European Ultimate Championships: Women’s Preview

The European Ultimate Championships are here! Women's has a heavy favorite but a strong field behind them

Great Britain score in the London Invite final. Photo by Andy Moss.

The European Ultimate Championships comes around every four years, and is a chance for European nations to stake their claim as the best on the continent. This edition is being held in Limerick, Ireland, and as such promises to have weather conditions acting as an equalizer all week.

Tournament Profile

Date: July 15 – 22
Location: Limerick, Ireland
Schedule: Live schedule here
Weather: Wet with dry spells, temperatures in high teens C/high 60s F and medium winds
How to watch: Ulti.TV YouTube channel

This has been the only division with some variance in recent years. Scandinavia dominated in the early years of the tournament, but the last three have all been won by different teams; Germany in 2011, Finland in 2015 and Ireland in 2019. Switzerland have lost the last two finals, and Great Britain had a run of four consecutive finals defeats before that. This is the only division that Great Britain has never won.

It seems fitting to start with the favorites. Germany won Windmill with a perfect 8-0 record, defeating France in the final. This German team is perhaps the strongest favourite at the whole event. The roster is deep, talented, experienced and features the kind of talismans that help teams win titles. Charlotte Schall was excellent at WU24, Kyoko Binnewies has long been an outstanding handler, and Anna Gerner is an all-around wonder. Gerner was brilliant at the World Games last year and has carried that into this season. While she is among the best in the world as a handler, it’s in the mid area that she seems to excel. This German team doesn’t need her handling all the time, she can find space further up the field to cause chaos and get into power positions. This team will surely make semis, and has a very good chance to do even better than that. Then again, they were expected to contend in 2019 and finished fifth after a surprising universe point loss to Italy in quarters.

France will be a stern opponent. The French club scene has been dominated by YAKA, and many of the top players on this roster come from the Noisy-le-Sec club. Aline Mondiot, Chloe Vallet and Anne Le Borgne provide experience and nous, but there are some exciting young players and others from other clubs. Amine Babikian might already have sewn up Breakout Player of the Year with her performances so far this year, and Maelle Barentin has been impressive for mixed team Sesquidistus. If the French can take anything from their YAKA contingent, there would be few things better than the knack YAKA has developed of just grinding out wins. Whether small rosters, terrible conditions, injuries or playing against seemingly more in form teams, YAKA has been able to find ways to win for the past few years against almost everyone. It would be a handy thing to bring to EUC.

Great Britain comes in with a team that looks set to improve on the disappointment of 2019. The team finished 11th, losing close games to Switzerland and Italy in power pools to send them out of the bracket. That followed 2015 where a close loss to Italy in quarters kept them out of the semis despite a power pool win over eventual champs Finland. A few cycles of underperformance might have been cause for concern, but this teams looks well set to have a bounce back. Captains Hannah Brew1 and Rachel Naden are two of the best female matching players in the country, with Brew a brilliant thrower and Naden an equally brilliant cutter. The additions of Naden’s World Games teammates Molly Wedge and Karen Kwok, alongside World Games training squad2 Leila Denniston means that the team has two elite athletes on each of its lines. There’s also a very solid level of athleticism and throwing in the rest of the roster, with young players like Hannah Yorweth and Heather Gibson seemingly ready to compete on this higher stage. While there’s no experience of succeeding in the women’s division at EUC, Kwok comes in with a gold medal in the mixed division last time out, many of these players have competed with their clubs in Europe or at WUCC and the team won Tom’s Tourney earlier in the season. It’s unusual to see Great Britain as an underdog, but this team could be in that spot here.

These teams seem to be slightly ahead of the others, but the next two are in essentially opposite positions. The Czech Republic is a young group that has played lots of ultimate this season, while Italy is largely unknown coming into the tournament.

Italy is without two of the best players to pull on the jersey in recent years: Laura Farolfi and Anna Ceschi. Missing two players of such importance, not only in their obvious talent but also their leadership qualities and tactical knowhow, will be a blow to their chances of winning. Still, Irene and Sofia Scazzieri are both great players, as are Gaia Pancotti and Francesca Sorrenti. The roster might not have some recognisable names but, with the strength of Italian women’s ultimate over the last few years, will have plenty of talent.

The Czechs are another young group but they’ve shown this season that when things click, they’re very hard to stop. Radmila Hadlačová is an excellent thrower that will be able to keep the offense moving, and they have a cadre of defensive cutters that can slow down any offense. One of last year’s breakout players, Kristýna Tlustá, could be ready to show her abilities on an even bigger stage. While she’s not physically imposing like some of the best cutters around, her speed and shiftiness in and out of cuts make her largely impossible to defend in small spaces.

The Netherlands are another team with the talent to make semis, but have had a slightly disjointed build up. The talent on the team is obvious: Floor Keulartz leads the way but several of her GRUT teammates like Suzanne Slob and Anne Minnaard are on the team as well, as are YAKA handler Paula Baas and Dutch indoors star Justine van der Meluen. In terms of talent, they look to have enough to challenge most teams at the tournament. Their build up has included some disappointing results at Tom’s, though, and they aren’t coming into the tournament in the best form. That said, the format in the women’s division will see two pool stages before power pools and the Dutch could benefit from that more than anyone. Time to work out any issues, find things that work and establish chemistry in tough conditions could prove invaluable.

The teams from Switzerland, which has reached two finals in a row and has some talented players, and from Belgium, which features extremely talented players like Maria Castillo, Esther Vanwijk and Slike Delafortrie, could be teams to watch for quarterfinals spots but it would be a surprise if they were able to make semis. Ireland, too, feature some players from the 2019 run to the title but with so much talent focusing on mixed it might be a step too far for the bracket.

This division could be a procession to glory for Germany. They certainly have the talent for it. There is a large group of chasing teams that could make things interesting, though, and with the conditions as they are all it needs is one team to have a hot streak and the whole bracket could be sent into chaos.

  1. On the roster as Hannah Whitehead, her married name. 

  2. And New York Xist squad member. 

  1. Sean Colfer
    Sean Colfer

    Sean Colfer is based in London. He’s played for teams across the UK since 2006 and has been writing about and commentating on ultimate since 2010. Follow him on Twitter @seancolfer, or follow @ShowGameUlti on Instagram for more on UK and Irish ultimate.


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