London's Iceni has never approached World Clubs with the intensity and focus they are bringing this year. They could do some real damage.
July 31, 2014 by Keith Raynor in Preview with 0 comments
You may think you already know what London Iceni can do. Maybe you wrote them off after two disappointing showings at the World Ultimate Club Championships. Perhaps you rendered judgment after they failed to beat a single North American team at the US Open, bringing only a single victory back across the pond.
Open your mind, dear reader, to the possibility of a very different Iceni.
“In both 2006 and 2010, WUCC the tournament wasn’t a priority on the calendar, and as such some of the best players either retired or decided not to attend. This time around the decision to set this as a priority so that we could train and develop the team to perform,” said Iceni coach Paul “Voodoo” Waite. “This time around it has all been about the right preparation both physically and mentally in an effort to perform as well as possible.”
The additional of Worlds to the schedule has had a powerful impact on the top teams in the USAU bracket: superstars are hoping onto World’s rosters or rosters for the whole season, tryout and practices schedules have been pushed up, and attrition is at a minimum. The English team is joining in that trend and you can expect a similar impact on how they line up.
The history doesn’t reflect well. In two previous Worlds appearances, Iceni has fallen below their initial seed both times: from 5th to 8th in 2006 and from 10th to 17th in 2010. Expectations have been placed high for them on more than one occasion but only have led to disappointment. And their US Open this year left something to be desired.
But even beneath that layer of underperforming lies potential for them to surprise. Their US Open performance didn’t lead to victories in the Win/Loss column, but the scores – 12-9 vs. Scandal, 15-13 vs. Showdown, and 15-10 vs. Riot – don’t speak to a team that’s out of their depth.
“The tournament provided us with much needed big game experience; we needed to test our systems and expose our players to the best players and teams the world has to offer,” said Waite, before adding, “Thankfully we were able to take all of the players that hadn’t experienced top level ultimate previously.”
Iceni’s roster will get 9 reinforcements to the 14 women that made the trip to Minnesota, and most of those are experienced. Among those players who were missing at the US Open are players like Alex Benedict, formerly of Team Canada, and Becca Haigh, who played at the World Games with Great Britain. That adds to formidable talents, like downfield playmakers Nici Prien and Jackie Verralls.
But Iceni leans on both their leadership and their depth over individual stars. The team is deeper than ever before: Waite says of the team that “when they are hitting form, all of them can make their opposite markers’ life hell.” Sonia Komenda and Ange Wilkison act as the centerpieces — calm forces with a wide arsenal of attacking throws and reset cuts that pace their offense and guide their defense. Komenda’s lefty break throws were some of the best at the US Open.
The London team already has put some international competition under their belt. They won Windmill Windup going away, mostly unchallenged and undefeated, including a 12-5 championship win over WUCC pool-mate ZUF; their second win against the Swiss women. Their pedigree of 8 national championships and 5 European titles – they are the reigning champion in both – means their 8th seed is well earned.
If you thought you knew what Iceni could do, you should think again. They’re a team with renewed focus, the right pieces of the puzzle, and new expectations. That combination equals a scary squad.