What Went Down At: EUCR-W Mixed (UKU Nationals)

Main Chair/Editor: hazard (Reading Open)
Additional Editing: ali
Main Contributors: nads (Reading Mixed), amazzon (SMOG), sean.colfer (the ShowGame), aido19 (Dublin Gravity), geegee (Mighty Hucks), catpope (Deep Space), hogi
Additional Contributions*: Shaun Webb (Glasgow Ultimate), Charlotte Kennedy (JR co-captain), Bex Palmer (Reading Co-Captain), Black Eagles
*These contributors were very kind to give us quotes, but didn't have access to the chat. Their words have been put in italics for clarity.

Tournament Schedule
Spirit

The ShowGame Predictions
Black Eagles beat everyone, conclusively claim EUCF/Worlds spot
Favourites Reading lose first game to Glasgow, throwing schedule into chaos. They then lose game-to-go against Black Eagles, win final game against Glasgow to claim 3rd
SMOG beat Glasgow in sudden death thriller in game-to-go to EUCF, push Bleagles hard
JR take 5th with sudden death win vs Deep Space. How should both view their seasons?

Lingo
EUCR - European Ultimate Club Regionals
EUCF - European Ultimate Club Finals
WUCC - World Ultimate Club Championships
Bleagles - Black Eagles

Mixed Finishing Positions
1. Black Eagles (EUCF Q) (S)*
2. SMOG (EUCF Q) (S)*
-----------------------
3. Reading Ultimate
4. Glasgow Ultimate
5. JR
6. Deep Space
7. Dublin Gravity (S)*
8. Mighty Hucks (S)*
*Four teams tied for spirit, Black Eagles were awarded the trophy at the tournament


hazard
Welcome to the post-Mixed Nationals chat! We were treated to a really intense weekend of Ultimate, in what was arguably the toughest division at EUCR-W. Alright, it pains me to do this, but one of the most interesting games (as a journalist) was one of the first. Glasgow vs tournament favourites Reading.

nads
Wow, what an intense game to start the weekend. Reading started quite sluggish, our warm-up definitely wasn't as intense as Glasgow’s and they came out firing. They have a unique style that suits their tall athletic guys and unfortunately we played their game rather than ours.

hazard
Other than Glasgow vs Reading, everything else went about as expected (by moderate margins) in that pool. According to Shaun Webb (quote: Don’t have much to say about the first Reading game it was fairly routine), the first game was expected too. In the other pool, however, we were treated to some close games and some exciting on-stream comebacks.
Let’s start with the first game slot again, this time Black Eagles vs SMOG. I have to say SMOG started the weekend strong.

amazzon
We knew we didn't have anything to lose in the first game so focused on trying out some elements to prepare for our other pool games. And yes, it seemed to go ok.

hazard
Any elements you’d care to disclose? Had to be good ones to get you the lead against Bleagles.

amazzon
Making space for each other and communicating effectively. Often people overthink how to win big games tactically and forget the basics. We knew how good we were so that game was all about exploring how to facilitate our skills. Trusting in each other and helping everyone play to their potential is more useful than any specific tactical adjustment.

hazard
So then what happened against Deep Space? Look like they almost had you second game.

sean.colfer
I watched this game, and I don't know if it was anything that SMOG did or didn't do. Deep Space played very well, and the momentum shifted several times between the two teams - a lot of two point runs, a lot of huge pressure from both teams. In the end it was a good block and a good huck that won it for SMOG - they were ahead the whole way - but it was a pretty balanced game.

amazzon
I agree with Sean. It was nothing special, it's always hard to come off a cracking game against a higher seed into a game that you are expecting to win, but it was just high quality all the way through. I think we maybe got dragged into a bit of a scrappy game in the middle but managed to turn it on when it really mattered. They were also higher seeds than us so although we expected a win it wasn't exactly a foregone conclusion.

sean.colfer
A couple of players had a blinder for SMOG and in the end I think that was the difference. Tess Hunt, in particular, had a run where she was basically unmarkable.
SMOG had a reasonably good weekend.
Photo by Sam Mouat for the ShowGame.
hazard
The final story of this pool was the introduction of the Irish. @aido19, how did Dublin Gravity find the first day?

aido19
For Gravity, a lot of the weekend was garnering experience and working hard. The EUCR bid was awkward this year as our mixed season doesn’t align with the UK’s, and takes place around April. To make it even more odd, the bid was won last season (2016) so the Gravity team has changed a lot from the one that won Nationals. That’s being adjusted for next year I believe. With that, our domestic mixed season is a quick burning flame. A lot of us were focusing on Women’s and Open so our only preparation was a few training weekends alongside Dublin’s Golden Cup.

In terms of the weekend, I think the ordering of our games didn’t favour us, playing Deep Space before the two eventual finalists (who were far and away better than us) wasn’t ideal as I think we were still trying to gel on the Saturday morning.

hazard
This finished off a very tough Saturday for all, and set up our games-to-go on Sunday as Reading vs Bleagles, and Glasgow vs SMOG. I’m going to go to Glasgow vs SMOG because well. What. A. Game.

amazzon
Not a bad one for the spectators was it?
There was very little to separate the strong Glasgow and SMOG sides.
Photo by Tristan Millington.
Shaun Webb
It was great to be part of a semi final, SMOG game was extremely exciting and enjoyable for both teams but a heartbreaking result for us in the end. Looking forward to playing them again, it’s always a good fight.

nads
It was a fantastic game to watch! A lot of drama in the last few points.

hazard
I only managed to catch the end myself too. And an unfortunate injury to star player Tess Hunt during the game meant you couldn’t rely on her at crunch time. Do you want to take us through the final few points @amazzon?

amazzon
Well long story short, 11-9 to Glasgow game to 12. We put our offense in relatively calmly and then let the D line do their work. We had forced turns out of them pretty much every point so we we quite confident of getting the disc in our hands (unless Fraser Macdonald was planning on flying over another poor soul for yet more filthy grabs). Once we got the turn and the break it was all about getting a big pull in and chasing it down. Receiving on universe is a nightmare if you can do that and I would rather have been on D than O. We generated a turn but unfortunately Callum Spiers decided he didn't fancy scoring the winning point so dropped the disc in the endzone and we gave them another chance. Thankfully our ladies were doing their thing (as they did all game) to give us another shot with more relentless pressure. That ended with a shot to the endzone that had three of us and one Glasgow player under it which thankfully I came down with.

hazard
That grab by Fraser was obscene. Made the top 5 plays of Nationals. And so, SMOG are going to Euros, and (most likely) going to Worlds. Well done, a hard fought route to a well earned seed.
Meanwhile, Reading had to try to sort themselves out for a game they hadn’t expected until the final. I know it started close, but Bleagles seemed to pull away more as the game passed half. @nads, was it just a mental slip?

nads
In the first half we were playing our best ultimate, we even turned Black Eagles a handful of times, but we couldn't convert. They went into half a break up, came out of half on O and scored an easy point or two. I'm not sure if it was a mental slip or the fact they are just an incredible team who had another gear to go (that or Calum Easton turned up). A few mistakes from us allowed them to run away with it.

hazard
Bleagles then took that momentum into the final, and straight through for the win. The team gave us this statement.


Lucy Barnes helps her Black Eagles side deny SMOG the title.
Photo by Sam Mouat for the ShowGame.
Black Eagles
We are proud of our performance in what could be considered as a banner year for the division. The quality and the depth in the Mixed tournament was fantastic, with 5 or 6 teams in legitimate contention for the finals, and close games all the way through the weekend. I think this is a credit to all our competitors and to the development of Mixed in the past few years. The quality of the competition makes our results all the more enjoyable. We achieved our goal that we set ourselves last year and we look forward to the upcoming year and new challenges we face.

hazard
They then faced SMOG in a final which was fun, but not as close as their first game. Personal highlight: Lucy Hyde wagging her finger at a Bleagles player who stripped her in the endzone (after she boxed him out).

sean.colfer
The backup layout score at the end of the first half was pretty epic. It was a cracking catch so well done Chris Habgood.

amazzon
We ran out of energy emotionally and physically by the final. (Black Eagles having) ten extra players and us losing our star receiver didn't help either.

hazard
@amazzon you know EUCF is longer than two days right? Any idea how you’re going to cope with that?

amazzon
A couple more players hopefully. Other than that we're quite happy that our current training schedule can see us through.

hazard
You guys did have the smallest team of the division (8 men, 8 women). Even smaller than the Irish who had to fly theirs over (+1 more on the sideline with baby Glasspool).

sean.colfer
How's Tess's leg? Or is this closely guarded information now?

amazzon
She'll be skying fools by Euros if that's what you mean.

hazard
I’m fairly confident she could do that on one leg anyway.

Alright, let's move down the division then. The 5-8 bracket (to get into 3-6) was really the one to avoid finishing at the bottom, and meant everything for how you viewed the weekend. Gravity took a sudden death loss to JR, and Mighty Hucks had a chance for redemption against Deep Space. @geegee, not the match-up Hucks wanted?

geegee
Hucks have played against Deep Space before throughout the Tour season so they're a team we are fairly familiar with. The game we had against them on Sunday morning (at least from the sideline) was great, they pushed us a lot and gave us just as many athletic plays as we gave them. Being short on guys did not help us at all so we relied on our strong female contingent to get us as far as we could. It wasn't the result we had hoped for, but they were deserved winners in the end.

hazard
What do you mean lack of guys, if you mind me asking? Roster wise, it looks like Deep Space had one more guy, and Bleagles had 4 more. Everyone else had the same number or fewer initially. However, judging by a photo at the end you only had 7. Fair. Did you have a lot of dropouts?

geegee
We had 2 fewer guys on Saturday, and they got quite tired out so the extra legs were needed! There were a few dropouts unfortunately due to injury.

aido19
And they had to match up against me.

hazard
Hucks have been fairly impressive all season (finishing 5th every Mixed Tour). I know Lorcan predicted them to finish in the top four. Any final thoughts about Hucks, looking forward to next season?

geegee
I think we will look to progress further upon this season, the result hasn't dampened our mood because it gives credit to how insanely good the Mixed Division is this year. We are just excited to get going again throughout the off season for indoors and beach!

hazard
Any final thoughts from an Irish perspective?

aido19
The last game against Hucks was a fun way to finish out the weekend. We went 0-4 down to start, as we were fairly deflated and had a number of injuries. Our captain called a time-out to stop the rot and we came back to break them on universe to win! Was obviously good to finish out with a victory and end with a positive note. In terms of experience. It’s nice to play more competitive Mixed as, like I said, our season is so short and it’s not always that highly prioritised by players. Mixed to me is a different game in some regards to Open/Women’s so it’s really exciting to try and adjust to it and battle it out with the Brits.

hazard
Moving up to the all important 3-6 bracket, we saw what could be some decisive games. In the event the the UK gets 3 WUCC spots (or 3 EUCF spots), this bracket would mean everything. Glasgow squeaked past JR, a team which apparently doesn’t believe in close results. Reading took down Deep Space to seal the fate of what looked like a very strong squad.

The 5-6 actually ended up being a bit of a thriller, with JR squeezing out a sudden death victory. Considering these were two teams that were favourites at the start of the season, it was interesting to see them at this ranking. I asked JR co-captain Charlotte "Bubbles" Kennedy how she felt the weekend went.

Charlotte Kennedy
From me personally, I was very happy with 5th. With the standard so high this year, we really didn’t know how we’d get on and knew that every game would be tough. Overall we’re very happy with how we played - it was definitely the best we’ve played all season so we peaked at the right time. We had a lot of very close games and whilst we could have potentially finished one or two spots higher, for a team that really is just made up of a group of friends and that never train, we’re happy!

hazard
@catpope, how did Deep Space view the tournament (and the season overall?)

catpope
Deep Space would definitely liked to have finished higher. Our match against SMOG was so close and on a different day we could've won it, we're capable of playing at that level. Reading played really well against us in the 3v5, definitely deserved the win. We could've (and probably should've) won the last game against JR for 5th, but they also played well. Maybe some of our intensity wasn't where it should've been after missing out on top 4. With the season overall, 6th place is a good achievement for our first season. The club wasn't set up purely to make it to Worlds, it was to be a long standing London-based mixed club. Deep Space has big plans for the future and will keep building season on season. Watch this Space ;)

hazard
I hear a lot of Deep Space players mentioning it as their “first season”. It is actually really impressive to start a club from nothing, especially considering how established every other mixed team was.

catpope
Yep, and the Mixed Division was such a high standard, it's a tough one to go and compete with those top teams as a new club.

hazard
Anything you think Deep Space will do differently next year? Or will simply having a year’s experience as a team put them in a better initial position?

catpope
I'm not sure what will be different next year. I think a lot of this year's players will stay in the club so just an extra year's experience playing together will make a difference. In the long run, the club has potential to be incredible.

hazard
Speaking briefly of established London-based mixed teams, it was sad not to see Thundering Herd here. They’ve been at every Mixed Nationals since it’s been an annual event, and even before that until at least 2006 (the UKU website let me down before that). I think it was a sign of how tough the Mixed Division was that even a club as practiced as Herd couldn’t make it.

hogi
Herd unfortunately have a lot of roster turnover from the last few years and when it came to regionals some of their top players were playing Open and Women's. it didn't help that Chung Leung tore his ACL on the Sunday morning. Could see some changes to how Herd works next year though so don't count them out for 2018... #nospoilers

hazard
Alright, onto the final game. The 3-4 potentially game-to-go, and it was a Glasgow vs Reading rematch. Reading were in no mood to mess around and, having lost against Glasgow in their first game, were certainly not going to lose their last.

Shaun Webb
We invested a lot physically and emotionally in the semi-final and JR put up a valiant fight, so we had a few key injuries and a bit of fatigue going into a back to back game on Sunday. From the score lines I think Reading probably had a much easier time so were able to stick with us. They stepped it up in the last few points to take it away from us though so credit to them. A few strange things were said in the spirit circle.

nads
Reading looked/felt like two different teams across the weekend.

The atmosphere, mentality and our play were very different on the Saturday compared to the Sunday. We struggled through the pool games, and then something clicked when it came to playing Black Eagles. Despite losing we started to play our best ultimate, it was a delight to play and hopefully watch. I think that carried us through our Deep Space game and helped us edge past Glasgow to take 3rd.

hazard
From a Reading perspective, I know that discussions were had about the first game. They felt Glasgow’s strength was in their guys, so worked hard to neutralise that. Reading co-captain Bex Palmer gave us this perspective on the whole weekend.

Bex Palmer
Obviously (overall, the whole weekend was) not the result we wanted. Our first game against Glasgow we came out really flat and they wanted it more than us, add in a very still day and it was incredibly difficult to shut down their long game and they took the win. We went up against Black Eagles in the semi which was always going to be a hard mountain to climb. But as I said to them, they have been an incredibly dominant force this whole season and they deserved the win. I'm sad we didn't give ourselves a chance to match up against SMOG as I think it would have been an interesting and complex game factoring in the frisbee smarts of some of the players on both teams. And whilst I'm sad we weren't in the final I'm also immensely proud the team took third and showed that we have been working all season for the best place we could take which this year was third place. Watch this space though because Reading Ultimate isn't done yet. So Black Eagles, Clapham, and Iceni, you'd better all watch out.

hazard
And that ends the Mixed chat! Well done to SMOG and Black Eagles, and well played all the rest in a very tough division. Does anyone have any final thoughts they’d like to add?

Shuan Webb
The tournament was incredibly fun for us, it was the focal point of our season and we finally got to put all our plans into action. Weather was great and our team spirit and performances were the best of the season. Player gifts would be nice at Nationals, even if it was just another mug.

hazard
Also, any predictions for how Black Eagles and SMOG will do at EUCF?

amazzon
No clue, the Mixed division is always unpredictable in Europe. But it wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility for a British champion.

hogi
Bleagles are going the right way about having a podium finish.

hazard
I can definitely see Bleagles on the podium, I’d agree with that. SMOG in top half wouldn’t be unreasonable either.

hogi
Yeah, if SMOG send their top team they're definitely looking likely to cause upsets and to wreck people's seasons.

amazzon
It's dead fun.

hogi
SMOG beating Grut would be fun.

amazzon
SMOG playing Grut would be fun.

hogi
Same thing, amirite?

amazzon
🔥

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