September 14, 2021 by Felix Soedira in News with 0 comments
Disclosure: The author plays for the University of Manchester.
As the morning mist seeped into the fields on a Saturday morning in August, so did twenty-five teams looking for a chance to be claimed the unofficial UK university champions. And while teams across the country were only able to train since April, the level of fitness and skill looked like it had barely skipped a beat. Massive credit must be given to Noah Brinkworth, who organized the entire tournament, working with Aston University to host the event.
Now, get ready for a hefty recap of the UK’s first University ultimate tournament in 18 months.
Sheffield’s win is no real shock
It comes with little surprise that #2 seed Sheffield took down the title. Littered with SMOG players like Samantha Choo, Ben Jenkins, and former Traffic and Team Canada powerhouse Helen Thompson, Sheffield hucked and fought their way to the final. It didn’t come without challenges, however. They dropped a pool play game to a very strong Bristol team and only won their prequarter against Nottingham by two, but it didn’t hamper their solid performance that ultimately won them gold. In the championship game, they faced up against #3 seed Birmingham; while the game was close the entire time, it was Sheffield that controlled the match throughout. Great defensive play from Kirsty Lang and George Lockhart-Wright and excellent execution of fundamentals, particularly in their red zone set, rendered them too resilient for UBU and they took home gold, 11-8.
While Birmingham came up just short of the win, they had a convincing performance all weekend. They stomped through pool play, with only an early scare from LAMP, before getting close but decisive wins over Warwick and Bath in the quarters and semis, respectively. Birmingham’s success was a team effort, and it was their semi-final against Bath that really showcased their play. They broke the mark consistently and capitalized on every lofty throw with smart help defense. Alex Edwards, Rosie Bailey, and Róisín Lynch were standouts in UBU’s semi-final win. Edwards had countless layouts and Lynch got a decisive handblock on GB U24’s Amy Van Zyl that fired up the Birmingham sideline. UBU is definitely a team that is likely to go far both on the indoors and outdoors scene this upcoming season.
#1 seed Nottingham fails to make the bracket
We can’t give too much slack here. Seedings were determined by the teams themselves and there was always going to be upsets regardless. But Nottingham barely made it out of their pool, finishing third, upset by both York and Leeds. They could not advance further than the prequarter stage after a close loss, though this was against eventual winners, Sheffield. This was not to say their play was of low quality. Diving bids, crossfield shots, and big hucks epitomized Nottingham and they were one of the most exciting teams to watch on the weekend. Exceptional work from Maya Israel (GB U24), Joel Miller (GB Euros 2019) and George Gayton helped the midlands squad bounce back to win every game past their prequarter loss to take 9th.
Bristol goes undefeated but not without drama
If we look solely at Bristol’s 8-0 record, they should have won Nationals. They beat the gold medallists, Sheffield, and played incredible fast paced offense in all their games. And while they topped their pool and earned the bye into the quarterfinals, Sunday did not pose the same great success. A forfeit for having extra female pickups meant that they could not progress further than the quarterfinals, despite winning their game. What made this so heart-breaking? Their quarterfinal was against regional rival, Bath, a team that has always beaten Bristol on universe or by two. But the west country team should raise their heads high as they went 8-0 to take 5th place, with solid performances by Ben Lippold, Nat Oldfield and Luke Annis. With a perfect record, there is no doubt they will be dangerous in the series this year.
Bath, on the other hand, was a team highly expected to win but a surprising loss to Birmingham in the semi-finals forced them to play for third. Bath had played strongly all weekend, going 4-1 in pool play. The team had picture perfect hucks and utilized all their women effectively on both sides of the disc. But even with the heroics of Chevron’s Andrew Sweetnam and Spice’s Amy Van Zyl, sloppy execution and fatigue rattled them in their semi-final, and they couldn’t reach the championship game. They did come back to beat Surrey on universe point with scrappy play from Kristie To and Pieter Keenan in a rematch from pool play to secure a podium finish.
Solid showing by Surrey earns them fourth
While Surrey is known for being a solid team, they put everyone on notice on the weekend, ready to prove they could compete with the best. They went to seed in pool play, pushing Birmingham in the process through the likes of GB U24’s Jonah Varney, Harsh Chudasama, and Camilla Spearing. But their big win came in their highly anticipated quarterfinal against Leeds to drive them through to the semis. Surrey swung and hucked the disc until they exhausted their Northern opponent but could not keep up the momentum in their semi-final, losing that and the 3rd place game. But Surrey should be proud for their strong showing and toughness in all their games.
Keep your eye out for this Southern team, for they are likely to do damage in the University series this year.
Success for merged team, LAMP
For one particular team, there was some debate about how their performance would play out. While the idea of merged team poses little success, the Legendary Aberystwyth Manchester Partnership proved everyone wrong in their opening game against UWE, winning 9-1. Chemistry didn’t seem to be too much of an issue, and they broke seed to finish third in their pool to place them in contention for the championship bracket. Caitlin Kyle and Joe Basnett sliced through zones for downfield threats like Nathan Wilde (GB U20) and Lenka Michalkova (Team Slovakia U20). After losing four players on the Sunday, LAMP couldn’t quite muster the wins against York and Oxford to take them to the 9th place game but big plays by Derek Farnham and Amy Weston kept them fighting for every point. Credit to LAMP for testing finalists Birmingham in pool play and finishing the tournament in an impressive 12th place.
Unfortunate finishes for Leeds and Brighton
When Leeds and Sussex upset #1 seeds Nottingham and Bath in their respective pools to swipe the top spot, it looked like they would shake up the podium. Leeds had no real close games except for their win against Nottingham, 9-7. Sussex had a similar story, with blowout wins against Bangor and Lancaster and even beating Bath by three. It seemed as if these teams would end up in the final.
But enter Sunday and the tide turned in a snap. In quarters, Leeds lost 7-5 to Surrey and Sussex fell to Sheffield 10-7. The two teams ended up playing each other, with Sussex coming out on top, 9-5. Felix Shardlow’s team could not pull out the win against Bristol, though, losing 7-2, finishing the tournament in 6th place. Leeds faced an almost identical loss against Warwick Bears, 8-2, to place 8th. Despite the disappointing Sunday, both teams ended up in the top 10 and should be pleased with their final results, despite the quarterfinal losses.
- UCL was another team expected to advance into the bracket, but they couldn’t remain consistent. The Silverbacks had some sparks of brilliance and speed but relied too heavily on Alex Thacker, perhaps the fastest woman at the tournament. Nonetheless, too many losses during pool play kept them out of contention and Thacker was out mid Sunday, leaving UCL in 16th place.
- Despite Newcastle’s history of a strong mixed scene, they could not match their previous results this time. No Kate Gibson (GB U20 & U24) present and fourth place in pool play meant they missed out on bracket play. They still played well throughout, pushing Bath and winning their 13th place game against Bangor in a rematch from pool play. SMOG players Emily Atkinson and James Blount were key for the Pies on the weekend.
- York had a strong showing on the weekend, going 6-4 to squeeze into the top 10 in the UK. Reliable performances from Serena Yeung, Fern Harvey, and Robert Munday kept York’s offense flowing when they were struggling to gain momentum downfield. They finished third in their pool and had important wins against Newcastle and LAMP to reach a very respectable 10th place.
- Edinburgh’s Ro Sham Bo Ultimate was the only Scottish team to compete at Not University Mixed Nationals. The team suffered some tough losses in pool play but won some key matchups on the Sunday to clutch 15th place. It would have been interesting to see how usual Scottish suspects, Glasgow and Strathclyde, would have shaken up the results.
- Lancaster Fish went almost winless in pool play but completely turned it around on Sunday with big wins over UBU 2, Durham and UWE. Maybe the Fish are more suited to indoors where they usually fair better against the competition.
All games can be found on HiveUltimate on YouTube.