Welcome to the Midlands. It’s a relatively nice place. Home to some good architecture. Some nice pubs. Friendly people to visit. Oh, and home to one of the most competitive regions in Ultimate (Frisbee), no matter what level/division you happen to find yourself playing in. And, if you’re like me, that makes it one of the best places in the world.
This weekend is women’s indoor regionals, and this proves to be no exception to the midlands rule. With 4 places up for grabs (that’s right, they get an extra spot because it’s *that* tough), the competition is certainly going to be intense. 12 teams are fighting it out in all (including 2 second teams), so here’s how they predicted themselves ending up:
Firstly, Birmingham (UBU) were certainly favourites for this weekend. And it’s really not hard to see why everyone was so scared of them. Captain Helen Roberts commands a formidable team, with the ever fantastic GB U23 stars Kim and Grace Owen only just starting this year, and formidable former Iowa player Rachel Bradley being hot on other teams watch lists. These gals are going to be clinical, fast and very, very dangerous. And, argueably, fully deserving of being top of predictions. Someone make sure they don’t come away with it two years in a row, please?
Echoing a sudden death loss of last year, Nottingham (Fling) again find themselves narrowly behind UBU. But when you consider that they’ve suffered relatively few losses, and that they’ve picked up some rather nice international players (and noted GB U23 mixed player Helen ‘Welen’ Wanstall) and some rather athletics freshers, this is a team that Captain Trina Lam is certain to be very proud of after this weekend.
Now, onto Loughborough (Haze). Captain Cat Baron is back after a year out training with Cambridge (or possibly on an internship). And with the freshers to finish 2nd at NWBin (Nottingham Women’s Beginner’s indoors), added to an already impressive roster including Xing Guo (who’s wicked throws and great D I’ve witnessed first hand at Mixed Tour), Charlotte ‘Bubbles’ Kennedy (taking after Cat in loving her overheads) and of course the standard Loughborough very fast athletic people (Lucy and Anna Kadja being highlighted, even by Haze standards here). Basically, watch out. Haze are about.
So, Warwick Bears were predicted to be taking the final spot. However, coach Moritz ‘Fritz’ Reithmayr may have more of a challenge on his hands than most realise. With Welen backstabbing Bears to go play for Fling, and last year’s captain Ronja Wöstheinrich having left as well (helping Bear Cavalry qualify for the world championships in the process), a lot of teams may suddenly find themselves fancying their chances. Don’t be so hasty. With Zhiling Chan there to provide quick speed and lethal throws, and the lovely but loud Maddie McDonald there to catch anything thrown at her. Add a couple more experienced players like Pei Hwa for some good old reliability, and Warwick just might find themselves at nationals.
Not without a fight, however. If experience is a good thing, then Cambridge (Strange Blue) boast over 17 years collectively in the team. Although a lot of that can be distilled into the co-captains of all round superstar Fran Kundel and the charming Aimée Hall, added to the fearsome force of ex-captain Megan Davies-Wykes equals tough luck for any team hoping for an easy ride. Also, thanks to Cambridge’s (nearly) unique college leagues, even beginners to Uni level are not to be taken lightly, with Helen Hambling and the sky-dominant Hannah Sanderson among those hoping to give Cambridge a shot at the big time.
Although, like always, Oxford (WOW!) are keen to get in Cambridge’s way. With fearsome Punt player and Captain Emma ‘Crumps’ Jacobsen hoping to overcome Oxford’s late term start with clinical athleticism and fearsome speed (and has wasted no time teaching her players how to do the same). Vice Serena ‘Lucky’ De Nahlik has come off an intense summer of tours and nationals (and co-captaining OW! 2 to 12 in the region) willing to match any player in the country for speed and enthusiasm. And with some unfairly talented beginners in Joyce Kwok and Leila Denniston testing the waters you can be sure WOW! is going to be strong, fast and loud. Ok, the loud bit is mainly because of Emma, but the point stands.
Finally on the rankings, the ever wonderful UEA (Birds-Aye). By the way, for those wondering, that adjective is backed up conclusively by numerous spirit rankings. However, Birds-Aye aren’t just out to be nice. With Steph Tomkins stepping up to join Louise Fitzpatrick as captain, together they are looking to term that home advantage (and probably sideline) into some strong victories. With Margot Nickels having a ‘beautiful, Beyoncé-like force’, and having found in the bad-ass Ele Overvoorde someone who actually like to play chase on a zone, there’s no telling what else might be in store for any (presumably) brave opponents that they’ll face.
Personally, I found it slightly surprising that Leicester (Jesters) didn’t show up anywhere in the predictions. After all, with Leicester coming 2nd in mixed outdoors and JR qualifying for mixed club nationals its clear that this is a uni that knows how to train it’s women (albeit not very many of them apparently). However, with few returners and with superstar Jody Martin sadly missing this weekend, there’s no doubt that Captain Emily Marshall has a job building up a team to match last year. On the other hand if York Alumni fail you, you can count on Lancaster Alumni in the form of the brilliant Helena Jones. Together, her and Emily are sure to be out to have some fun in traditional Jester style, and maybe cause an upset or 2 along the way
Next up are Brookes Ladies (BLUF), captained by returning player (and onsie lover) Daisy Sander. The loss of club captain Kirsty Bunning is sure to hit them hard, but with talented returner Michelle Tham providing some stability and then some talented freshers (including Sian Simpson, who, after sneaking a preview at the team, can confirm is one to watch) picking up the slack, it might mean they may not be quite as easy to pass as other teams would hope.
Finally, proudly representing their University for the first time are Lincoln (Lincoln). Still discovering themselves and their style (and having a number of them doing so the second weekend in a row after playing as Lincoln 2 at open regionals last weekend), expect to see (moderately) experienced players like the usefully tall Captain Sophie McKenna and consistently excellent cutter Amy Oxbridge, along with fresher D machine Beth Joy Platt and the safe but high up hands of Maddy Ogden. This is definitely going to be a team to watch in years to come. So you might as well start now.
So, basically, it’s going to be a fun weekend. No weekend in the midlands is complete without upsets, huge bids, great spirit and naturally sudden death finishes. With rumours of big things planned for nationals and 4 places at the biggest University level women’s indoor tournament in all of Great Britain up for grabs, it’s clear that this weekend is not going to be one to miss.
Best but equal wishes and luck to all teams this weekend. Let’s go put on a show.