UKU Nationals 2017 – A Review

Mixed, Nationals, Open, Review, Tournament Reports, Womens

Another season is in the books and, for most sides, the off-season is now underway. Sean Colfer takes a look at what happened in Birmingham this weekend, and what it might mean for the European Championships and moving forward for UK Ultimate.

London Calling – Women’s Division Review

London Calling, Review, Women's Tour
Charlie Blair summarises the events of the season’s first Women’s Tour 

London Calling yet again upheld its welcome tradition of providing impeccable weather to kick off the season. On the still and sunny pitches of St Albans, it also didn’t fail to deliver significant shake-ups, with only four teams holding their original seeds. Nevertheless, there unfortunately remains an apparent divide between the teams in the top and lower halves of the table. In fact, one of the few who held seeding included returning Tour champions Iceni – unmoved from the summit of the standings – as well as Swift, who continued to lead the pack in the lower half.

E6 and Iceni both had more or less straight-forward routes to the final. Other than a close opener between E6 and Bristol Cupboom (won 15-12 by E6), neither finalist conceded more than 7 points until their meeting on Sunday. Thankfully, the final was not such a walkover for either side as the Swedes’ impressive athleticism was a worthy match for Iceni. The temperate conditions really played into the hands of E6, who had successfully been connecting well placed long shots and high grabs all weekend. In addition to the Swedes’ monopolisation of the break side, the Londoners also at first struggled to halt their opponents’ fast flowing play. However, Iceni’s large squad was eventually able to capitalise on tiredness, and after stepping up the one-on-one D saw out the game with a confident offence.
It is disappointing however, that neither Bristol team demonstrated much of a threat to either finalist in the semis, as would surelyhave been expected after E6 only just edged victory in their opening game to Cupboom. Cupbowl, however gave them no such challenge. Granted they had themselves had only just won a tight game to SYC but it seems the depleted size of both Bristol teams left both of them without the energy to push as hard as was needed. This was later confirmed by the decision to forfeit the subsequent 3v4 match between the two sides. The schedule at Worlds will be demanding just as much consistency from them, if not more, and perhaps this was a wasted opportunity to push themselves as hard as they will need to in order to reach their full potential in Italy. The lure to enjoy the afternoon sunshine instead of showing some final game grit surely doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of their future opponents.

Elsewhere the last games of the day proved to be a much more competitive affair with close games between Free Agents and Punt, and SYC and YAKA. Free Agents made the greatest ascension of the tournament to take fifth spot, and their last game could have been an even closer affair if Punt had not allowed the score line to run away from them so much at the beginning. It was only once they ironed out the kinks in their own offence and stopped making unforced errors that they were able to start catching up, but unfortunately for them it wasn’t quite enough.
Jenna Thompson winds up for Iceni – Photo Courtesy of Andrew Moss

That said, Punt had another great tournament and continue to carry through the success of last season, leapfrogging both SYC and LLLeeds, who both began the tournament seeded above them. Certainly, they will have to keep the foot on the pedal at Tour 2, as SYC will surely have them in their sights. Having won a sudden death victory over the Cambridge outfit on the Saturday morning crossover, they’ll know they are capable of a better finish next time round. In fact, I think SYC deserve some credit for in despite of their losses, their close score lines reflect constant battle all weekend. Their victory in their final game to YAKA will have been a well earned reward and a testament to this grit. Unfortunately for the French, it’s safe to say that they were (as predicted) slightly overseeded for this tournament with the loss of key play-makers.

In contrast to the top 8, it was a great shame to see such a dearth of contest in the final games of the day amongst those fighting for the lower ranks. The only competitive result was to determine who finished 11th, between Swift and Brighton Pretty. Whilst it was still a very positive finish for the southerners, it was the Scottish who emerged victorious (15-10) to end the competition where they had begun.

In the rest of the fixtures there was a surprising gap between the winners and losers; considering that by this stage of the tournament you should be playing your most well matched opponents. Admittedly, I cannot confirm the reason behind the forfeit of the match between Relentless and Crown Jewels, but I hope (in the nicest way possible!) that it was enforced rather than mere lacklustre. Earlier in the weekend, Relentless were unfortunate to lose in sudden death to Blink, who ended up only finishing one seed above them. The matchup between them and Crown Jewels therefore surely promised to be a good game.

Equally, the lack of fight is apparent in the remaining score lines, in which none of the defeated teams managed to rack up more than eight points. Yet new outfits Devon and Manchester (who finished five places apart from each other) had played a tighter result in a preceding match against one another which finished 10-13.

This suggests to me that these final game score lines are not a result of disparaging ability but simply a lack of fight and love to play your best Ultimate whenever you get the chance to. I can’t help but feel with a little more focus and discipline, the belief and confidence to become ever more successful will be a natural by-product. To demand high expectations of yourself and your team even in that last, seemingly inconsequential 23v24 game, should not be sapping the fun out of the experience, but another opportunity to do something great. Another opportunity to create another great memory with your team mates, and achieve things you perhaps never imagined you could, no matter if you’re victorious or not. You’ll never know, if you don’t try!

Naturally, looking ahead to Tour, the majority of the teams going to Nottingham will have their seedings bumped up by the departure of our international guests and the pick-up teams who can’t field enough players. Still, let’s hope that the results show a much more linear gradation in the standard of teams rather than such a stark divide between the upper and lower half of women’s Tour. The season has only just began and hopefully everyone now has a taste for battle! Especially for our two teams heading to worlds, they are out of the training ground, and are now well on their way to Italy. From here on out, it should be expected that the fight will only get harder and harder…. Relish it!
1. Iceni (=)
2. E6 (+2)
3. Nice Bristols Cupboom (-1)
4. Nice Bristols Cupbowl (+1)
5. Free Agents (+5)

6. Punt (+2)
7. SYC (-1)
8. YAKA (-5)
9. LLLeeds (-2)
10. ROBOT (-1)
11. Swift (=)
12.Brighton Pretty (+2)
13. Phoenix London (+3)
14. Blink (+1)
15.  Relentless (-2)
16.  Crown Jewells (-4)
17.  Dragon Knights 1 (=)
18.  JR (+3)
19.  Manchester (=)
20.  Lemmington Lemmings (-2)
21.  Dragon Knights 2 (+1)
22.  All Things Brighton Beautiful (+2)
23.  Devon (-3)
24.  Discie Chicks

The season’s off with a cracker of a tournament and can only get better. Stay tuned for more recaps as well as Tour 2 previews!