Nice Bristols find few holes in this Ozone

Nice Bristols, Womens, WUCC2018

Sean Colfer watched Nice Bristols in their tough first game against Atlanta Ozone.

Atlanta Ozone entered this game as the fourth overall seed, while Nice Bristols were 36th. The gulf in class between the teams, though, was nowhere near that large. Bristols had scouted Ozone through video of some of their games in the USA and had developed a game plan to deal with the strengths of their opponents. Plans are tougher to execute in practice than on paper, though, when your opponents are this talented.

WUCC 2018 Previews – SYC

SYC, Womens, WUCC Previews

Josh Coxon Kelly completes the Women’s WUCC previews with a look at SYC.

How did they get here?
Formed in 2010, SYC began challenging at a high level from their inception. They narrowly missed out on WUCC 2014 by losing a positioning game, and therefore the final remaining UK bid, to Nice Bristols at EUCF 2013.

Tour 3 Women’s preview – anyone’s to win

Previews, Uncategorized, Womens

Making her debut with the ShowGame, Alice Nicholas has previewed Women’s Tour 3 for us. Here’s her view.

With the top teams away representing the UK at the World Club Championships in Cincinnati, the rest of the Women’s Tour will be descending upon Birmingham this weekend where the Tour 3 crown is anyone’s for the taking. It has been an exciting season so far and this weekend will be no different.

WUCC 2018 previews – Iceni

Iceni, Womens, WUCC Previews

Our preview series moves on to Iceni, who might face a tough WUCC. Here’s what Sean Colfer thinks of their chances.

How did they get here?
Iceni have long been the strongest Women’s team in the UK. They’ve won 13 of the 14 Nationals titles since they were established, losing only in 2010 to an inspired LeedsLeedsLeeds team at the end of their run. They’ve also won seven European titles, though in the last couple of seasons they finished third (2016) and second (2017). Still pretty bloody good.

They were given a scare by SYC at Nationals last year as their London rivals ran off a string of points on D to take their pool match 12-15. The true mark of champions is dealing with adversity, though, and Iceni managed to regroup to win the final comfortably at 15-6. That qualified them for yet another WUCC, after they finished 11th in Lecco in 2014, 17th in Prague in 2010 and eighth in Perth in 2006.

Karina Cooper with the left against the Bristol zone at Tour 2. Photo by Sam Mouat.

How has this season been?
This has been a mixed season for the warriors. They won Tour 1 comfortably, with Reading providing the stiffest test during the final, which Iceni won 14-10. After that, they went to Tour 2 where Nice Bristols beat them comfortably twice, 12-5 in a windy pool match and 15-9 in the final. Coming off those losses, Iceni are seemingly in a position of weakness.

The team didn’t go to Windmill, but was at Tom’s Tourney earlier in the year. There they lost twice – to a stacked YAKA (France) team in the final, and also to a Netherlands under-20 team featuring many of the star players from Mixed European champions GRUT. Still, a second-place finish is an achievement against what was a strong field.

 

How do they play?
Iceni play a lot of horizontal stack on offence, trying to work the middle of the field with their strong cutters. They’ll switch up the offensive structure from time to time, but whatever the set they’ll space the field well. They leave the deep space open very well, but sometimes get a bit clogged on the open side at the expense of the break. One thing they have struggled with at times this year is maintaining precision and focus under pressure, with individual errors plaguing them at Tour 2 and in the Tom’s Tourney final. They have a lot of players who can win individual match ups and will look to run things through those familiar faces a lot in order to generate movement downfield.

Defensively, they play a lot of match D. They’re very good at maintaining aggressiveness on the around space and rarely allow their opponents an easy reset, but the inside channel has been an Achilles heel so far this season. There are some excellent athletes on the D line and they make the long game a challenge. When they do play zone they’re smart at cutting off space downfield, and they’ve also got a couple of players who can pull very well – it makes a big difference when setting a D further down the field than your opponents can.

 

Can you give me three players to watch?
Iceni have had a bit of changeover in the last couple of years so there’s some newer faces in the squad to look out for:

Sophie Wharton
If you’re looking for a player who’s going to get horizontal to make some plays, then Sophie is your athlete. She plays intense D and is willing to lay out to make catches, blocks or even just for fun. She’s a critical part of the D line and will take on some of the more difficult match ups when needed. She’s a solid offensive player with very good hands who can make slightly wayward throws look great with her athletic ability.

Sophie Wharton makes a catch against Bristol at Tour 2. Photo by Ed Hanton.

Qiao Yan Soh
Yan is a first-year Iceni player who played for GB under-24 Women in Perth earlier this year. She’s a really good all-around threat who has the throwing ability to open up options downfield. She’s had a good debut year for Iceni and will be looking to use her offensive versatility to make a difference for the team in Cincinnati.

Joyce Kwok
Joyce’s sister Karen has been one of Iceni’s key offensive downfield cutters for several years now, and Joyce has returned after playing in 2016. She’s one of their main handlers and will see a lot of the disc. She’s another who’s had a very good debut year and is one of the most reliable options that Iceni have. She keeps the disc moving and allows the rest of the offence to function around her, knitting everything together and making sure the team don’t get too static.

 

What do they say?

Captain Karina Cooper had a lot to say. First, she talked about the preparation that the team has done:

“Our theme all season has been thinking Ultimate. We scrapped teaching set patterns and instead have been drilling ‘smart’ Ultimate – looking at what your defender is giving you, identifying space on the pitch and the aggressive ways to utilise this space. It’s really exciting to see where we started back in January and compare it to the on pitch successes we had at Tours 1 & 2 and in some big games at Tom’s Tourney. People get caught up in the score lines when it comes to Iceni but we have had a really successful season thus far with the shift in how the team is engineering our offence and committing to playing team defence. We are in a good spot for WUCC.”

Next, she talked about the aims of the team in Cincinnati:

“At the beginning of the season we sat down with the team to talk about our goals for WUCC. One of the biggest aims our team committed themselves to was no regrets. We want to always be at our best and leave everything on the pitch. WUCC is going to be so conducive to this goal as we are one of many teams with a target on our back which means the pressure levels are more balanced than we tend to experience in a UK setting, where Iceni is the team everyone wants to beat. We can take the field without external expectation and set the tone afresh, which is really exciting to be able to do!”

Finally she wanted to give a shout out to some rivals:

“We are kicking off our first day at WUCC with a game against really inspiring and talented German team, Seagulls. Word around the campfire is they really committed themselves to high level development this season at a grassroots level. This mirrors how we approached Iceni this year. We wanted to develop local players and give them the experience of the world stage to help fuel their drive in the sport. So it’s very cool to be playing a team whose model you really believe in yourself. Then we finish the day against Fury. What a day! Iceni are mega-Fury fangirls – we have so much respect and admiration for the heart those ladies put into Ultimate. So what better way to celebrate that to go shoulder to shoulder with the sport’s top competitors.”

 

How are they going to do?
Iceni have had a difficult season, not least because they’ve lost a few players to unfortunate injuries and other circumstances. They go to WUCC with a couple of pick-ups to fill out the roster – albeit very good ones. They’ll be missing big players like Jenna Thomson and Alex Benedict, and off the back of a Tour 2 that provided more questions than answers. That said, this is a team with a wealth of experience and knowhow, as well as an outstanding level of athleticism across the squad.

They couldn’t really have a tougher top seed in their pool as they’ll be matching up with San Francisco Fury, a powerhouse of Women’s Ultimate for years. However, the rest of the pool is relatively friendly with Swampybarg (Japan), Seagulls (Germany) and Malafama (Mexico) all posing less of a challenge. If they do manage to finish second in their pool, they’d see Seattle Riot and either Iris (Canada) or FABulous (Switzerland) in the power pools. That’s a really tough group, and Iceni would almost certainly face a key game against a strong FAB side to see who finishes third and fourth. That would leave them with a cross against some quality teams, as the pools that would produce those players are groups of death.

Pool B features Boston Brute Squad, YAKA, Fusion (Canada) and Brilliance (Russia) who include not only Russia’s key player from their huge WCBU upset, Sasha Pustovaia, but former Iceni player and Eurostar Fran Scarampi. Pool H features 6ixers (Canada), UNO (Japan), Troubles (Poland) and Windmill winners Mainzelmadchen (Germany). Whoever finishes third and fourth in these groups will be going into a power pool, with the top two facing off against Iceni and FAB should their power pool go to seed. That’s brutal.

Given their struggles relative to their past results this season and their incredibly tough draw, I can’t see Iceni breaking into the top 16. I think they’ll make the top 20, though, and will do well in the consolation bracket. So, I’ll say that Iceni will finish 19th.

WUCC 2018 previews – Nice Bristols

Nice Bristols, Womens, WUCC Previews

Our WUCC 2018 previews begin with Sean Colfer analysing Nice Bristols, who take plenty of momentum with them across the pond.

How did they get here?
Bristols have been around since 2004, and have been one of the better teams in the country for pretty much that whole time. They went to Worlds in Lecco and performed pretty well, finishing 22nd overall and 10th best of the European teams. They have never really challenged for the top spot in the country like Leeds did before them, but have been incredibly consistent and brought through a host of younger players from which they are now reaping the benefits.

A Day in the Life of… Yanni Kappelmann

European Ultimate, Eurostars, Previews, Womens

Charlie Blair interviews a new joiner for this year’s Eurostars Tour

The first of my interviews with the new players joining Eurostars this year has been weeks in the making, with Yanni and I exchanging email after email trying to find a window to coordinate. It didn’t surprise me that this would be difficult, knowing how much preparation she must be doing for both Worlds and this summer’s tour. However, while rising for the 7:30am chat on a Wednesday morning made me realise that my own breakfast radio show is an infeasible reality, I was also left blushing in my PJs when Yanni told me she started her day at 5:15am!

Yanni was actually meant to be part of the Eurostars tour last year but sadly had to pull out at the last minute due to injury. To add irony to heartbreak, she recalls that “surgery was on the day my flight was meant to leave for America”. It was a devastating set back for the German national, now based in Bern. Having played for over a decade for both national teams and elite European clubs, Yanni had always dreamed of playing stateside.

“I’m so, so happy I got the chance to do it again because it was a dream come true. I always wanted to go to America and play there but could never do with studies and being self employed, I have no time to take out a few months. This was THE chance to go out there and play some of the best teams in the world.”

The significance of the Eurostars tour is not lost on Yanni at all, who notes the huge impact she has seen it have on both men and women after just its first year.

Yanni at work – Photo courtesy of Yanni Kappelmann

“I’m hearing lots of things,” she tells me. “Already I know people are excited to watch these games again. It’s always nice to go to tournaments and have people tell me how awesome this is. And the younger players really like to watch these games. On YouTube, you find so many really good men’s games, or US teams vs US teams, but not much of European players competing at this level. It’s great to have people coming up to you and being an idol, but I also hear men talking about it and appreciating women’s ultimate being pushed to grow and develop.”

With the women’s scene in Europe now more competitive than ever, we have been treated to some phenomenal games of late. Last weekend’s Windmill Windup was full of close games with only one or two points often making the difference. However, most significant for Yanni were last year’s beach finals, where Russia took a dramatic win over the USA: “It was the best final. Last year the men also said the women’s finals were better to watch. Even if the guys are more athletic and faster, if a game ends 15-7 it’s not as good as a game ending on universe point.”

Photo courtesy of Get Horizontal

So as we chat more about her desperately not wanting to let the Eurostars opportunity slip away, it becomes strikingly clear that Yanni is somebody who is absolutely defiant in the face of adversity and has utter faith in her determination and intelligence to overcome it. Having gone to the doctors with discomfort in her knee last year just before the tour was set to kick off, she learned that her meniscus had torn out of the bone completely and was told, “if you play now, you will never do sports again.” She was also advised to change her sport, now that she has had two major surgeries on the same knee in the last four years.

However, Yanni is an athlete through and through. She competed in high level gymnastics from an early age and was always utterly resistant to any other way of life. When back problems ended her gymnastics career at the tender age of thirteen, her doctor suggested she take up hobbies like music. Yanni jokingly recalls scoffing at even the idea. That was not her calling – it was sport. She’d already told her mum by first grade she would study sports. And from the age of sixteen she knew that frisbee was always more important that anything else.

Yanni has thus fiercely fought her way back to recovery. She says it’s fortunate that, being a sports scientist and personal trainer herself, she knows how to train. But I can appreciate how important (and astute) of her it was to recognise, at a young age, that she needed to empower herself to ensure she could always do the thing she loves. She can now directly use the knowledge and flexibility of her profession to facilitate her own personal goals as an athlete. Moreover, she has essentially rehabilitated herself in defiance of the doctor’s orders to come back from injury in order to participate in this years Eurostars.

“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but now it’s been two months since fully back on the field and it’s feeling good.”

Legend.

If Yanni’s determination off the field is anything to go by then she will undoubtedly be a huge asset to the Eurostars on the field.

There is a self-assuredness that comes across when I talk to Yanni about her game. And it’s well justified – she knows how much work she puts in. Having come from an individual sport she understands what a solid foundation this is for one’s mental game and has invested in strengthening her teammates on any team she is on.

A typical day would involve her coaching early morning, and mid-morning and afternoon trainings. The flexibility her job offers also allows her to fit in two of her own personal training sessions in a lunchtime and in the evening. Better still, she has cultivated a loving fanbase among her clients who are always willing to be flexible for her if ever she needs to go off to tournaments. So loving in fact, that not only do they sometimes come to watch her play, but some have taken up the sport themselves!

So when it comes to stepping on the field, Yanni knows she’s put in all the work that she possibly could have. She’s also got over a decade’s worth of high level play under her belt having hit the international scene way back in Vancouver 2008 with the German Mixed national team. Since then she has played every major international or European tournament for both club and country to date. This year, she is playing with and coaching the FAB squad heading for Cincinnati in the coming weeks.

She hopes that she will be able to flourish on the Eurostars squad just as much as she did with the German national team who took home the victory at Windmill in 2015. For Yanni, this was a team in which she could really hit her stride. “I could play what I play, and do what I could do best,” she recalls. This tournament showcased her prowess upfield, either as a deep receiver or coming back under to put up the hucks. For years, she has been a dominant force in the air on the European women’s scene and it is clear that Yanni’s confident reads of the disc are a result of her backing herself entirely: “I’m pretty motivated and I know how to fight, I will never give up on anything.”

So what more could you want from a fellow teammate? Oh yeah, maybe someone whose profession is to see that people can push way more than they ever think they can. An aerial boss and the ultimate sideline. Check. You’re gonna struggle to top Yanni’s expert hollering. Watch out ‘Murica.

UKU Women’s Tour 2 Preview

Previews, Womens

Hannah Pendlebury sets the stage for Women’s Tour 2 in Cardiff

When I cast my eyes over the list of teams confirmed for Cardiff this year, I was dismayed. After an excellent showing during what turned out to be a rather hot and sunny weekend in Nottingham, I saw just 18 teams entered. Confused, I thought to myself “what on earth has happened to 10 teams worth of players?”

As my mind furiously whirred away to craft progressively outlandish conspiracy theories involving motorway accidents on the M1 and/or dinosaurs, my eyes read on. Whilst I noted a few teams consolidating to a single squad for the journey across the Severn bridge (notably SYC, Red and Discie Chicks), four clubs had been excluded by virtue of missing the payment deadline. Gutting.

Photo courtesy of Claire Baker

Imagine then, my delight upon seeing a schedule of 21 teams! Clearly our benevolent overlords had granted a payment extension to those delinquent treasurers. Seriously though, thank you to UK Ultimate and the Cardiff TDs for being accommodating, you rock. 

But of course, I celebrated too soon. With a last minute drop out from The Brown women my hopes for a lay-in evaporated and we are now down to a 20 team schedule… Still though, 20 teams is better than 18! And whilst it is surprising not to see Exe Ladies at the closest event to home, Cardiff is a bit of a trek for other notable northern absentees Swift and LLLeeds. Although rumour has it that some women of the North will be making guest appearances this weekend- so keep your eyes peeled…

I think that’s quite enough about the teams that aren’t attending Tour 2. Instead let’s see who will be hoping to achieve glory on the fields of Llanrumney!

Pool L – Iceni (1), Nice Bristols (3), Brighton Women (6), Purple Cobras (8)

With Iceni and Nice Bristols starting to crank up the gears on the final stretch before WUCC I expect they will take no prisoners in pool play, just like in Nottingham. These two will both advance into the top four bracket on Sunday, unless something drastic happens.

However, looking to fight it out for 6th seed (on the live stream no less) will be Brighton and Purple Cobras. Cobras sailed through Nottingham undefeated to win the plate, so it will be most exciting to see them flex their muscles against the upper echelons of Women’s Tour. Brighton have a larger squad of fresher, slightly less experienced faces this time out and are missing talismanic handler Megan Hurst. But with players like Fran Scarampi and Marah Neal alongside their capable regular set, they may yet hold onto their seed.

Pool M – Reading 1 (2), SYC (4), SMOG (5), HYDRA 1 (7)

Reading women were the talk of the tournament in Nottingham. Snagging the 3rd seed during pool play with a 13-8 win over SYC 1, they went on to surmount SMOGlobetrotters and Nice Bristols on their way to a formidable final performance against Iceni. However, with SYC coming back together for Tour 2 it is going to be one heck of a fight for the top spot in this pool. SYC Coach James Burbidge was characteristically tight-lipped about his expectations for the weekend- though he did tip his hat to the sheer quality of the field this season. He also informed me that some of SYC’s star players are sitting this one out to rest ahead of Cincinnati… I’m gutted it’s not on the livestream schedule but if you find yourself at a loose end in Cardiff at midday, hustle over to pitch 11 and watch this game!

Photo courtesy of Sam Mouat

On the other end of this pool we have SMOG and HYDRA 1. Like SYC, SMOG have some absentees resting up ahead of Windmill next weekend and have consolidated to a single team. However, whereas SYC are all top-flight picks, SMOG’s roster will be aiming to nurture some future stars and this could leave them vulnerable to the big name teams. After a frustrating Tour 1 experience plagued by unforced errors, HYDRA 1 will certainly be looking to exploit any weaknesses and advance a little higher up bracket play this time around. With the ruthlessly speedy Amina Malik as well as Lucy Cinnamond and Amy Van-Zyl on board this time out, I for one rate their chances.

Pool N – Red (9), Reading Red (15), HYDRA 2 (17)

Red women had a truly sensational Saturday in Nottingham, conceding just 2 points in pool play and then advancing to the plate final on Sunday afternoon. Another outfit condensing to a single team for the journey to Wales, they will look to build on this performance. Although Reading will be hungry to score more than one this time around, I expect Red will again sail through this pool and come out with buckets of energy for the 8v9 on Sunday morning to see if they can’t snag themselves a top eight finish.

Unlike the numerous teams who have dropped down to a single squad, both Hydra and Reading have maintained multiple squads for Tour 2. Most impressive is of course Reading who again are fielding three teams by casting their net towards the south coast, though this time they are going for a more loaded approach with a second and third team split. This should therefore make the battle between Reading Red and HYDRA 2 a corker for sure! 

Pool P – Reading Black (10), Merseyside Women (16), Brixton (18)

Much like Reading 1, Reading Black also had an excellent time in Nottingham – climbing from 23rd to 12th seed. However, although Reading will have a slightly stronger squad in Cardiff as a true second team, Merseyside will be snapping at their heels after a wet and slippery defeat first game in Nottingham. Whilst sixth seeds may separate these teams, if fortune favours Merseyside anything could happen. Brixton will also be looking to throw their hat into the ring and build on the momentum they built at Tour 1 where they put up some solid scorelines against strong teams and an especially dominant performance against Red 2 in pool play. 

Pool Q – Chaos (11), Vurve (13), Discie Chicks (19)

Chaos had a challenging Saturday in Nottingham. Although they had the valuable experience of testing themselves against top teams from the very start of tour, they struggled to put points on the board. They also had a gutting loss to Purple Cobras on Sunday morning which relegated them to the 13-16 bracket. This Tour the schedule is a little more familiar to their starts last year, which may work out a little better and allow them to gain some momentum before they head into placement games. This will likely be reliant on how effectively they can focus against what might prove to be less challenging defences, though Vurve will certainly look to obstruct this after their successes back in Nottingham. Discie are also back together after plenty of lessons during their first outing of the season and it will be exciting to see what Lindsay Bradley and Fowzia Mahmood can bring out of their squad as a dynamic duo out in force on the same squad.

Pool R – Uprising (12), GBU20s (14), South Wales Storm (20)

Uprising were really unfortunate to have been in a pool with the underseeded Reading Black at Tour 1. Their inability to finish at the top meant they were locked out of the top 16 for the rest of the weekend. They took 17th with style, but will no doubt be hungry to climb up the rankings in Cardiff. They will face off against some familiar opponents having bested GBU20s on Sunday in Nottingham, as well as hoping to replicate their previous result in what is looking likely to be their 12v13 match up of Vurve. What I don’t see is them surmounting the 5v12, but you never know… We do love an upset here at The ShowGame! 

As for the other two teams in this pool, GBU20s feel like they could rise a few spots after some strong results in Nottingham – but the real excitement is South Wales Storm. By no means a new team to the Women’s Tour circuit they always end up being a bit of a wildcard and with the home advantage they could bring some real spice to the lower bracket! As always, we’ll have to wait and see.