Ollie Pattinson previews the mega West region ahead of women’s indoor regionals this weekend and predicts who’ll be heading to nationals next year.
The women’s teams of the West region have had one extra week to prepare for the final regional indoor tournament of the 2021 season. The women’s division for the West is always an interesting tournament as it is a combination between the South West and West Midlands and Wales regions in mixed and men’s regionals. This means a higher number of first teams and that teams will face new competition for the season.
In total 11 first teams will be attending, with many regular high performers and newer strong teams wanting to take their chance to claim the eight Nationals spots (four for Div 1 and four for Div 2). There are also a number of second teams (and one third team) which is great to see following the COVID disruption. With the large number of first teams, the second teams will get plenty of chances to cause upsets and the tournament is likely to have many close battles. With mixed regionals being the first tournament back after the long break, I expect a number of women’s teams this weekend will be looking forward to some rematches and potential revenge. Any spectators should be excited for the inevitable competitiveness and high quality to be seen when the heavyweight teams of two regions come together and battle it out in Swansea this weekend.
It comes as no surprise that Bath are coming into the weekend with high ambition and lots of evidence to support a top finish. With two first place finishes in the last three women’s regionals and a dominant performance at mixed regionals this year, they want to maintain their ‘best in the west’ title. Bath are coming into the weekend having lost a few star players from previous years but are feeling positive about their new team. They are excited to see development among their players as they face the challenge of the additional universities between them and the first place position.
Birmingham makes for great competition with Bath at this event. Also having a first place finish in the last three years of women’s regionals and a first place finish at this year’s mixed regionals, they seem adamant on continuing their long run of success. Despite missing out on the top three at the last regionals, they rectified this with a fourth place finish and highest from the region at the last nationals. This year the Birmingham team has been working hard to make a strong showing following the COVID break, which has so far proved successful having only conceded a single point at their first BUCS weekend. Having picked up ex-Warwick player Hannah Yorwerth (GB U24s) and rising star Rosie Coward (Reading and GB U20s), Birmingham are sure to set a high standard of Ultimate and present a huge challenge for the rest of the teams.
Bournemouth are entering women’s regionals for what I am aware is the first time. That’s a great sign for growth of the club and a huge opportunity for development for this women’s team. While they come into a strong region, the longer break and loss of key players from many teams presents a great chance to come in and potentially surprise some teams. Bournemouth will be looking to come in and make a strong first impression, and gain lots of valuable experience while enjoying their first competitive indoor tournament with their university.
Bristol will be one team this weekend looking to make a mark as a new contender to the top position and they have the results to prove it’s very possible. Making the last spot to nationals last time around seems to have pushed the team to excel. At the first BUCS weekend, the Bristol women’s team saw off Bath, Exeter and Southampton and now have their sights on repeating this in Swansea. With captain Natalie Oldfield (Bristol Womens), leading a strong team of experienced and cohesive players, Bristol want to continue their winning streak.
Cardiff are another one of the many strong teams in the region over recent years. They come off a third place finish at mixed regionals and a fifth place finish at last women’s regionals. Having just missed out on Div 1 nationals last time, I am sure this year they will have their sights set on returning to the top division. Their two teams are said to be filled with excitement for the weekend, especially the freshers stacked second team. Their first team has a range of experience led by Esther Awcock (GB Junior) and a great passion across the roster, well demonstrated with the addition of Su Yin from Malaysia who set up her own team before coming to join Cardiff. Cardiff will be sure to give all the teams a strong challenge at the weekend, and will aim to repeat the success of the mixed team and qualify for Div 1 nationals.
Exeter continues to demonstrate that they have an incredibly successful club at their university. Being the only university attending to bring three teams, the depth of their club is sure to encourage continued success as seen in previous years. Exeter will hope to repeat and improve upon their strong season before the break, finishing third at the last Regionals and an impressive fifth at Nationals. Both the second and third team show potential to cause upsets against teams if underestimated, with the second team being a potential dark horse for the tournament. The first team combines experience and talent, including the addition of Leah Atkins (Air Badgers and GB Juniors) to the many long-term club members bringing fast yet patient play and a range of tactics. Exeter hopes that all of the teams can perform well this weekend, but most of all are excited to finally play one of their favourite tournaments after so many delays.
Keele university is making their first entry to women’s regionals since 2015 and are incredibly excited to be attending. A lot of work has gone into recruiting women for the club over the last two years and it has paid off with a women’s team who can’t wait to play a tournament together. As a relatively new team, the players are looking forward to the valuable experience they will gain from the tournament (being some players’ first ever) and most importantly want to have fun while doing it.
Plymouth are entering the weekend following a really strong mixed regionals performance that unfortunately saw them just miss out on nationals. The women’s team also has desires to recreate the success of qualifying for nationals two years ago and will be looking forward to getting another attempt at national competition. Sadly some COVID cases have affected their numbers but they still look to bring a solid team who really want to have fun at the weekend. The team combines experience with newer players which, as it did at mixed regionals, may help them perform better than they first expected.
Southampton proved at the last regionals that they are truly a contender for a top spot at the weekend. An impressive finish of second place and an incredibly close final against Bath showed Southampton and the rest of the teams that they are a very tough team to play against. Both mixed and men’s tournaments this year have resulted in nationals qualification for the first time in years, and the women now take their turn to repeat this success. Captain Abi Cohman (GB Women’s) leads a team split between experienced players and freshers who have really come together in their first BUCS matches, winning two out of three. Southampton hope the newer players continue their incredibly fast development and top players like Dianne Lopez (SYC) and Provi Cowdrill (GB Junior) can bring a challenge to any team they face at the weekend.
Swansea have the home advantage for the weekend, but with two teams entered who are both iron-manning they hope to use a big sideline to overcome tired legs. Their second team is full of freshers excited for the experience, while their first team is stacked with experience. Captain Aimee Hawksley (Horsham) will lead the group of five which includes two GB Junior players. Such experience and small team will surely mean Swansea bring a cohesive team and big challenge to the rest of the tournament. Having beaten Bath in BUCS this season, Swansea will know they have the quality to win against teams at the weekend, and will have to hope the limited number of players does not get in the way of giving a strong performance.
Warwick are one more team who have consistently thrown their name in the hat for top position finishes in recent years. With fifth and fourth place finishes in the years prior, they may be coming into this year wanting to improve on their seventh place at the last regionals, and fight for one of the top four Div 1 qualification spots. They have lost some key players, but a very impressive second place at mixed regionals means the Warwick women know they have the quality to beat many of the teams and will want to show the South West teams they can do the same to them. Warwick also managed to hold a strong Birmingham women’s team to a tight outdoor game, only losing 5-6. As the only team to finish above Warwick at Mixed, they will come in hoping to get the edge on Birmingham this time around, along with the rest of the teams.
Spectating this event in the past has been one of my favourites, with the wide array of universities attending it can feel almost nationals-esque and produces many entertaining games. A lot of teams are coming in hoping to show the development and hard work of these first couple of months back and use their mixed and BUCS experience to step up a level at the weekend. Although we’ve been back a little while now, there has been an overwhelming sense of excitement ahead of the tournament, with lots of teams really looking forward to this one in particular. There are bound to be lots of games going against the seeding and I predict lots of improvement from the newer teams as the weekend goes on, perhaps making for some shock results in rematches on the Sunday.
All this makes it very hard again to predict, but some teams will be relying on their strong experience to see them through against the array of new competition, while others will have additional challenges following the introduction of top teams from the other region.
Thanks to all the captains who helped me out with the preview, and good luck to all the teams playing in Swansea this weekend!