Our University Mixed Indoor previews kick off with Alex Hately taking a look at what might happen at Division 1. Stay tuned for a Div 2 preview to follow!
This weekend the University Mixed Indoor season comes to a close, with the nation’s best teams converging on Nottingham to face off for this year’s title. 13 of the top 20 from last year make a return, showing once again that success breeds more success. Can Strathclyde retain their title? Or will the title cross the border in the hands of UCL or Nottingham?
The competition makes a second consecutive appearance at a hardwood venue, swinging the advantage towards the southern teams, where space is a luxury and tight zones are at their strongest. Who will bring the UXI season to a close with a victory? Who will surprise the existing a hierarchy and break into the top eight? Who will turn to dust on the biggest stage?
The Scottish region (bar Strathclyde) had a tough time in last years’ competition, making up 50% of the bottom eight. And have suffered the consequences. The loss of two of their five Division 1 qualification spots meant that UXIR was tense. With Aberdeen missing out on Nationals completely, Edinburgh were the team that fell short in the game-to-go, instead qualifying for the long drive down to Division 2 in Coventry. Dark Horses will definitely be optimistic entering the weekend, buoyed by their success of UXIR and the seamless integration of Newcastle veteran Alex Thompson into their first team. They will definitely be one of the teams to watch!
Newcastle are the top-seeded team coming in from the northern region, having quite comfortably toppled both Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and Durham during the knockout stage. The team is led by their stellar female contingent featuring a wealth of international experience in the form of Kate Gibson (GBU24), Emily Atkinson (GBU20) and Victoria Willby (GBW). They will hope to claim a top eight spot. Likewise, Durham, featuring the ever-present SMOG duo of Will Collier and Steve Gillman, will be looking to convert some of their international experience onto the national university stage and improve on their disappointing Nationals last year. They’re also bolstered by to some strong home-grown talent such as Calum McGowan and Sarah Ladd.
Yorkshire & East Midlands
Nottingham, as always, have a huge wealth of players to call upon for the competitive competition, but we reckon Kat Cheng (Iceni/GB) and Joel MiIler (GBM) will be at the top of the list and will be heavily involved in the way that the team performs over the weekend. Huddersfield qualified for Division 1 with only two women (!!) on the Saturday of regionals, and will be a team to watch, especially if they can bring improved female depth to complement the strong players they already have. LJMU are also a team not to be sniffed at this year, with the experienced and capable duo of Grace Prior and Katalina Bernane running the show downfield, with back up from strong male handlers (such as Tom Jackson and Ben Oliver) capable of putting up the iso shots for the girls feed on.
West Midlands & Wales
Birmingham answered many questions at UXIR, particularly regarding their ability to perform to such a high level after the departure of Adam Vaslet, Eddie Mason and Georgina Morrison. Brum managed to a secure the top spot in the West for the second year in a row via a universe point victory over Warwick. The third and final Division 1 spot was stolen away by the deserving Cardiff, beating Bangor in the game-to-go.
East and London
University College London continued their reign atop the East and London region, comfortably dispatching their closest rival, Kings College London. This comes following the graduation of CJ Colicchio (Rayleigh Flyers and Clapham), and really demonstrates the strength in depth the Silverbacks have at their disposal.
South West and South East
In the southern-most tips of the country, Exeter and Sussex snapped up the trophies in the West and East respectively. Bath, Surrey and Chichester complete the 20 teams that qualified for the event.
What will happen?
With the early release of the UXIN schedule we can check out the seedings and plot each team’s route to the final.
Pool A: Strathclyde to steamroll Sheffield and Surrey?
The Scottish champions are expected to progress through their pool with little issue, with only KCL posing a threat to them on the Saturday. Bath will be disappointed to enter the competition as 17th seed and will certainly be looking to push themselves into the top half. Sheffield vs Surrey will be fighting it out to have a kinder seed going into the Sunday.
Pool B: Pool of death
This group can swing in any direction. In my eyes, all of UCL, Nottingham, LJMU, St Andrews and Chichester will be aiming pushing for a top-eight finish. Unfortunately, someone has to finish in the bottom two spots and have their Nationals hopes crushed at the first hurdle. I’ll be looking on in hot anticipation to see who comes out victorious.
Pool C: Battle of the West
Who doesn’t love making it to Nationals just to play a team from your own region? Birmingham and Warwick sure will. The top of the pool may well be decided in the last game of the day, when we have a rematch of the Wales and West final, although Sussex will be hoping to rock the apple cart when they meet either of the midlands teams.
Pool D: Can Glasgow climb back up the seedings?
The Scots will be disappointed that their second-place finish a UXIR only yielded them a 14th seed to start the weekend. They’ll be up against it to ensure themselves a chance of reaching the final, needing to finish above one of Exeter, Newcastle or Loughborough. As for who will win the pool, it’s anyone’s guess. Each team features top calibre players, and it may come down to who comes out of the blocks firing at the start of the day.
Knock-out stage predictions
It’s near impossible to predict all the of the results ahead of time, but I’m going to try anyway. Following the crossovers on Sunday morning, I expect the top eight to be looking like this:
Strathclyde (1) vs Warwick (8)
UCL (2) vs Glasgow (7)
Birmingham (3) vs KCL (6)
Exeter (4) vs Nottingham (5)
Then onto the semi-finals, I think we’ll end up like this:
Strathclyde (1) vs Nottingham (4)
UCL (2) vs KCL (3)
And then the final I’m hoping for: a rematch of last season, with Strathclyde (1) against UCL (2).
I think this would be an excellent contest. UCL came runners-up last year in both UXIN and UMIN and have won every competitive indoor competition they have entered this year. If anyone is going to push Strathclyde close, it will most likely be the team from London. They’ll have the slight advantage of playing on their preferred surface and that may well give them the edge.
10. St Andrews
Feature photo by Sam Mouat.
[ED]: as you may all notice all the photos in these previews are not from Mixed events or even from the previous season. This is due to photographer availability, so if you have a team photographer and want to see those photos on our FB page and even learn from other great Ultimate photographers please get them to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of our photographers have been invited to some amazing events along with our coverage!