Concluding the previews, Nathan Sanders brings us the low-down on what looks to be the hottest UXIN Division 2 tournament ever this year.
University Mixed Indoor Nationals is split across two venues again this year with Division 2 on at The Alan Higgs Centre in Coventry. Let’s take a quick look at what is different this year, and who you should watch out for.
The North region has gained a Division 1 spot this year which has allowed Durham to head to Div 1. Warwick 1 & Liverpool John Moores have also secured themselves a place in Division 1. That means that none of last year’s top four are returning to the fold this year. Only three teams are returning to Division 2 again this year: Bristol, Leeds & Heriot-Watt. The aforementioned three made Division 1, and the remaining 10 all failed to qualify
There has been a slight shake-up regarding the distribution of places at Division 2 this year. Scotland has been given an extra space at the detriment of the West Midlands and Wales region, much to the dismay of the self-proclaimed “best team in Wales” Swansea who failed to qualify at this venue earlier this month. It sees all three Scottish teams seeded within the top five.
Oxford, Reading, Bangor and Edinburgh have all fallen a division this year after qualifying Div 1 last year, and they will be looking to do well in Coventry.
Edinburgh had a strong regional qualifier with a convincing set of results on Saturday, but they couldn’t quite hold their own on Sunday. With losses to Strathclyde and St Andrews they’ve missed out on Division 1 but will be looking to make the trip down south worth it with some silverware. Dundee and Heriot-Watt are also making the trip down. Heriot-Watt came fifth at this event last year and will be hoping to do just as well, if not better, this time around.
Liverpool will be disappointed to be down in Division 2. It’s always a tough day to accept that your little brother is better than you are but with the recent results of LJMU it seems that Liverpool are no longer the big dogs on the Mersey. That said I’m sure Liverpool will be fighting back with a vengeance as they’ll be the North region’s best hope of returning a medal at this tournament.
Last year didn’t see much of the south west in this division, with their teams placing eighth and 12th. Bristol, one of the few teams to return this year to Division 2, had a solid performance at regionals only losing to Bath 1 in the semi-final and again in the game-to-go to Division 1. They got carried through regionals on the shoulders of Megan Daly (GBU24W) and Mr Reliable Gus Wallbank (avid Spurs fan). UWE are a team on the rise, they qualified by winning the other game-to-go at regionals and since have qualified to Div 1 at men’s regionals. Long standing regulars Peter Rowlandson, Chris Deegan and the ever-energetic Kendra Stout will be at the heart of this team with no lack of talent to back them up. They’re coming in not seeded highly but they’ll be the ones to watch at this event as they have the ability to upset a few teams, but it depends how they fare on the 3G surface.
Yorkshire & East Midlands
Leeds are a regular at UXIN, they missed out on Division 1 by a universe-point loss to Huddersfield in the game-to-go. GBU24’s superstars Rupert Daniels and Emily Potter will be the ones to watch on this Leeds team. Loughborough 2 took a lot of people by surprise but not those who were at regionals. Loughborough clearly do something right and their second team looked like a quality outfit all weekend. They are the only second team to make it to mixed Nationals this year.
East and London
Hertfordshire (who narrowly missed out on qualifying last year) have done one better this year and taken the first Division 2 spot in the East and London region. They will bring uni regular Ernie Simmons with them to dominate the skyline. Cambridge take the second after beating Brunel by a decent margin in the game-to-go. The big shock in this region was Imperial failing to make the top eight at regionals after their top three finish at this event last year.
There has been a shake-up in this region with both Oxford and Reading falling to Division 2. Neither team fared too well at Division 1 last year so maybe they’ll find their groove at Division 2. Both of these teams are coming into the tournament seeded fairly low and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see them fighting for a spot in the quarter-finals. Reading will be relying on regular Reading Ultimate player Ben Peppiatt to lead the charge from the back, middle, and endzone of the pitch. Oxford also have a couple of strong players to watch, including ex-captain Phili Kent and bargain summer transfer from Glasgow Micah Pang.
West Midlands & Wales
Having played their regionals at this venue they’ll be well adapted to the surface and won’t have to spend the first few games getting their eye in. Bangor did well over in Division 1 last year but failed to replicate their qualifying performance again this year. Suffering some big losses to graduation, they’ve done well to maintain the standard but we will soon see whether it’s enough to go all the way in this tournament.
What are the match-ups?
This isn’t the nicest group. All of the teams in this group will be annoyed to be missing out on a spot in Division 1. Edinburgh will be expected to clean up in this group nonetheless, and I don’t see much of a challenge for the group title for them. Oxford are a big underdog in this group; they will surely rise up this group, but it’ll be interesting to see how high. Bangor have suffered big losses last year, most notably Natalie and Dom Knight who have been the stars of this Bangor team for a while.
Dundee coming in seeded second is a bit of a shock given they didn’t place that well last year with their highest-finishing team coming in fifth. That being said, with the loss of a Div 1 spot, the quality of Scotland will be higher than we saw last year. Pairing that with the choice of terrain, this group is surely to be in their favour. I think the other teams in their group will struggle to compete physically with Dundee which will leave them well-placed going into the latter stages of the tournament. Bristol and Cambridge will be an interesting competition and I wouldn’t rule out Aberystwyth to come away with an upset or two in this group; they’ve had a relatively high turnover of players of recent times but have managed to hang onto the likes of James Sully who will certainly prove himself useful at Nationals.
It’s a tough group to call. Hertfordshire will I think have a job on their hands to keep top spot here and it’s going to come down to whether Ernie’s calves are strong enough to carry his team through the group. With strong females they might be able to do a number on Heriot-Watt but you’d expect both teams to see off the rest of the competition here. Last year Heriot-Watt relied heavily on an ISO play revolving around the giant figure of Fraser Stewart which served them well. On the slightly larger 3G pitches this could come into its own and make them a real force at the weekend.
I’m expecting Liverpool to keep a top four seed with this group, although the rest of the group is far harder to call. I think it depends a lot on what happens on the day here and who adjusts best to the 3G surface. With Leeds missing their GB superwoman Alice Hanton for Saturday, their hopes of wiggling into the top eight might be a bit too far away to grasp, letting UWE claim an upset.
Calling results at these events are always impossible but in spite of that I’ve given it a shot; if I’m way off then oh well but there’s always a chance….
These teams are all able to pull something off and I think they have the energy could see them place a lot higher than everyone expects. Look out for them in the power pools: UWE, Oxford, Bangor
Feature photo by Alberto Rossi
[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!