Chris Alderson runs down the Midlands region ahead of this weekend University regionals in Cambridge.
With the University Indoor season drawing to a close, all teams in the Midlands Region are once again drawn to Cambridge to compete for 6 Nationals places (3 in each Division). Here’s a preview of what we’re likely to see.
We can’t start this anywhere other than looking at the Division 1 Indoor National Champs and our hosts, Cambridge (Strange Blue). On the lips of everyone in the region is ‘these Americans’ or to use their actual names, Justin Norden and Ben Funk. Funk is an import from Stanford and Norden a 2011 USA College Nationals Champ with Carleton. Expect the combination of Norden’s clinical handling and Dom Dathan breaking forces like twigs to form an offence to be reckoned with. Captain George Anegg will be looking to take a large and athletic squad to give those handlers plenty of options.
The next logical team to review would be the Division 2 Indoor National Champs, Warwick Bears. Bears Skipper Sam ‘261’ Hawkins appears to have gathered a good squad depth. Their second team was the highest placed second team at Indoor Regionals, and they have a good retention of players from last year in the name of Robbie ‘Cracking’ Tink and Frigate as steady handlers, plus Andy Hillman organising the defence. Expect that ‘Midlands weave’ and a classic Bears aggressive zone in their arsenal. With this in mind, Warwick will be looking to be that outside bet to break into the top two (of Cambridge and Birmingham) in the region.
That other team in that ‘top two’ (along with Cambridge) and going into the weekend with a firm belief they can win is the University of Birmingham (uBu). Another Bronze medal at Indoors this year, their third on the bounce, shows uBu haven’t taken the foot off the pedal and will be hoping to do one better than last year and win the region on the road to Nationals. Rollo Sax Dixon and Ben ‘Borat’ Burak the notable names most teams will be eyeing as game changers getting blocks, but with other standouts like Lloyd ‘Incredible CheeseWing Frisbee Throw’ Cheesman and Tom Hodgett, there is no end to the talent they have you’re going to have to try and stop. A solid team, summed up perfectly by Harry Mason: “Dang they strong.”
Onto EMO… I mean Fling (University of Nottingham). I say EMO, as looking at Fling’s key players you start to spot the trend; with no less than 8 Fling players on the EMO roster (a reduction from 12 last year). EMO Captain Robert ‘Cody’ Coddington will be there, in a team lacking handler resource, throwing deep options to the towering Captain Ben Poole, and on defence you’ll see Nathan Trickey and Adrian ‘Cass’ Delport getting layout blocks for fun. Although they were disappointed last year not getting Division, they responded by winning Division 2 Outdoor Nationals and they will be looking match their indoor achievement and qualify Division 1 this year.
After a disappointing year in 2013, losing to Fling in some style in the game to go for Division 2, Oxford University (OW!) are looking for revenge. They’re hoping to do this through their defence, with Dan ‘Monster’ Cerigo and Michael ‘Face’ West who are going to be huge in the air combining with Harry ‘Puppy’ Mason who’ll be chasing down the opposition so as to not allow them an inch of space. Captain Dan Aronov will no doubt be trying to get their offence consistent as well. Hugo ‘Huggie’ Grimmett in his 7th year with OW! will help this, but with very inconsistent performances over the past few tournaments, who knows what their outcomes will be against opponents of different levels.
Leicester University (Jesters) come into the tournament after qualifying for Division 1 last year but with limited success this year so far. You can’t talk about Jesters without immediately talking about Alex ‘Medic’ Charlton, a player of huge talent (I don’t really have to explain anything other than saying his name…). Some may think he has carried Jesters this year but with rumours of his University Ultimate career over to concentrate on university workload, the responsibility comes down to Edd Carmichael and Julian Neo to bring this relatively young and inexperienced team through the big games.
Another team that kept cropping up in the Region’s predictions is University of East Anglia (Aye-Aye). GB U23 Mixed player Howard “HOWWWAAAARRDDDDD” Storey looks to be the star in a team of relatively unknown players. Aye-Aye have shown promise in previous tournaments this year and perhaps Regionals is where it all comes together for them. Captain Arron Reed will be hoping for Jen squad player Luke Frett to step up also, especially with injuries to some key squad players to contend with.
Now we draw to my team, Loughborough University (Haze). After being written off for last year’s Regionals, Haze went on to lose narrowly in the game-to-go for Division 1; living up to the old adage: ‘Haze always find a way.’ Skipper Andrew ‘Pumba’ Sellers draws from a large young squad showing a lot of promise, hoping to be coupled perfectly with handling experience in Chris ‘Melon’ Peploe. Ben ‘Jar Jar’ Pocock and Matty ‘Matty’ Hart will be looking to motivate the young defence in accumulating blocks, and not letting offences flow.
Lincoln will be hanging around that top 8 area this season with notable player Jack Gray, anyone not treating the likes of these teams with respect may be punished.
Taken from predictions around the region, here’s an average of what people think the outcome will be:
1st – Strange Blue
2nd – uBu
3rd – Bears
4th – Fling
5th – Haze
6th – OW!
7th – Jesters
8th – Aye-Aye
Whatever happens, the strength in the Midlands and with the amount of silverware teams have around the region, it promises to be a tasty affair. See you all there.
And that’s it for English regionals, next weekend will be the final UK regional: Scotland.