2011 University Open Outdoor Nationals Preview

University Open Outdoor Nationals are fast approaching. With BUCS points again up for grabs in Sheffield, Tim Sanders organised previews of the teams vying for the title from each region.

 

North 1. Halcyon (Manchester) 2. Jedi (Leeds) 3. Too Many Pies (Newcastle) Overview Northern regionals were held in Bangor, where heavy rain in the week leading up to regionals meant that three of the four pitches deteriorated over the weekend, resulting in many heavy-legged cutters. The weather remained calm and sunny throughout the tournament, which benefitted strong indoor teams that relied on overheads and teams with strong long games. Perhaps, had there been more wind, DUF and a much improved Liverpool team would have had a better chance of qualification. Halcyon (Manchester) Captains: Avi Walerius, Tom Gull, Sam Velody, Tom Coxon, Jake Aspin Halcyon’s leading players, including some ex GB juniors, spent their summer playing Tour with strong club sides Chevron Action Flash and LLLeeds. Despite losing last year’s influential captain Dale Walker, Halcyon have continued the success achieved under his leadership by winning northern open indoor regionals again and finishing third at open indoor nationals. Halcyon took northern outdoor regionals as an opportunity to blood freshers in the first team, but started the tournament slowly. Although they beat Fish comfortably, conceding six points was a surprise and rumours were flying around that the pre-tournament favourites were not as strong as expected (though it later transpired that this performance may have been due to the effects of a late night). However, they strolled through the rest of their pool and their semi final against Phat ‘eds. In a repeat of last year’s final, Halcyon and Jedi competed for the title of regional champions. After a close start, Halcyon edged ahead and never looked like giving up their lead, running out 9-6 victors. Having been two points up in their quarter final at nationals in the past two years only to falter and end up finishing seventh, Halcyon aim to finally break into the top four and are looking to win the tournament. Although Halcyon’s captains believe they are a stronger team than ever, whether they will be able to achieve their aim without the injured Tom Gull remains to be seen. Jedi (Leeds) Captain: Oliver ‘Skipp’ Scoppie Jedi rose to prominence last year by qualifying for division 1 in both indoor and outdoor national tournaments. This year they backed up their qualification for division 1 indoors with an eighth place finish which earned them BUCS points. Jedi took a small squad of nine to outdoor regionals which showed impressive fitness and skill to finish second. Their final group game against DUF presented Jedi’s only challenge on Saturday. After a close start Jedi pulled away and won 11-5. Jedi faced Pies on Sunday morning in what is becoming the perennial Sunday morning 2-3 semi final fixture in the northern region. This was a tightly fought match that Jedi snatched in sudden death. In the final Jedi were pleased to take six points from Halcyon. Captain, Oliver ‘Skipp’ Scoppie, was proud of his team and delighted with their second place finish. He will take a larger squad to nationals, aiming to avoid a repeat of last year’s performance — bottom of division 1 — and achieve a top 12 finish. Experienced handler, Pete Westwood, though still at university was unavailable for regionals and won’t be able to play nationals either. Nevertheless, Jedi have retained many of last year’s players and have strong a strong first line — with the captain himself, Gareth Ray, Owen Parker, Nick Moss, Tom Roden and GB under-23 John ‘Teabag’ Maddox — but do they have the strength in depth to achieve their aims? Too Many Pies (Newcatle) Captain: Jef Hogg Pies have become regulars in division 1 in recent years but this year’s indoor performances suggested that this status might be in jeopardy. They only qualified for division 2 in both open and mixed. A defeat to DUF in a warm-up tournament the weekend before regionals increased the question marks surrounding Pies. However, the presence of Ireland under-23 star handler Will Martin, who had missed the warm-up tournament, calmed the team down. Outdoor regionals very much followed last year’s pattern for Pies. They won their group on Saturday including a very impressive performance against Reservoir Discs when Olly Moore’s and Will Martin’s hucks were on fire. Their only close match of the weekend was their unfortunate 7-6 sudden death loss to Jedi in the semi final. Following that disappointment Pies demolished Phat ‘eds and Fish 11-1 and 11-0 respectively to secure their berth in division 1. Captain Jef Hogg aims to improve on last year’s performance at nationals and break into the top 12, though he realises that this goal will take a lot of hard work following the loss of Tareq ‘Taz’ El Menabawey, Matt Vale, Nigel Daniels and George Furber. However the improvements seen in senior Pies players, perhaps through their involvement with The Brown, suggest that this may yet be a reasonable target. Report by Tim Sanders ------------ South East 1. Mohawks (Sussex) 2. Sublime (Portsmouth) 3. LSE (London School of Economics) Overview: South Eastern Regionals were held in Chichester, West Sussex. The week leading up to regionals was typical wintery weather, with some showers hitting Chichester leaving the pitches damp, but not boggy. The weather was forecast to deteriorate over the weekend, thankfully it held out so the pitches remained in fairly good condition. The teams went into the regional tournament fairly certain that Mohawks and Sublime would place at the top based on their past performances, but it was uncertain who else would qualify. Mohawks (Sussex University) Captain: Jack Beezer Mohawks fielded eight of last year’s first team, having only lost around three players from last year’s squad. The team’s key players include captain Jack Beezer, who won MVP of the final, Ashley Yeo, Dean Newman and Nick White. Having won indoor nationals this year, they are confidently aiming to win outdoor nationals too, which, after such an easy regionals weekend, they have proven they are more than capable of doing. Their pool games were won with confidence and they confessed to only conceding 3 points the entire day. The final against Sublime was set to be a tough game, and there were some hard fought points, yet it became clear early on that Mohawks had gained the edge that Sublime seemed to have lost from last year’s team. Mohawks went on to win 14-4. This year saw a large fresher intake with a lot of athletic promise; they have plenty of up and coming players and are really pleased with the way the squad is developing. With close ties to Brighton and regular trainings with them, as well as a few GB players on their team, Mohawks are a team to keep your eye on. Sublime (Portsmouth University) Captain: James Dunn Sublime retained only four players from their first team squad last year. Losing seven players, including their GB player, has shown to be a heavy blow and has made them more beatable this year. However, they are still a strong side with Nick “Junior” Howarth proving to be a very capable handler with some amazing grabs. Placing sixth at indoor nationals this year was not quite what they were hoping for, but they have higher ambitions for outdoors and are aiming to be within the top five. Last year, they were completely undefeated, flattening teams on their way to becoming national champions both indoors and outdoors - quite a legacy for Captain James Dunn to live up to. Their previous record was largely put down to every member playing for the now-disbanded Fully Charged. Perhaps their defeats this year are down to their less cohesive club allegiances, with some players aiming to play for Fire and others with Limited Release. Losing a large proportion of their previous squad has left some big shoes to fill, yet Sublime showed that they are still quite a force to be reckoned with. LSE (London School of Economics) Captain: Joe Stein Being a London University, LSE tend to have a large influx of international players, mostly Americans, who play for a year before moving on, affecting their team dynamic. With this in mind, it is unsurprising that LSE only had two players left from last year’s team, yet losing those ten players appears to have benefited the team at regionals! This year they are really proud of their British contingent, most particularly with their freshers, Anthony Neal, Callum Ballard and Rhys Morgan who made this first team. Captain Joe Stein said that they managed to pull some victories out of the bag this weekend, having lost quite a few games up to this regional tournament. Their aim was to reach division 1 and they were really pleased to have achieved that. Despite being a London team, very few of them train and play with club teams although a few have tried out for Fire. The American members of their team tend to make up for them not playing as much club Ultimate. The weekend witnessed some very tense competition between LSE and UCL, with a very close and hard fought game for third and fourth position half way through the Sunday. In this game LSE just had the edge on UCL, despite UCL having won previous matches this year by small margins. Whilst LSE managed to keep their seed and qualify for division 1, UCL were not so lucky. A fairly similar team will be journeying to nationals, so we shall see what they have in store! Report by Louise Smith ------------ Ireland 1. UCC Ultimate (Cork) Skulltimate (UCC Ultimate) Captain: Fergus McAuliffe UCC Ultimate travel to Sheffield to compete in division 1 for the third year in a row, having won the Irish qualifier for the past three years. Nine of last year’s team feature, with an additional nine faces making up a strong 18-man team. Big names to have graduated include Ireland MVP Brian O’Callaghan and former UCC captains Ian Lau and Ray Considine. The team retains some Irish internationals in the form of captain Fergus McAuliffe and Irish under 23s Richard Hobson and Ray Williams. The team can also rely on the solid handling of Erasmus student Murphy Hitchcock, and World Club Championship winner in 2006 with TFP, Leo Yoshida. There is also a strong youth feel to the team with Ireland junior Lorcan Murray expected to feature heavily alongside standout beginners Sean O Mahony and Micheál McGrath. The team has a strong relationship with Ireland Mixed Champions Rebel Ultimate, with 16 of the 18 players on Rebel’s books, many of who will be contesting All Ireland Indoor Nationals with Rebel before BUCS Nationals. So far this season, the UCC open team has been undefeated in Irish intervarsity competitions, a run stretching back to March 2009. Successes thus far include winning Indoor Nationals beating DCU 17-6 in the final, and placing 7th at UK Mixed Indoor Nationals, holding their seeding. In the Irish qualifier for BUCS Nationals, UCC won all their games beating Galway 13-1, DCU 8-3, UCD 13-4 in the semi and Trinity 13-1 in the final. The aim for this year’s BUCS Nationals is to improve on the performances of the past 2 years (ninth in 2009 and fifth in 2010) and to give some valuable game time to the younger players on the team. Report by Fergus McAuliffe ------------ West 1. Skunks (Southampton) 2. Uriel (Exeter) 3. No Frills (Cardiff) Skunks (Southampton) Captain: Edward Bietzk A majority of Skunks first team from last year have graduated leaving just six of their 14 players with previous first team experience, despite this they have high aims and have been training hard as a team with four or five training sessions a week. Skunks benefit from highly skilled players such as Max McCartney (Clapham & GB) and Andrew "Fry" Robinson (extremely experienced having played for many different teams). Close ties with open team Limited Release allow Skunks' players to obtain valuable extra training and Tour experience. Following a win at indoor regionals (and 4th place at indoor Nationals), Skunks intended to do the same again at outdoor regionals where they conceded hardly any points whilst scoring continuously due to their excellent flow; their final game at regionals for 1 v 2 verus Uriel was by far their closest and the tight zone D kept the total score remarkably low finishing with a 4-3 result to Skunks putting them in a comfortable position for division 1 nationals where they are aiming to finish in the top 8. Looking forward to next year they should be even stronger as almost the whole team will be retained. Uriel (Exeter University) Captain: Jen Hart Having only lost one player from last year and having a huge squad of high calibre players to call on, Uriel are in good shape this season and have already finished 2nd at indoor regionals. Their team is very athletic and has multiple players who previously played for GB juniors with notable players including: deep Ollie Goulden (GB open), handler Jen Hart (GB mixed), and all-rounders Ben Hall (GB Juniors) and Thomas Cartwright (GB open). As a club, Uriel doesn't train closely with any open team although several players play for Devon. A large player base means everyone is always pushing themselves to ensure selection. This season's aim is high especially as they could lose most players at the end of the year, so far this year they've finished second at indoor regionals and 10th at indoor nationals. Uriel put in a really good performance at outdoor regionals despite finding Sunday a big step up from the less competitive games on Saturday. Finding it hard to balance they came out storming and were eventually disappointed to loose to Skunks in sudden death; they intend to learn from this and are looking for a top four finish at nationals with a solid expectation of at least top eight. No Frills (Cardiff) Captain: Josh Coxon Kelly No Frills lost six players from last year, however these formed the core of their team so rebuilding this year has been a hard task and the six players new to the first team for outdoor regionals include four freshers! Leading the recovery of the team is captain Josh Coxon-Kelly who played for GB under 23s and currently plays for Chevron Action Flash; also benefitting from joining the Chevron squad this year are No Frill's players Sam Bowen and Kei Matsumoto. No Frills share sessions with — and play games against — open team Cardiff Storm which many No Frills players will play Tour with this summer. Focusing on building as a team, No Frills creamed the Saturday matches only to be disappointingly smashed by Uriel on Sunday morning following which their only chance to qualify for division 1 nationals was to be the 3 v 4 game against the winners of an extremely close and tough match between BLT and Mythago. Coming directly off the back of beating Mythago in sudden death, BLT started very strongly taking the early lead but No Frills fought back hard with increased cohesion to win and qualify for division 1 nationals. As a young team, No Frills have an open mind for outdoor nationals but always play to win and would love to beat last years result of 11th. Report by Craig Harris ------------ Midlands 1. Strange Blue (Cambridge) 2. Bears (Warwick) 3. OW! (Oxford) Strange Blue (Cambridge University) Captains: Mike Fletcher and Rob Green Strange Blue lost eight of the 15 players that had competed for them in last year’s outdoor regionals. Three of these players had been captain: Pedro — a hugely influential handler — and Paul and Mark, two star American cutters. The team has been bolstered by a good batch of players coming in from the university college league, as well as a few pick-ups on the weekend. Strange Blue’s history at regional competitions is varied. Last year’s outdoor regionals saw the team finish 2nd and qualify for division 1 nationals after losing to Warwick Bears in the final. Their subsequent performance in nationals led to them finishing fourth overall. However Strange Blue were extremely unlucky at indoor regionals this year, having fallen foul of the triple elimination schedule. Strange Blue emerged victorious at the Midlands outdoor regionals in Birmingham. They beat Warwick Bears in the semi-finals before recovering from a 6-8 deficit against rivals Oxford in the final to win 9-8. However, the variable nature of the Oxbridge rivalry was demonstrated in the recent varsity match in which OW! defeated Strange Blue 13-10. Bears (Warwick University) Captain: James Freeman Having lost Dave Tyler two years ago, Bears lost their remaining big players in Tom Abrams and Simon Smiley this year, as well as Adam Maxwell and Ant Hawkins. James Freeman, the Bears captain, is the only remaining player with any Tour or international pedigree. He is currently running the GB mixed beach team with Dave Tyler and was head coach and vice captain of EMO last year. The relationship with EMO has been an important factor in Bears’ success in previous years, but this year only a couple of their players are training with EMO. Most of this year’s first team are playing for Bear Cavalry Open this year — a spin off of the successful mixed team. Most of their players are finalists so are taking this opportunity to have a year without the pressure of hard A Tour training. Bears have built a reputation as one of the country’s leading university teams over the last couple of years. The 2008-9 season saw them finish in the top three at every national university tournament, including winning open outdoor nationals. They finished third at the same tournament in 2010, having lost their semi final against Ro Sham Bo because they were trading points with the wind. Freeman thinks that ‘This year the squad has lacked Tour pedigree depth, but we have overachieved all season.’ Bears were consistently the best university team indoors in the Midlands region. The open team followed that up with a fifth place finish at nationals and felt they could have finished higher had their first day not gone so badly wrong. Bears backed up their victory at mixed indoor regionals by winning the national championship. Bears finished second at outdoor regionals but felt they got their game plan wrong against Strange Blue. Bears have set their minimum aim as a top eight finish, but have quiet aspirations of finishing in the top four again. OW! (Oxford University) Captain: Sam Vile OW!’s team is similar to the team that competed at last year’s outdoor regional tournament. Notable losses from the team though include Jonny Clark, last year’s captain, and Phil Rodrigues. Key returning players include Phil Garner, Dan Wainwright and Ben Carroll. Captain Sam Vile played for Chevron Action Flash over the summer and the team benefit from training with Team Shark. Last year OW! narrowly missed out on qualifying for outdoor nationals, finishing seventh at regionals. This was especially bitter as only a year earlier they finished sixth at outdoor nationals. They also finished seventh at indoor regionals, while this year they improved upon that placing and finished third at indoor regionals and ninth at indoor nationals. OW!’s performance in this year’s outdoor regionals was a strong one. Despite having a small squad they recorded four back to back 11-0 victories on the first day, with their team of strong ultimate players allowing them to record victories over teams with much larger squads. Playing with only nine players on the Sunday OW! lost the final but avoided triple elimination and finished third. Report by John Fernandez and Tim Sanders ------------ Scotland 1. Ro Sham Bo (Edinburgh) 2. Shooting Stars (Dundee) 3. Flatball (St Andrew’s) Overview The Scottish regionals fell foul of the weather. The tournament was cancelled at the first time of asking because the pitches were unsuitable for play. The teams congregated again last weekend (12-13 March), only for the tournament to be cancelled half way through due to poor weather conditions. The Scottish teams have kept their seeding from regionals going into nationals and are therefore something of an unknown quantity. Report by Tim Sanders