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02.10.2017, 09:00
Maiden voyage with a rejuvenated squad
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Women’s EHF Champions League countdown: Nykøbing Falster Håndboldklub won the EHF Cup 2016/17 in their first international season, and now look with optimism toward their debut Champions League campaign.
 

Maiden voyage with a rejuvenated squad

After their very first appearance in an international competition, where they made it straight to the EHF Cup 2016/17 Semi-finals, Nykøbing Falster Håndboldklub became Danish champions for the first time.

Now, they make their maiden voyage in the EHF Champions League – with two sisters, an almost all-Scandinavian squad and a new coach.

Three questions before the new season:
Will playing in the Champions League bring pressure or joy for the surprise Danish champions?


Despite the burden of playing the Danish league in parallel with Europe’s premier club competition, there is more joy than pressure for Nykøbing: “For us, being part of the Champions League so early is a big sensation,” says club manager Henrik Hansen.

The fans in Power Arena were truly frenetic when NFH played their debut season in the EHF Cup 2016/17, so they will climb the ladder together with team and the club.

How long will the team need to come together?

Nine players and coach Niels Agesen left (to Randers), eight new players and coach Jakob Larsen arrived, so it will be a tough job to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. But the start of the season has been quite positive, as NFH beat the big favourites from Odense in the Danish league, before a close defeat to domestic runners-up Midtjylland.

Is there enough international experience in the squad?

A team that beats the likes of former Champions League finalists Lada Togliatti (Russia) or EHF Cup finalists TuS Metzingen (Germany), then defeats former European cup winners FC Midtjylland in the finals of the Danish league, seems to have enough international class.

Additionally, thanks to the EHF Cup 2016/17 season, NFH know what a tough group phase feels like.

Under spotlight: Kristina ‘Mulle’ Kristiansen

She is one of the best-known Danish handball players on and off the court – and she feels home at Nyköbing now. Some weeks ago, Kristina Kristiansen (nicknamed ‘Mulle’) extended her contract at NFH until 2022, when she will be 33 years old.

Kristiansen played at Holstebro before and won the EHF Cup twice, in 2012/13 and 2014/15. She is a true leader who said no to several offers from clubs abroad, explaining: “I want to play where I can build up something, it is not about money.”

Self-esteem

NFH call themselves the underdogs in their group, which contains Bucuresti, Krim and Gdynia. “We are new, so we will have to learn from each match first. We count on our home games and hope to make it to the main round,” says manager Hansen.

Team captain Anna Lagerquist shares those expectations: “It is a big dream for us to be a part of the Champions League. I hope we will proceed to the main round, but our opponents are really strong.

“Bucuresti will be the best team in the whole competition, Krim have a long history, so we will mostly fight with the young and talented team from Gdynia for third position.”

Fun fact

Like the Norwegian runners-up Kristiansand, where the Lunde twins are reunited, Nykøbing have a set of twins in their squad: the Swedish Westberg sisters Emelie and Johanna. After starting their careers together at Skuru, Johanna left for Danish side Randers, while Emelie played for Lund.

Since 2016, the 27-year-old twins have played together again – and helped NFH become Danish champions in their first season with the club.
 
What the numbers say

Nine Danish players, four from Sweden and one from Norway – the NFH squad is almost all-Scandinavian. The ‘almost’ is because of new Japanese arrival Ayaka Ikehara, a 1.57m right wing from Okinawa.

She also had a Scandinavian connection before joining the club however – her national team coach, Ulrik Kirkely, is Danish.

Nykøbing Falster Håndboldklub (DEN)

Qualification for the EHF Women’s Champions League 2017/18 season: Danish champions

Newcomers: Cecilie Greve (Randers HK/DEN), Mie Sørensen (Viborg HK/DEN), Mathilde Nielsen (Odense HC/DEN), Tiril Merg (Glassverket/NOR), Angelica Wallén (Skuru/SWE), Ayaka Ikehara (MIE violet' IRIS/JPN), Sofie Olsen (Ajax København/DEN), Anna Lagerquist (Lugi Lund/SWE)

Left the club: Mette Sahlholdt, Pernille Holmsgaard, Mette Gravholt, Nadia Kongsted (all end of career), Nathalie Hagman (CSM Bucuresti/ROU), Louise Kristensen (Aarhus United/DEN), Emma Navne (TMS Ringsted/DEN), Ditte Vind (Aarhus United/DEN), Mariana Cost (CS Magura Cisnadie/ROU)

Coach: Jakob Larsen (since 2017, from GOG, successor of Niels Agesen)

Team captain: Anna Lagerquist

Women’s EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2017/18 season): 1

Other EC records:
EHF Cup
Semi-final: 2016/17

Danish league: 1 title (2016/17)
Danish Cup: -


TEXT: Bjorn Pazen / cg
 
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