WUCC 2014 Women’s Division Preview: Iceni

Lauren Bryant starts off the Women’s Division WUCC Previews with National and European Champions Iceni.

Iceni trying to close the gap at the US Open. Photo courtesy of CMBTcreative.


Squad

Alex Benedict
Alex Meixner
Ange Wilkinson
Becci Haigh
Caroline Nicholls
Fiona Kwan
Fran Scarampi
Issy Burke
Jackie Verrals
Jenna Thompson
Jo Rowbury
Joey Holmes
Kaleigh Maietta
Lauren Bryant
Lily Huang
Liza Bowen
Mallory Meiser
Mara Alperin
Meryl Kusyk
Nici Prien
Rachel Kelly
Rowan Pearson
Sonia Komenda


About Iceni
Iceni are the UK’s most successful women’s team, consistently dominating the domestic scene and medalling on the European circuit, winning the last three national and European championships.

London based, the team practices together twice weekly and has been preparing for WUCC since selection in February. Iceni are looking to build on their success from previous years and challenge the very best in the world.


Captains Ange Wilkinson and Sonia Komenda bring experience, talent and passion to the team. Ange is a long-time Iceni player, with this being her third consecutive year co-captaining the team. Sonia was new to the team last year, a Canadian import, but quickly established herself a big part of the club both on and off pitch. The captains are supported this year by Paul “Voodoo” Waite, a former Clapham and GB Mixed player who has committed his season to coaching Iceni, bringing his tactical expertise and ability to identify strengths and talents to the team management.

Iceni have a lot of strengths as a team, a significant one is the depth of their roster. All 23 players are rounded and have big-game experience and the level of trust across the team is high. With six hard months of preparation, Iceni are looking to utilise their offensive structures, but are confident in playing smart, organic ultimate to bring out the very best in their players. Athletic and skilled, expect a mixture of slick break-side play and a fiery long game.

Players to watch
#2 Nici Prien – Huge receiver with perfect timing, but dangerous under and on defence.
#3 Lily Huang – Smart, tenacious handler with some of the best break-throws, frustrating to guard.
#9 Jackie Verralls – Clever and quick cutter, as effective under as long with great timing and throws.
#13 Ange Wilkinson – Aggressive initiating cuts, powerful hucks and huge pulls.
#15 Sonia Komenda – Deadly with the disc in hand and a smart cutter, but most dangerous on defence.
#22 Jenna Thomson – A handler with consistent, neat break throws, but don’t be shocked when she flies past you for the block or the score.
#32 Fran Scarampi – Does nothing by halves – big cuts, big hucks, big grabs, big presence.

Predictions 
Iceni has a team goal of making the quarter finals. An appearance at US Open in early July imbued them with a lot of confidence that they are capable of keeping up with the big dogs from the US. If they play to their strengths, they could challenge the semi-finalists.

Nice Bristols up next!!

WUCC 2014 Open Division Preview: Chevron Action Flash

Sean Colfer gives us his second Open division WUCC team preview with Chevron Action Flash.

Harry Slinger-Thompson making a high bid over Zimmer at Tour 3. Photo courtesy of Christine Rushworth.

Squad

Mark Penny (C)
Iain Thackrah
Josh Kyme
Steve Dixon
James Jackson
William Cornelius
Jake Aspin
Sam Bowen
Rhys Evans
Richard Coward
Ben Powlay
Ben Parsons
Harry Slinger-Thompson
Mark Davin
Mark Simpson
Ben Weddell
James Mead
Matt Beavan
James Stanley
Seb Allen
Matt McLoughlin
Thomas Cartwright
Dec Cartwright


About the Team

Chevron have long been established as the UK’s second best team, finishing second every year between their 2008 Tour win and this season, with fellow WUCC team EMO edging them into third. Their philosophy hasn’t changed for an even longer time; take in the best young players that fit into their existing ethos and develop them into top level competitors. The team was established in Manchester, took in players from other areas in the North West, added a second player base around Bristol and nowadays also train in the Midlands. They have become a team that attracts players from all over the country and have a strong, deep roster with quality all over both lines.

The offence runs a short line, featuring players with varied but complementary skill sets. GB under-23 players Josh Kyme and James Mead are important pieces as handlers, as are fellow under-23 Ben Parsons and GB Mixed player Richard Coward as cutters. Their strength is versatility; all of the players are as comfortable and capable on the disc as they are cutting, and their athletic and viable deep options also open the field for their shorter swinging game.

Defensive options are equally as varied. Matt Beavan, coach and veteran of GB Open and World Games teams, and Mark Penny, D line captain and GB Open player, bring the experience to an otherwise young line, though many of the players have experienced week long tournaments in the Junior and under-23 ranks – Sam Bowen, Jake Aspin and Tom Cartwright, as well as new studs Seb Allen and Dec Cartwright for example. They have a healthy rotation of highly athletic, physical defenders and are usually good for three or four highlight blocks a game, whether from layout bids or big aerial plays.

Coaching and Playing Style
Beavan has brought his extensive playing and coaching experience to the squad as coach this season. The team has split trainings between Manchester, Bristol and Leicester this season to ease the travelling load on players, and there are also weekly sessions in both Bristol and Manchester to accommodate as many of the squad as possible. The leaders of the team – Beavan, Penny and O line captain Iain Thackrah – all have experience as part of international teams and will be vital in their WUCC campaign.

Their offensive system is difficult to define in specific terms, as they switch offensive sets from point to point and sometimes even during points – they use two and three handlers, as well as vert, horizontal and split stack sets. Instead, the offence is predicated on seemingly constant movement. Often all six players not in possession are moving at the same time, making the play incredibly hard to predict and therefore to defend.

Defensively, Chevron mix things up a lot. Their base is man, which fits well with their athleticism and will generate a healthy amount of blocks. However they are also capable of putting on tight zone and are well drilled with their transitions, which they will use depending on what the opposition is showing them. Their well-rounded game on both sides of the disc makes them a tough team to game plan for, which should be a strength in a longer tournament with unfamiliar competition such as WUCC.

Expected Finishing Place
With the usual qualifier that these predictions are very tough, Chevron should be able to solidify themselves as a top European team at WUCC. They have good experience of playing against European teams which will be an important factor at a tournament that demands more from a physical and especially from a mental perspective than any Tour event – playing only twice a day over a week is far different to packing in several games in a weekend. While it seems unlikely they can have the same semi-final aspirations as Clapham, they will certainly be a tough match up in power pools and, given a good draw, could be a threat to the top 10. After missing out on the top 8 in sudden death in 2010, they will surely be hungry to climb into this elite bracket. With some seriously strong competition heading to Lecco, the most likely finishing position is somewhere around their seed, which is 12th, with somewhere in the top 20 a safe bet. 

Predicted finish: 13th.

Stay tuned! More to come…

WUCC 2014 Open Division Preview: East Midlands Open

Sean Colfer starts off our WUCC previews with the team taking the third Open Division seeding: East Midlands Open.

Dave Povey gets high over Chevron at Tour 2. Photo courtesy of Graham Bailey.

Squad
Rob Coddington (C)
James Bauld
Dave Povey
Matt Stead
Lloyd Cheesman
Andy Tate
Dan Furnell
Rich Gale
Tom Fox
Sion Scone
Joe Wynder
Nathan Trickey
Chris White
Ed Walters
James Lavendar
Tom Tongue
James Wolverson
Luke Chambers
Ben Poole
Rollo Sax Dixon
Christian Zamore
Dom Norton
Phil Brunson
Robbie Tink
Dan Kemp
Andy Hillman
Kris Kerswell
About the Team

The EMO squad heading to Lecco features many of the players who have played a huge part in establishing the club in their top three spot in the UK this season. After last season’s breakthrough at Tour, followed by a disappointing Nationals, the aim for everyone involved with the club was to make sure that the hard-earned spot at WUCC wasn’t wasted. The offensive system has been tweaked to favour the personnel on the roster, and the defensive line has benefitted from the addition of more handling options alongside the existing height and athleticism. The results so far have been excellent, with EMO finishing as the second best UK club team in both Tours 1 and 2 (behind Clapham’s O and D lines), and an overall second place finish in the Tour rankings.

In terms of specific personnel, the team will be captained by GB under-23 mixed player Rob Coddington, who will play on an offensive line featuring former GB World Games players Dan ‘Colonel’ Furnell and Rich Gale, as well as veteran handlers and athletic cutters like James Bauld (also GB under-23 mixed). The loss of ex-GB player and World Games coach Sion ‘Brummie’ Scone to an ankle injury at Tour 1 will hurt, but there looks to be sufficient depth in the squad to absorb the hit.

The defensive line is a mixed bag of speed, size and skill with enough options to match up against a wide variety of offenses. Once they get the blocks they want, there are a variety of stand-out deep threats and also enough players comfortable with keeping the offence moving that the handling duties will be spread across the line. The defence has been a real strength so far this season, shutting down Chevron in the third place game at Tour 2 and at times dominating every non-Clapham team in the UK so far.

Coaching and Playing Style

Second year coach Joe Wynder has emphasised skills as well as the pre-requisite athletic ability for EMO this season. The result is that every member of the squad is capable of breaking forces confidently and completing accurate lead passes to deep cutters. When the EMO offence is flowing as it can, the team is able to play both a short game, swinging the disc across the field and initiating handler movements, and a long game, making huge gains in a hurry.

Defensively, the team will be largely looking to use their athletic ability to grind out turns with hard man defence, but is capable of mixing in some zones and poach-based looks to keep offences honest. The defensive line is often more keen to play vertically and their speed and ability to complete deep throws makes it a sound strategy a lot of the time. The team has been training together often, with weekly trainings as well as monthly weekend sessions forming the main part of the training plan. Fitness plans and throwing programmes have also been an important part of the build up to WUCC, led primarily by fitness coach and D-line captain Nathan Trickey.
Expected Finishing Place

It is of course tough to predict how this young team will fare as there is really no way of knowing how strong the rest of the field is until play begins in Lecco. The American, Canadian and Japanese teams will be formidable and there will be plenty of strength present in teams coming from outside of the top nations . Despite some doubts about how much the team deserved the spot after the disappointing seventh place finish at Nationals, they have certainly proved they belong at the top of the Tour this season.

The squad is certainly capable of making power pools if things click early and the offence is able to play their game. A top 20 finish would represent an excellent return given the relative inexperience of the squad at international level but the team could well be capable of more than that if they hit form and a bit of luck.

Predicted finish: 25th.



Best of luck from tSG to the Midlands boys! Keep an eye out for more team previews…