turnover this is a harder year to repeat those performances, but it’s not impossible and I massively respect the work of their leadership to change the team ethos but keep pushing themselves competitively. Never discount them on the field, ever.
When the reigning UK Nationals and Vienna Spring Break champions, and number one seed, announced their (huuuggeee) squad in the autumn I was both impressed and excited to see what they would produce.
They have been a force to be reckoned with all season. Now at the business end, co-captain Carla Link says:
We’re sending our first team to regionals this weekend. Previous tournaments have all been our training squad.
Having watched them play all season, their fitness and experience are clear. Retaining so many of their WUCC team and adding some fantastic young players will ensure their ongoing success for years to come. Their style of isolating athletes and taking what the defence gives them is highly effective, and a Bristol team in flow is very hard to stop.
Just like every other team I spoke to, Carla struggled to identify a particular game they were looking forward to:
We are obviously looking forward to playing SYC and Iceni as this will be the first time each team will play each other all season!
As I mentioned at the start, this division is wide open and you can sense from all the players the excitement in finally getting to see everyone at full strength after various GB and development teams outings. Good luck to all!
I am no Sean Colfer so no predictions from me; who do you think will qualify for Nationals?
(Sean edit: Bristol, Iceni, SYC, Throwback)
Feature image by Tristan