With the outdoor season just around the corner we are very much into the business-end of indoors, culminating in the National tournaments for all three divisions; Open, Women’s and Mixed. Albeit over two weeks ago now, we started off with Open Nats, aiming to follow up last year’s impressive 3rd place with another stand-out result.
Our pool consisted of ourselves, Bristol 1, #geckos, Chesham Kites, and Jest We Forget, seeded in that order; definitely a winnable pool but by no means a gimme. We started off against Chesham Kites in which was a hard-fought and aggressive game while both teams got used to the hall at Kettering’s National Volleyball Centre. Chesham are a relatively new team on the competitive scene and have been slowly rising up the ranks, proving their calibre as one of the impressive up-and-coming teams. They ran their patterns well using their key players to good effect before we came through in the end to take the game by one or two points. A good warmup for the later games in the pool, this game really made us switch on a bit going forward and helped us concentrate on a few elements of our game that weren’t firing at 100%. Our second game was against the bottom seed in our pool and played out more to script than the first. The final score was 13-5 after what was a fun, light-hearted game.
With a seven-game gap before our next match, it was far too long before we met #geckos in the third of our four pool games. We knew it would be hotly contested and following Bristol 1’s draw against Chesham Kites earlier in the day it was likely that the result of this game would decide who topped the pool. With height on their side #geckos played ISO to great effect, moving the disc into our half of the pitch with ease. Fortunately our goal-line defence stood resolute giving us the couple of breaks we needed, allowing us to come out on top 9-7. We finished off the pool games against Bristol 1 having already mathematically taken the top spot. We won 9-7 again, leaving us in prime position heading into the Sunday knockout stages. Somewhat strangely Chesham had managed to draw two of their four games leaving themselves, #geckos and Bristol in a three-way tie for second place. Unfortunately for Bristol their one point loss to #geckos dropped them to fourth place and out of the running for the top eight with #geckos in second and Chesham in third.
For the top 16 teams it was all still to play for, with a new format and two crossover rounds leading to a much more open Sunday than usual. The UKU seem to have found a solution for the ever-present seeding complaints and I think, time and pitch availability permitting, it’s a good one. Our 3v6 game against Purple Cobras started like all of the games from the previous day with us going a point or two down before properly getting into the match. Their fast give-and-go play kept them on the front foot and up until the last seven or eight minutes they looked to be on target for a significant upset given their 15th place seeding. It took a couple of pressure turnovers near the end and for Boswell to actually go and stand in the endzone for us to pull off the win 9-6, a score line that doesn’t express the close nature of the game.
With the top eight now secure we could set our sights on emulating last year’s top four finish. As always seems to be the case we were playing our perennial rivals Mustard in the quarters so we knew we would be up against a team with relentless energy and an all-round solid offence not too dissimilar from ours, utilising a handler weave or ISO to open up the space in the centre of the pitch. They started strong, racking up point after point to go into a 6-1 lead in what seemed like no time at all. Throughout the whole weekend we struggled to start games well and Mustard monopolised in impressive fashion. At 6-1 down and about 15 minutes to get our bid for the top four back on track our offence started to click, clawing us back into the game. Our defence remained fierce, forcing what few turnovers we could and, unlike the beginning of the game, we managed to make them count. At 6-6 a win was back on the cards. All it would take would be one turnover for us to take the driving seat but as the game drew to a close Mustard stuck to their game plan, eeking in their first point in six to force us to push for a chance. It wasn’t to be as Mustard went on to deservingly win 8-6, making our sloppy start count when it mattered. They went onto finish third, what I think may be their highest ever finish at Open Indoor Nationals.
Our last two games were played with seemingly less energy than the last but nonetheless we played hard throughout. Despite the loss the second half of our quarterfinal was the best we had played all weekend, playing how we want to play and using our strengths to great effect. We played #geckos in our 5-8 bracket semi-final, winning the rematch 8-6 leaving us in the 5v6 versus S&L Cartel who had also been hoping for more. Losing our final game 9-4 we finished in sixth place, a few places down on the year before but by no means a poor way to finish the Open indoor season. As always there were some great plays and positives to take from the weekend and conversely there are areas, such as starting games on the front foot, that we will take away and work on. All in all though we had a great weekend playing some quality frisbee, giving our Women’s and Mixed teams something to aim for in the coming weeks.
At the time of writing there is still one weekend left in what had been a thoroughly enjoyable winter of indoors but as the mornings get warmer and the evenings get lighter it is only a matter of time before the main event that is outdoors takes over. From a promising winter league showing on the weekend just gone and a strict schedule of weekend outdoor sessions in the calendar, 2016 is shaping up to be a great year for Birmingham Ultimate and I’m looking forward to seeing what the old cohort mixed with some new blood can do come Mixed Tour 1, the season opener, at the beginning of April. I just hope the weather will be slightly better in Cardiff than last year!
— Marius Hutcheson, BU Club Captain