UKU Regionals Preview – Scotland

Fusion, Glasgow Ultimate, Previews, Scotland, UKU Regionals, Understanding Ultimate.

Ben Heywood of Understanding Ultimate fame and Glasgow Ultimate player tells us how he thinks Scottish regionals will go down. Scotland has 1 bid to Nationals and will be held this Sunday.

A real match?

For the first time ever, Scottish Regionals might just see a contest.

In the past, everyone has always known that Fusion would qualify, and the whole thing has just been a chance to get a few games of Ultimate. Fusion would enter two teams, split evenly so that they’d get at least one reasonable game when they played each other.

Last year, Abstract came very close to an upset against one of the Fusion teams, but no-one had any serious expectations of beating both of them and taking the Nationals spot. This year, it all looks very different.

Glasgow Ultimate have emerged as an A Tour squad, winning promotion from an incredibly competitive B Tour 1 and (just) holding on for the rest of the season despite never quite having the full squad out there. They even gave me my first taste of A tour in 9 years, which shows how short they must have been…

Glasgow at T2 in Nottingham. Photo courtesy of David Sparks.

And Fusion? Well, I don’t think they can complain if I say they’ve had a ‘mare. A little unlucky with the opponents they drew at Tour 1, they just barely avoided relegation to the C tour; and then, doubtless on the back of that result, failed to get a team together for the rest of the season. They’ve had a couple of guys away with U23s, and a lot of old hands have retired or focussed on Mixed with Black Eagles.

But Fusion are back… A team has emerged for regionals, and doubtless they want some revenge. It’ll be a very interesting match up. Fusion has no obvious weaknesses – they’re all young and quick, and they can all throw. But they perhaps lack the experienced general, the one truly top-class player that will bring them together. When they disagree, who has the authority to really take charge?

Whereas Glasgow probably have the top 3 or 4 players in the tournament, better than anything Fusion have on the preliminary roster I’ve seen, and a good crowd of skilled and drilled athletes to back them up – but also a few who wouldn’t have matched Fusion on an athletic level until Phil Webb’s weekly boot camp. It’ll be fun finding out how much that fitness has paid off….

I suspect the game will be decided on the Glasgow leadership’s superior tactical experience – they’ll know how to use which players in which situations, whereas Fusion’s even roster will mean everyone is trying to win the game themselves rather than sometimes defer to a stronger team-mate. I predict Glasgow by 4. But I suspect Fusion may have something to say about that…

Or maybe there’ll be a shock? Sneeeky’s have impressed me this season with some solid results and some very solid performances, though they’ll probably lack firepower against the top 2 teams’ strongest lines. And there’s talk of Black Eagles entering – which frankly means anything at all could happen. Some of their guys are top class – the kind of players who used to see Fusion into the A Tour top 4 – and their best girls (if they bring some?) can compete against anybody. Who knows? Maybe even Abstract will get a team together for the first time this year.

But here’s my prediction (even though I don’t yet know which of these teams will turn up!):
1 Glasgow 1
2 Fusion
3 Black Eagles
4 Sneeeky’s
5 Glasgow 2

Read more of Ben’s work on Understanding Ultimate! DP @ tSG.

London’s Calling Review – B Tour

Fusion, LLL, London's Calling, Manchester, Open Tour, Tournament Reports, Zimmer
Dale Walker continues our London’s Calling review week with a look at B tour.

As UK Ultimate continues to grow and develop with the standard improving across the board, the stigma previously attached to being a B Tour squad looks less offensive in light of a competitive opening Tour of 2013. Perennial A Tour teams including LLLeeds, Burro and Fusionbattled with new kids on the block Manchester, Glasgow, and JR – not to forget yo-yo teams like The Brown and Cardiff, programmes from Vision (with their strong junior setup) and Bristol (one of the deepest Ultimate communities in the UK) and we had a truly wide field for the first time in years.

Manchester came into Tour the #1 seed having jostled with a few for an A Tour berth beforehand, but with strong credentials from a few (including a stacked Zimmer team featuring GB legends Dave Sealy, Si Hill & Matt “Bob” Hims) this was always going to be the scrap it proved to be.

Santiago Zuluaga (Manchester Ultimate) goes big for an offence point in the Saturday pool game against LLLeeds. Photo courtesy of David Sparks.

Bar Pool J, each pool featured one team who were knocked out of contention having started the weekend seeded in the Top 8 bracket – the unfortunate 3 being The Brown, Cardiff Storm and Fusion – demonstrating the difficult nature of seeding at the start of the season and the topsy-turvy nature of Tour. Rumours had been spreading across the field about the various strengths of some of the contenders – Zimmer had been beaten on Saturday by EMO2 which shocked a few. Ireland U23, who featured a number from the successful Irish university scene of 2012 & 2013 looked to sail into A Tour to get the best preparation for Toronto. JR had a successful 2012 building on a strong programme from the universities, finishing in A Tour in 2012 and fancying themselves another shot at the big time.

The Quarter Finals on Sunday morning saw Manchester take on Brighton 2, LLLeeds against Ireland U23, Glasgow battle with Reading and Zimmer hope JR ran less than them… the only upset here was perhaps LLLeeds dispensing of a hyped Irish team in their QF to earn a right to play Zimmer in the SF, the rest going to seed.

The Semi finals saw Manchesterand Glasgow – both new geo programmes in their respective cities – go head to head whilst LLLeeds and their young squad played a team at the opposite end of the spectrum in Zimmer. A sudden death nail biter between Mcr and Glasgow saw the Scots come through, whilst Zimmer dispatched the young upstarts at Leedsdemonstrating their wisdom and experience.

B tour movers. Courtesy of Wayne Retter.

The Final would see Zimmer take the B Tour crown in a close fought 15-13 win over Glasgow, who had demonstrated over the 2 days that they are an unassuming team who will only look to grow in coming years lead by the experienced Webb brothers and working closely with the local university talent. Similarly, Manchester and LLLeeds had revamped in 2013 with similar aspirations and development plans, but in their 3/4 game-to-go Manchesterdemonstrated their extra experience and quality to close out a 15-10 victory and take the final A Tour berth.

Thoughts on B Tour
  • In previous years, so-called yo-yo teams seemed to come up every Tour and head straight back down a Tour later without really putting up too much of a fight. The depth of the competition is a lot stronger in 2013 – consistent A Tour squads of the past few years are now struggling to come back up, teams are running large rosters reflecting their A Tour contemporaries and using tactics and ideas pioneered by the strongest clubs in the country.
  • Whilst the top half of the division featured some close games, the standard really dipped beyond a certain point and resulted in some really falling off the radar. The top 3 teams were spread by three points (11-10 to Glasgowover Manchester, 15-13 to Zimmer over Glasgow) but the level beyond that seemed to dim. Speaking from a personal perspective, Manchester convincingly put LLLeeds away twice by a 5 point margin and took Vision and Burro to the sword (15-5 and 15-8 repectively). Whilst B Tour has come a long way, it still feels as if some games for the more established squads would be more beneficial if Tour 1 allowed for crossovers into A Tour on Sunday.
  • The weekend saw some massive seeding swings, with Fusion nearly falling through the trapdoor and Glasgowrocketing to A Tour after being underseeded coming into the weekend. Reading showcased their growing programme with a strong showing resulting in a 6 place rise whilst Cardiff, JR and The Brown all have their work cut out after disappointing showings.
  • With Zimmer considering not entering Tour 2 and Rebel not entering due to its proximity to Windmill Windup, the teams promoted to A tour are yet to be revealed, but perhaps this year we will see some new faces upset the established order. With Devon, Cambridgeand Tooting all finishing in the historic relegation spots from previous years, the 9-20 bracket could see some real chopping and changing during the season – and those coveted Top 16 places look to be more fiercely contested than ever before.
Watch out for Dale and his team (Manchester Ultimate) along with the new promotions to the A tour in a couple weeks! More reviews tomorrow @ tSG.