13 Oct Preview: National Futsal Series
Although we’re not sure people are quite over the spectacle of last season’s Women’s Tier One Play-Off final as Birmingham beat favourites Helvecia to the title, this year’s league kick-off is now in sight.
Despite two postponed fixtures as well as the uncertainty over the future of televised games, the NFS looks to be the most competitive it’s ever been. Here’s what to expect from the Women’s Tier One teams this season:
Birmingham WLV Women
Last year’s champions will be hoping to repeat their success in the 2022/23 season and having seemingly retained the majority of their players, there’s no real reason why this couldn’t be the case.
Captain Angie Morley was a mainstay for the side, providing calm and collected instruction from the back, while Adriana Caboz made every pivot’s life hard from between the sticks as one of the most agile keepers in the league.
Last season’s league top goalscorer Alisha Miller will likely continue to be the main outlet going forward for Birmingham, who hit teams hard on the counter. With 13 goals in 7 appearances during the 2021/22 season, she’ll be looking to beat her own record.
Bloomsbury Futsal Women
Bloomsbury were handed a lifeline after being relegated at the end of last season, with the University of Liverpool choosing to drop out of Tier One. But boy, have Bloomsbury made some signings to ensure they won’t find themselves in the same position this campaign.
Ex-Manchester and formidable shot-stopper Alice Harkness-Armstrong will be tough to beat for the London side and with Selin Bukuygiray also joining the ranks from Helvecia, defensively, they should be strong.
Worryingly for other Tier One sides, they have also reinforced going forward, bringing in technical winger Rosanna Frifth-Salem from Loughborough, three New Zealand internationals, as well as the strong and ever-determined Ashleigh Lewis-Shodeinde from London Genesis.
A side who struggled to hit the back of the net at times last season, when things click, they have the ability to put games to bed, and their new signings should help them do exactly that.
Bolton Futsal Women
Bolton are well known for bringing youth through the ranks, and it’s been successful for their women’s team as much as their men’s.
Creeping into fourth place last season, Bolton made numerous near comebacks against higher-placed teams, which could have seen them move up the table even further, had they worked out.
Goalkeeper Joy Lowe was superb for Bolton last season, confidently becoming a fifth court player with fly. Zara Musker and Billie Jean Davies were also key players at the other end of the court, scoring nine goals between them over the season.
Coach Mic Parish is key in animating his players on the court, and will no doubt be introducing a number of new faces to his already strong side this season. Bolton are not to be underestimated.
Cheshire Futsal Women
Newly promoted Cheshire will be another strong addition to the league. Having previously played in the higher levels of the game, and having an experienced team, they might take teams by surprise.
Drawing 2-2 with a depleted Bloomsbury and beating the University of Liverpool in the play-offs, they’ll go into the league season with confidence.
Kirstie Kural will be the player that Tier One teams will need to keep quiet, having scored 18 goals in 8 appearances. A strong, physical and technical player who can cause issues with her back-to-goal, she’ll likely be just as clinical in Tier One as she was in the second.
Hartpury Futsal Women
One of last season’s bottom half teams, Hartpury (previously Worcester) will be hoping for a more positive location in the table when the season gets underway.
Links to the University and College setup will have helped Hartpury in recruitment ahead of the season, while the ‘old faithful’ all appear to have signed on for the new season.
Jade Grove and Kerry Walklett were standouts for the side in attack last season, and look set to continue those performances in 2022/23.
However, it was fix Amy Wathan that topped the goalscoring charts for the side last season, proving to be a handful all over the court, scoring nine goals in nine appearances and preventing countless others.
London Helvecia Futsal Ladies
The ever-formidable London Helvecia will be going into this season looking to right the wrongs of their grand final performance. A team who won every league game in the regular season, they will have been frustrated that their final performance didn’t secure them the Championship trophy.
The potential loss of Alicia Grimmond who heads to university could be one that other teams are rubbing their hands at, but realistically they remain title contenders.
Captain Emma Tune, the talented Nicole Pepper and silent assassin Charlotte Gurr remain on the side’s books, and they’ve brought in technical Brazilian Larissa Costa Vieira from Bloomsbury, who was inconsistent in appearing last season, but made a real impact when she did.
Manchester Futsal Club Women v Birmingham WLV Women (10:00)
Bloomsbury Futsal Club Women v Southampton Aztecs Women (12:05)
Bolton Futsal Club Women v Cheshire Futsal Club Ladies (14:20)
Hartpury Futsal Club Women v London Helvecia Ladies (16:25)
It all kicks off on Saturday 15th October with the following matchups, with all fixtures shown live on YouTube.
Manchester Futsal Women
Second placed in the ordinary season league table last season, Manchester will be hoping to once again push for those top spots.
As mentioned, Alice Harkness-Armstrong will be a big miss for the side, who tended to sit back and absorb pressure, inviting shots. They may have to reevaluate their style of play depending on the replacement they bring in.
However, they still have plenty of ability out on court to be able to make those adjustments and still push on this season. Top scorer Rebecca Kemp will be key for the season, as will the calm and collected Salma Simonin and small but strong Rafaela Castelini.
Southampton Aztecs Women
Rock bottom of the league last season, the Aztecs fought their way back into Tier One through the playoffs, drawing with Bedford and then beating Worcester.
Despite the often unconventional style and unpredictability, Aztecs have a group of talented players who can certainly make something of the season. Kayleigh and Beckah Tonks were key to Will Wilson’s squad last season and are likely to be again, while talented keeper Mo Delaney will be another vital addition once she reaches 16.
Laura Ingram was another string to their bow last season, but missed a number of games due to injury; her return will help the Aztecs challenge in the league, as will (hopefully) the arrival of Reading Royals’ top goalscorer and vice-captain Alicia Povey, who became a familiar face on BT Sport punditry last season through injury.