Kestrels look to add playoff success to D1W regular season title

After an exciting 3-way battle between Solent, Southwark and Charnwood for a large chunk of the year gave way to a 2 horse race between the Pride and Kestrels, it was Solent who ultimately hung on to claim the D1W title. With things looking very even up at the top of the division, it’s hard to pick a favourite in what is sure to be an exciting post season race.

#1 Team Solent Kestrels

Regular season record: 19-1

Record in the last 5 games: 4-1

D1W fixtures against Reading Rockets this season

26/11/16 – Team Solent Kestrels 75 v 60 Reading Rockets
25/02/17 – Reading Rockets 71 v 79 Team Solent Kestrels

It has been a great season for the Kestrels as they improved on a 2nd place finish in the South West division of the Women’s Leagues last year to claim the D1W title this time round. The team that topped the Kestrels in the South West standings last season were Reading and this playoff match up shows the difference in fortunes between the 2 sides in the last 12 months. As the #1 seeds, Coach CJ Lee’s team will fancy their chances of going all the way in the post season. With just 1 loss this term, they’re a strong bet to do it as well.

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#8 Reading Rockets

Regular season record: 6-14

Record in the last 5 games: 0-5

D1W fixtures against Team Solent Kestrels this season:

26/11/16 – Team Solent Kestrels 75 v 60 Reading Rockets
25/02/17 – Reading Rockets 71 v 79 Team Solent Kestrels

 

It’s been a tough season for the Rockets as they’ve endured a number of stretches this year without a win. With a 6-14 record on the season, 2 of those wins have come against bottom side Exeter Eagles. That leaves a 4-14 record against the rest of the field, clearly a difficult season and regression for the Rockets after making it to the Women’s Playoff Final last season. Reading played Solent hard in their most recent meeting, but there is little to suggest the side will find a way to top the Kestrels this weekend.

Solent have used an incredible team spirit to guide them to success this season. The Kestrels will hope that extends to the playoffs as well - Mansoor Ahmed

#2 Southwark Pride

Regular season record: 19-1

Record in the last 5 games: 5-0

D1W fixtures against Anglia Ruskin University this season:

22/10/16 – Anglia Ruskin University 56 v 67 Southwark Pride
28/01/17 – Southwark Pride 72 v 48 Anglia Ruskin University

After a near faultless campaign and being the only side to top the Kestrels, Southwark will be disappointed that they were pipped to the D1W title. A hugely talented side that has enjoyed success on multiple fronts for an extended period of time, Coach Jackson has a special group of players at his disposal. Those talents will be going all out to avenge the loss of the D1W trophy with a resounding post season success. First up are Anglia Ruskin and as no visiting team has won in Southwark this season, it seems reasonable to expect a home victory on Sunday. Yet another meeting with Solent may be on the cards for this team before all is said and done.

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#7 Anglia Ruskin University

Regular season record: 7-13

Record in the last 5 games: 1-4

D1W fixtures against Southwark Pride this season: 

22/10/16 – Anglia Ruskin University 56 v 67 Southwark Pride
28/01/17 – Southwark Pride 72 v 48 Anglia Ruskin University

As a team that looked in danger of relegation just a few weeks ago, the fact that Anglia Ruskin are lining up for a playoff game this weekend is impressive indeed. A 20-0 forfeit against eventually relegated Lancashire left Ruskin perilously close to the drop zone with a game to go. The Rhinos closed the season out with a victory over Bristol Storm though, securing a post season place in the process. A trip to Southwark hardly seems a reward for any kind of effort, but Ruskin should be pleased with their season regardless of the outcome this weekend.


#3 Charnwood College Riders

Regular season record: 14-6

Record in the last 5 games: 2-3

D1W fixtures against Essex Blades this season:

03/12/16 – Charnwood College Riders 57 v 41 Essex Blades
04/03/17 – Essex Blades 61 v 65 Charnwood College Riders

Balancing on the edge of success, Charnwood can be proud of their efforts this season even though a top 2 finish eventually eluded them. Comfortably ahead of the teams behind them, the gap from 3rd to the teams below only shrunk once the place was secured and the Riders eased off. 0-4 combined against Solent and Southwark this year suggests the Midlands side are still a step behind the top tier in D1W, but Charnwood only lost by a single point in Solent and 4 points when hosting the Pride. In a one and done format, it’s possible this team could pull something off.

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#6 Essex Blades

Regular season record: 10-10

Record in the last 5 games: 2-3

D1W fixtures against Charnwood College Riders this season:

03/12/16 – Charnwood College Riders 57 v 41 Essex Blades
04/03/17 – Essex Blades 61 v 65 Charnwood College Riders

Last season, Essex managed to reach the playoff semi-finals before falling to a narrow defeat against Reading. As winners of the National Cup that season as well, this year has been somewhat of an anti-climax. A 6th place finish in D1W, this side was in the mix for 3rd place during stages of the season before falling away. The post reason represents the last chance for the Blades to find success but with the quality of Southwark, Solent and this weekend’s opponents Charnwood to contend with, it might be that Essex finish the year empty handed.


#4 Barking Abbey UEL

Regular season record: 12-8

Record in the last 5 games: 4-1

D1W fixtures against Bristol Academy Flyers this season:

13/11/16 – Barking Abbey UEL 57 v 54 Bristol Academy Flyers
11/02/17 – Bristol Academy Flyers 60 v 59 Barking Abbey UEL

Like a few of the teams around them in the standings, Barking showed this season they have plenty of quality to finish around the 3rd/4th/5th mark without ever really threatening the top 2. With a well drilled and youthful roster, they’ll be a tough match up for any team. Barking and Bristol have contested 2 great games this season and Abbey will be hoping that home court advantage swings this one in their favour.

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#5 Bristol Academy Flyers

Regular season record: 12-8

Record in the last 5 games: 5-0

D1W fixtures against Barking Abbey UEL this season:

13/11/16 – Barking Abbey UEL 57 v 54 Bristol Academy Flyers
11/02/17 – Bristol Academy Flyers 60 v 59 Barking Abbey UEL

A season of two halves for the Flyers, they struggled in 2016 before turning the corner in 2017. To start the year, it appeared the Flyers might be struggling near the bottom for the table for the duration. After a couple of shrewd signings in January, notably Maialen Zilbeti from cross-town rivals Bristol Storm, the Flyers really began to hit their stride. After knocking off BA once already this season, adding a win over Charnwood down the stretch as well, Bristol surely believe they can do well in this post season if the draw falls their way.