UK Nationals (Division I) 2023: Mega Preview

Will the experienced favorites win again in the UK or will the next generation of talent step up?

Clapham and Alba compete for a high disc at UKU Nationals 2022. Photo by Andy Moss.

Tournament Profile

  • Location: Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
  • Dates: Saturday 26th of August – Sunday 27th of August
  • Weather: Saturday expects highs of 18 degrees with scattered showers between 2-3pm while Sunday looks to be slightly warmer at 20 degrees and partly cloudy will some spells of sunshine in the morning. Wind on Saturday look to be between 3-7mph and between 4-11mph on Sunday with gusts.
  • Teams: 12 in both the mixed and open division, 10 in the women’s division
  • Total Euros spots: 14 (although 4 have been claimed earlier in the season)
  • Tournament Schedule

Mixed

Will SMOG make history? Or will Reading knock them off? How will the contention for the Euros spots play out?

Format: Four pools of 3. Top 2 in pools advance to quarterfinals. Bottom of the pool sent to a consolation pool.

Euros spots: 3 (Reading and Lemmings already qualified)

Pool A

The mixed field looks a little different this year, with the top three teams experiencing big roster changes. SMOG as a club have brought in lots of young players this year, including seven U24s and other university age players. Many of SMOG’s roster have left to play in the single gender division and as a result, we have seen the likes of Ed Graham, Yasmin Gill and Ollie Tanner-Smith take on bigger roles. SMOG 1 will be looking to clutch the first ever fourth mixed title in a row, and they’ve still got longtime players Lucy Hyde, Tom Bennett and Tom Lees to win it.

SMOG 2 have also had a roster change this year, bringing in young talent, including Ben Tempest and Alex Niouma from U24s. They’ve had some flashes of brilliance throughout the season, including a 10-8 loss in a tight game against Deep Space at Tour and going 4-0 up on Lemmings at Regionals. However, they have struggled to maintain composure and run their red zone set reliably. If they can tighten up their structures and remain consistent, they may find themselves in the same place as four years ago – clutching a spot to Euros. First up, though is getting past their 1s in a rematch of pool play from Regionals.

Oxford are coming into Nationals after having almost qualified for Euros last year, losing out to Lemmings in the quarterfinal on universe and then in the game-to-go by two. From what we saw at mixed tour in Birmingham, however, it seems like this team may not hold the same strength as last year. If Oxford want to repeat success, they’ll need more than just their key players, such as new addition George Gayton and holdover Shona Carr to get them through a double SMOG pool.

Pool B

Looking to return as National champions after a long hiatus is Reading. Reading have added exceptional talent this year, including Becky Thompson, Molly Wedge and Alex Greer. Defensive star and World Games standout Rachel Naden also returns to make Reading a scarily good side. They won Elite Invite and Southern Regionals and look on track to winning UK Nationals. If they can remain consistent, they might just win Euros too. They have a win over SMOG at Elite Invite and have previously won against the Northern powerhouse during the season. Question is, can they finally get the win when it matters?

Thundering Herd is also returning to Nationals this year. They had a mixed bag back of results at tour in July, losing to both SMOG 2 and Deep Space in pool play before losing out to the GB Mixed Masters team. However, at regionals they had a huge comeback to beat Oxford1 and make it to the semifinals to confirm a top four finish. They’ll have to face regional rival Reading in pool play, however, and face off against an energised Nemesis squad. Herd will have to reduce the unforced errors we saw at tour to stop them from being sent to the consolation bracket.

Nemesis will return to Nationals for the second straight year. The Durham-based club is made up of the city’s university players and while many will underestimate this team’s youth and club inexperience, they have once again found themselves heading to Nottingham. Nemesis scared both SMOG 1 and SMOG 2 early in their pool play games at regionals before both squads began to pull away. They also dismantled Flyght Club and Birmingham Ultimate on their way to take the last spot, with great play by Jacob Holmes and Akane Ota. Don’t doubt this team just yet, they may just ruin someone’s day come Nationals.

Pool C

Deep Space have had a successful season so far, finishing second at Mixed Imperial, fourth at Elite Invite and second at Mixed tour last month. They showing at Windmill was similarly impressive, finishing the tournament with 6 wins and 2 losses and the talent they’ve picked up this year just seems unfair. Hannah Yorweth, Axel Ahmala and Dan Wilson are just some of the big names joining the mixed squad this year. Could it be Deep Space’s year to snatch that gold medal after second place finishes in 2019 and 2021?

BN1 out of Brighton qualifies for Nationals in only its second season. The team came third at regionals after going 3-1 in pool play before putting up 8 points against Reading and beating Thundering Herd in the 3 vs 4. While they may not be in the elite calibre of mixed teams just yet, especially given their 19th place finish at mixed tour in Birmingham, BN1come into Nationals as the overall 5th seed. However it won’t be surprising to see this team challenge for a spot at Euros. With Dom Burnham, formerly of Smash’D, booting up with this squad alongside former Clapham player Alex Cragg, expect BN1to push teams hard all weekend.

Flyght Mixed are bottom seed coming into Nationals, and they’ll be looking to use this event to get high quality reps against good teams. Flyght have transitioned more towards the mixed side from open this year, so it’s an added bonus that this squad managed to clutch the Nationals spot too. I can’t see this squad upsetting Deep Space or BN1 in pool play, but if they can give them good games, they can go home happy.

Pool D

One team making a statement this year is Leamington Lemmings who made it to the final of Northern Regionals this year. Lemmings have been building and building and an excellent second place finish at Spring Invite and a qualification spot to Euros may just be a sign that they’ll break into the final this year. With a plethora of U24s, such as Ryan Kapma and Rosie Coward among others, this athletic team will no doubt be ready to challenge the best. They’ll face Glasgow in a northern rematch but are looking confident to top the pool.

Glasgow have also been building this year and are looking to return to the Euros stage. A third place finish at Regionals must be a confidence boost going into Nationals and the squad have had some decent outings at mixed events. However, they’ll have to get through Lemmings in pool play, making their road to Euros a lot harder. If they can clean up some execution errors and grind on defense, they may be challenging for a ticket to EUCF.

Zoo made history by qualifying for Nationals for the first time. The London-based mixed team have attended tour events all year and it certainly paid off as they clinched the last spot at regionals to get their ticket to Nottingham. Zoo had some convincing results during pool play at regionals and they knocked off Purple Cobras on universe to qualify them for Nationals. It’s unlikely they’ll make a big statement in Nottingham, but with the results we’ve seen over the season, they’ll be looking to prove us all wrong.

Open

Can Clapham return to the top? Will Chevron finally take gold. Or will we see a surprise team in the championship game?

Format: Four pools of 3. Pool winners advance straight to semifinals. Winners of semi-finals advance to the final. Losers of semi-finals play in the 3-6 bracket against winners of the 5-8 games. Losers of 5-8 play winners of the 7-10. Winners of 7-10 play in a game-to-go in the 6v7 for the final EUCF bid. Losers of the 7-10 drop into the 9-12 bracket

Euros spots: 5 (Clapham already qualified)

Pool E

The results we have seen from the open teams competing at Nationals this year is perplexing. Number one seed and heavy favorites Clapham have arguably had their toughest season so far this year. With a roster full of new talent, including long time Team Canada handler Hugh Knapp, the team from London have struggled to click on offense and it’s led them to some hard losses this year. A 15-3 loss at Elite Invite was a shocking showing and they lost their semifinal at Windfarm in Nottingham, albeit this was on universe and without many of their key players. It’s undeniable that they’ll probably have an easy route to semis but the cracks in this team are showing. Their losses this season are proof that if you can punish Clapham’s errors, you can hang with them all game.

Pelt come in as the eight seed after not having attended UK Nationals since before COVID but have had some solid results this year coming into the weekend. They won the Siege of Limerick before coming an impressive sixth place, knocking off Smash’D, Lemmings and SMOG Open along the way. They’ll face off compatriots XVI in pool play and will have the lucky opportunity to play Clapham. Holding seed would give them either Bristol or Ranelagh in a tough quarters match up and they’ll be relying on players like Niall McCarthy, Dylan Ryan and Eoghan Lalor to make a statement in Nottingham. Dublin-based XVI are the ninth seed and will have a tough path to make top eight. Coming bottom in their pool would mean they couldn’t place higher than sixth but first we’ll have to see how their matchup against Pelt turns out. They do have Ireland Mixed players Ciaran Costello and Jack MacNamara, the latter of whom was a key player for the Ranelagh squad that won EUCF last season.

Pool F

Chevron Action Flash have also seen some turnover from last year. Chevron have brought some new young athletes in, including a number of GB U24 players like Cameron Weir and Toby Nicholas. Results from Elite Invite and London Invite show that Chevron can really play with the best, even if they can’t pull out the wins. They’ve got a decent shot at winning the pool, although Reading may give them a bit of trouble in the way. I’m sure reclaiming the regional title over Alba a few weeks ago has given them confidence that they can return to the final once again. But can they remain headstrong? Chevron have faced Clapham in the final many times and always come up short. If they want to win, they first need to believe they can do it.

Reading open will also be in Nottingham after a successful last season focusing as a mixed team2. GB Open’s Mark Bignal will be heading the squad in Nationals and they qualified after finishing fourth at Regionals. It will be interesting to see how the team perform given that many of their top-end players will be playing with Reading mixed. Still, a talented roster and athleticism will sure enough ruin someone’s day in Nottingham. Holding seed will likely give them Smash’D in quarters, a team they lost to against at Regionals. If they can play with flair, they might squeak their way into a top four appearance.

Kapow! return to the Nationals stage after a few years as they clinched the last qualifying spot by beating Devon in the game-to-go, 10-8. Kapow! have a faced a fairly successful season. They broke seed at Spring Startup to finish in the top five but then finished 13th at Windfarm with losses against Bristol and SMOG Open but close wins against Reading and Fire of London. They were upset by Reading at Regionals in pool play, but won key games on Sunday to get them their ticket to Nottingham. Kapow! can utilize their veteran players to pull out important wins, but they’ll need more than that if they want to advance to the bracket at Nationals.

Pool G

Alba have had a mixed bag of results this year, attending Tom’s Tourney, Windfarm and Windmill, although these have all been with depleted squads. Alba don’t look like they quite have the same fire from last year but there’s little doubt they’re not still a strong team with lots of energy. They came fifth at Windfarm, with just a loss against to the GB U24 Open team, and have notched wins against Pelt and Smash’D. A loss in the Regionals final may mean they’ll have to face Clapham in semis, but if they can repeat their 2021 performance against them with a bit more firepower, they may find themselves in the final for the second year in a row. If they have a full healthy squad on the weekend, that ups their chances even more.

Smash’D have kept most of their roster from last year, reinforcing it with a number of U24 players that competed in Nottingham. They attended Spring Invite and finished seventh at Windfarm, perhaps not the result they were looking for. They missed out on a second straight regional final after losing to Bristol 10-12 in the semis but finished third overall, showing they’re just on that brink of bursting onto the elite level. Smash’D had a great Nationals performance last year and qualified for Euros, so there’s no doubt they can do it all again. They have a loss against Alba this season but should confidently be able to handle The Brown.

Out of nowhere, The Brown, hailing all the way from up in Newcastle, will be attending Nationals after a hotly contested game-to-go at Regionals. The northern team played close with Chevron and have added Dylan Spiers and Josh Clarke, formerly from SMOG, to strengthen this up and coming team. It’s unclear how they will do, but this team are are undeniably fearless in taking on the best. No consolation pool means there’ll be another chance to claw back if they have the firepower on Sunday.

Pool H

It will be interesting to see how Ranelagh shapes up from last year’s thrilling Euros win over Clapham on universe point. However, a seventh place finish at Elite Invite was telling that perhaps Ranelagh may not be the same team that won gold in Italy last year. The squad heading to Nottingham is much younger than in recent years, and star handler Ferdia Rogers won’t be among them. There’s still plenty of talent on the team with Sam Murphy, MVP of the EUCF final, returning from a collarbone injury to full fitness and handlers Sam Corcoran and Dean McCreary still there to anchor both lines. Surprising everyone again might be a tall order but they’ve done it before.

Bristol might have had the most impressive season so far, winning Spring Startup and coming second at Windfarm after beating Clapham on universe point. They’ve had an influx of some great players this year, including Andrew Warnock, Adam Vaslet and Hari Tidswell and it’s certainly boosted their level. Bristol are really looking like a semis contender this year and if they can really utilize their athleticism, they may just book themselves a ticket to Euros. Bristol’s win over Clapham this year and confident performances at Tour means that they have every opportunity to upset top of the pool, Ranelagh.

12th seed goes to Dublin Frisbee 7s who are making their very first UK Nationals appearance. They’re coming off a second place finish at Siege of Limerick this year and combined with Gravity to form a mixed team at the All Ireland Mixed Ultimate Championships, where they also came second. DF7s have Cormac Bourke on the squad, coach of the senior Irish women’s team that competed at Euros, who will likely be an important cog in their team. They have a rough pool with Bristol and Ranelagh but they’ll be looking to pull off an upset on Sunday to break seed and avoid finishing last.

Women’s

Can LMU’s veteran experience carry them to another title? Do Iceni or Bristol return to the final? Do Spice continue their success this season at Nationals?

Format: Two pools of 5. Pool winners advance straight to semifinals. Second and third in pools play a pre-semi-final. Winners advance to semifinals, losers are sent to the 5-8 bracket. Fourth and fifth in play in a pre-semi final. Winners advance to the 5-8 bracket and losers are sent to the 9v10 final.

Euros spots: 4 (Gravity already qualified)

Pool J

The women’s division has seen constant shifts throughout the season, which makes Nationals an even more exciting scene. Top seed LMU have not attended much this year, with several players training and getting ready to compete on the Master’s stage later this year. While a lack of attendance at tour events may plague them at Nationals, LMU’s veteran players and chemistry will undoubtedly make them more than a challenge to stop. If they can play smart and consistent like they did last year, they might find themselves back in the championship game. Star addition Anna Ceschi makes them pretty intimidating.

Number three seed Bristol fell short at Nationals last year but did take bronze at EUCF in triumphant fashion. They are without Molly Wedge who has transferred to Reading mixed but still retain the handler strength of Carla Link and have added World Games alternate Tessa Hunt after she returned to the UK from travelling. Bristol have had some decent results this year, including third at Spring Invite and fifth at Elite Invite, while simultaneously running Bristol+, a development programme for the squad. Bristol have certainly spent more time this season focusing on building, but we should expect nothing less than a dominant performance by them. Lisa Hocking and Amelia Durbin will be key players for this squad as well as Link being a consistent offensive weapon.

Iceni are still looking like a solid finals calibre team. Despite losing Katie Flight and Becky Thompson, they’ve picked up players like Tessa Jalink and Fi Chang to strengthen the squad. Iceni started the year a little shaky, finishing seventh at Spring Invite, behind both SMOG and Reading women. However, they took second at Windfarm and 10th at Windmill before winning Reading August Edition. The win in Reading will feel like a real confidence boost going into Nationals as they defeated both Spice and Bristol. If Iceni can hold seed, they could find themselves fighting for a semis spot but causing un upset in pool play may just cement a top four finish. With 13 players competing for GB at Euros last month, there’s no doubt this team have the potential to return to the championship game once again.

Flame are the other Irish women’s team and they’ll probably be happy they don’t have to face their compatriots in Gravity in pool play. Flame usually compete as a mixed team but qualified for UK Nationals as a women’s team. They have several U24s who competed in Nottingham in July and that experience should certainly help them out this weekend. As the number eight seed, Flame will have to upset either LMU, Bristol or Iceni if they want to squeak into a semi-finals position. As a team that mainly competes as mixed, how will they fare in Nottingham? How much Sarah Melvin plays will be key, as she’s also coaching Ranelagh in Nottingham.

Chameleons will be attending Nationals as a new team created this year. They finished in last place at Spring Invite before breaking seed at Windfarm to finish 14th, an impressive result given the talent there. Chameleons are largely a non-geo team their lack of chemistry may cause some issues at Nationals. However, they will likely be looking at Nationals as a way to give female matching players a chance to play competitive ultimate and build the women’s scene. It’s unlikely they’ll win games but they may give teams like Flame, SCRAM and Horizon a good battle if they pick up enough talent.

Pool K

Gravity won the inaugural Spring Invite, including a 14-11 win over LMU in the final, qualifying them for EUCF. That victory means that many of the team missing this tournament for a wedding won’t damage their hopes in Europe too badly, but it’s unlikely they’ll challenge in Nottingham. Kate Daly and Clare Gilheany are among the players rostered here but Gravity will be missing more than half of their EUCF roster. They’ll be competitive as always but look for them to drop out of second seed at some point this weekend.

Like Bristol, SYC have also taken the opportunity to create a development squad to boost the level of young female-matching talent in the UK. They sent two teams to Spring Invite and have attended a number of events over the season, including Windfarm, Windmill and Vienna Spring Break, so there’s no doubt there’s been invaluable experienced gained. Rupal Ghelani returns for another year and remains as one of the best players in the division. They still have Eyan Sham and Caitlin Wilson too, who will undoubtedly making big plays at Nationals. If SYC can remain consistent, they could reach the top four for the third year in a row.

Coming in as a dangerous six seed is Spice from the Midlands region that are looking to storm the Nationals stage. Spice’s roster has seen some incredible accomplishments this year. They boasted the most number of U24 players in the women’s division with nine. Kate and Heather Gibson and Amy Van Zyl were absolute stalwarts for the GB Women D-line that took second place at Euros. We should also mention they got themselves a top eight finish at Windmill as the highest placing women’s team from the UK. Spice have all the talent, the fire and the desire to do it. The question is, can they? Spice will need to be able to execute the fundamentals right consistently to get them to the semis for the first time. They’ve already bagged wins over SYC and Bristol so there’s no doubt they can’t do it. Spice are playing their best ultimate this year and I predict they’ll wind up in the top four – or higher.

SCRAM have lost a lot of talent this year and they’ll be looking at the likes of Katie Trim, Alexandra Hiley and Zoe Todd to keep the offense flowing. Trim was exceptional for the U24 women’s team this year, Hiley won fourth with GB Women’s at EUIC and Todd holds years of Team Canada experience. They’ve also added Amanda Chan, formerly of SMOG and Glasgow, to the mix as well as Grace Sisel, a University of Saint Andrews product. SCRAM’s results have been mediocre, coming ninth at Spring Invite and attending Disc Days Cologne, but they haven’t been able to break into that elite tier. The large turnover from last year is likely a factor in this and they are currently 0-3 against their pool, with losses to Gravity, Spice and Horizon. If they can clean up their errors, they could challenge for a top six finish.

An exciting team to watch out for this weekend is Horizon who will be looking to startle the women’s division this year. A team formed to address the gap in the women’s ultimate scene in Yorkshire, Horizon return for round two after surprising many teams at Nationals last year. Katie Allen, formerly of GB U24 mixed headlines the squad and Horizon have added more than just a new kit to the team this year. SMOG Rising’s Annie Glasspool and Heather Williams have joined the team and added strength to the handling core. Avril Hunter, who was an offensive standout for GB Women at EUC adds firepower to both the offense and defense. Ellen Johnson, who picked up the sport just last year, has become an unstoppable downfield force, not to mention her achievement of making the GB Women’s Beach squad. Horizon have showed all year that while they might not be at the top of the Nationals field this year, they’re certainly not at the bottom. They had an incredible score against GB Women’s Masters at Windfarm and already have a win over SCRAM and SYC’s development squad. Horizon could seriously contend for a top six finish, but they’ll have to clean up some of their offense before they take on the likes of Gravity and Spice.

 


  1. They came from 2-8 down to win 10-8. 

  2. Although the open team has made Nationals several times before. 

  1. Felix Soedira
    Felix Soedira

    Felix Soedira is a postgraduate student based in Manchester. He started playing in Dubai in 2014 at secondary school and at 15, began playing with DUBS, an adult mixed team. After completing sixth form, he moved over to the UK to attend university. He now plays for the University of Manchester, Manchester Ultimate and SMOG. You can follow him on Instagram (@felixsoedira) or Twitter (felix_soedira).

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