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15.06.2015, 16:30
National champions of Europe - women part 3: Balkan
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FEATURE: Review of the women's national leagues in Europe. The third part of the series takes a closer look at Balkan peninsula and following countries - Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia and Bosnia Herzegovina.

»EHF CL Channel »2014-15 Women's News
»
 

National champions of Europe - women part 3: Balkan

The domestic leagues have come to an end and we now approach the draws of the 2015/16 European season, starting with the Women's EHF Champions League draw on 26 June. In six parts, the spotlight is shone on each of the national champions and their path to glory. The third part is dedicated to teams from Balkan countries Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia and Bosnia Herzegovina.

Romania – CSM Bucuresti

A 12-year hiatus for Bucharest away from the Liga Nationala throne was ended, after CSM followed in Rapid CFR’s footsteps and earned its maiden national title.

Mette Klit’s side had only two defeats in its column this season – one a 0:10 against SCM Craiova, after the coaches failed to wear their badges on the court – but had a perfect play-off, with a 2:0 win in the final against HCM Baia Mare.

Bucharest’s ambitions were highlighted last summer, as the team managed some great transfers coups, bringing Linnea Torstenson, Mayssa Pessoa, Ana Paula Rodrigues and Fernanda Franca da Silva. Sooner rather than later, the team gelled and became the favourite to win the title.

Despite clear wins against HC Dunarea Braila and Corona Brasov in the first rounds of the play-offs, few expected a 2:0 win against Baia Mare in the final, but Bucharest deployed a world class defence to beat their opponents with two narrow wins, 23:22 in Bucharest and 20:17 in Baia Mare.

CSM’s ambitions are high, as the team is aiming for success in their maiden Women’s EHF Champions League participation.

Therefore, Constantin Caliman, the team’s president, has already announced important transfers for the next season, such as Maria Fisker and Isabelle Gullden (both from Viborg HK) or Line Jorgensen (FC Midtjylland).

Serbia - ZRK Radnicki Kragujevac

ZRK Radnicki Kragujevac took no prisoners in their title defence campaign, as they went on a hot streak of 21 matches without defeat in Serbian Championship.

A last round slump in Novi Sad against Minaqua (35:34) did not overshadow the dominance displayed by the “Tigresses”, winning 13 of their 22 matches played by double-digits.

Young Serbian national team right back Andjela Janjusevic led the way for Radnicki, with excellent efficiency displayed when needed the most.

The cup final win against the biggest rivals ZORK Jagodina (26:18) exemplified the effectiveness of a blend of youth and experience in a team coached by Aleksandar Radosavljevic.

Radnicki raised an early claim to the trophy by leading 11:3 mid-way through the first half and extending the lead to 10 by half-time. Janjusevic put Jagodina to the sword scoring 14 goals, while the Serbian national team number one choice in goal, the 22-year old Jovana Risovic, was impeccable with 20 saves including four penalties.

Celebrations could start in Kragujevac, as the double was won for the first time.



Montenegro – Buducnost

A perfect season for Buducnost continued beyond the celebrations of their second Women’s EHF Champions League trophy.

The departing trio Clara Woltering, Marina Rajcic and Jelena Despotovic have been granted the best possible farewell to the “Blues”, by lifting no less than three trophies this season.

Buducnost once again proved indomitable on the domestic scene defeating their affiliate Danilovgrad (27:15) before steamrolling over the high-flying Levalea 2010 (37:15) to claim the 27th title with Kinga Byzdra and Milena Knezevic in top form.

Young Buducnost starlet playing for Danilovgrad, Djurdjina Jaukovic proved the reputation of one of Europe’s most promising prospects by governing Danilovgrad to the Cup final, with an eye-catching 13 goals in a tight affair against Levalea 2010 (25:24).

The enthusiastic Danilovgrad met the odds on favourites Buducnost in the final, but the defending champions did not allow any surprises, even with the rampant 19-year old Jaukovic scoring alomost at will for Danilovgrad, finishing the match with 14 goals.

The final result 32:23 for Buducnost, saw the trophy remain in Podgorica, while the greatest joy was expressed by Clara Woltering, who had a chance to lift another trophy on her farewell match for the Montenegrin side.

Croatia – RK Podravka Vegeta

Podravka Vegeta have returned the Croatian champions trophy to Koprivnica after one season away. Lokomotiva Zagreb managed to turn the tables last term and take the champions title, sending Podravka to the Women’s EHF Champions League qualification.

There were no surprises this time around for the team coached by Goran Mrdjen, as Podravka performed admirably throughout the season, lifting both the league, as well as the domestic cup trophy to get straight back to their winning ways.

The 32:24 Cup final win against Lokomotiva was an ideal opportunity for revenge, as the last season’s champion had problems to maintain consistency throughout the season, having finished fourth – behind both RK Zamet and ZRK Zelina.

Talented line player, 22-year old Andrea Covic, will take this wonderful achievement to bid farewell to her childhood team, after adding the double to her already impressive resume with the team from Koprivnica.

Bosnia Herzegovina – ZRK Grude

ZRK Grude forged a comfortable 15-point advantage to runners-up RK Ilidza side to find themselves atop of the Bosnia Herzegovina league table.

The champions made significant step towards their title push, by securing the narrow 17:16 win against the second-placed RK Ilidza, to put themselves in a pole position to secure the title with five games to go.

Having lost only one match in the league, ZRK Grude ended all speculation regarding the eventual champions, by routinely defeating mid-table side ZRK Krivaja (38:17), with two matches to play in the league.

ZRK Grude star Kornelija Klinac made a statement in this win, with her 13 goals a big part of the dominant 20-goal victory that brought them the title.

FYR Macedonia – WHC Vardar SCBT

For the third season in a row Vardar enjoyed an easy task of claiming the domestic championship title. After winning against Gjorce Petrov 46:18 in the last championship game, Vardar raised the trophy with an unblemished record of 20 wins from as many matches in the Super League.

The last season match was a farewell for two Vardar players – Julija Nikolic and Begona Fernandez.

Lacking true challenge in the league, several of the youngsters in the squad had an opportunity to wear the “red and black” shirt and contribute on the way to the title.

The biggest margin this season was achieved against ZRK Pelister where Vardar secured 42 goals difference after winning the match with result 52:10.

Kosovo - HC Kastrioti

Kastrioti from Ferizaj successfully defended the title in the championship of Kosovo.

It was their third title in a row and a title number seven in the club's history.
 
In the play-off series Kastrioti won both matches against Prishtina. While it was a walk in the park for them in the first match on home court in Ferizaj (37:29), the second match brought more excitement.

The eventual silver medallist Prishtina led 14:13 at the half-time, but the team did not have the strength to complete the quest as the champion turned the tables in the last twenty minutes taking advantage of their greater experience to win 29:26.

Bulgaria – HK Beki Gabrovo

After six seasons of trying, Beki from Gabrovo finally snatched the title from their arch rivals Etar 64.

A high pace and a reliable defence in the first home game of the final series paved the way for Beki to a 31:23 final score.
 
Only in the second game in Veliko Tarnovo Etar 64 hinted their whole potential while trying the reach their seventh title in a row, but Beki stopped their early domination soon enough and leading all the way through from the first to the last minute they won the second game 25:18.

In the 15th year of the club's existence it was the second title for Beki, who won their first championship trophy in 2006.

Photo: Courtesy of CSM Bucharest


TEXT: Nemanja Savic, Amina Idrizi, Adrian Costeiu / br
 
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