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28.09.2017, 10:00
Two sisters make the Vipers bite sharper
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Women’s EHF Champions League countdown: Vipers Kristiansand might be new to the Champions League but they have serious ambitions for a main round spot.
 

Two sisters make the Vipers bite sharper

They are on their maiden voyage in the EHF Champions League, but they can count on some truly experienced players. Vipers Kristiansand are not your typical debutants; they are hoping for a main round berth and to dethrone Larvik in the domestic competitions. Almost all Vipers’ squad are Norwegian, save for the Dane Mathilde Kristensen.

Three questions before the new season:

Can the Vipers count on enough international experience?

Yes. Players such as the Lunde sisters or Linn Sulland have been stalwarts of the Norwegian national team for years, and some younger players such as Emily Artnzen have also proved their abilities already in the national team. The only open question is whether Kristiansand can cope with the heavy programme of Champions League and Norwegian league, as they have never before competed in the group phase.

What is the strength of the Norwegian runners-up?

Just by looking at qualification results, the Kristianstand attack is outstanding. The Vipers scored 85 goals in two matches against Gomel and Podravka - and showed their hunger for goals until the final buzzer. But the defence can be a key too, mainly in group matches against the strongholds of Buducnost and Metz, where the number of goals conceded could be more important.

Can the Vipers dethrone record champions Larvik on home ground?

Kristiansand were the first side to beat Larvik in a Norwegian league match, scoring 31:30 in the finals of the play-offs. Only the fact that they lost the away match 20:26 stopped the Vipers from their first trophy. But as on one hand they have bolstered their squad, and on the other, Larvik lost some important players, the gate seems to be open for dethroning the record champions.

Under the spotlight: Malin Aune

At 22, Malin Aune is the youngest member of the Norwegian national team. The right wing made her debut with the senior national team in 2015 after winning medals in younger age categories – bronze at the Women’s 17 EHF EURO 2011 and Youth World Championship in 2012. Aune was part of the team that raised the EHF EURO 2016 trophy in Sweden and is playing her first EHF Champions League season in 2017/18 with debutants Vipers Kristiansand. Aune had an important role in Vipers’ successful Champions League qualification, scoring 14 goals in two matches. Now, the new arrival from Oppsal is supposed to become a key player for the future.

Self-esteem

Manager Terje Marcussen and team captain Kari Brattset have the same ambition in their maiden Champions League voyage - to make it to the main round. But their group with Metz, Bietigheim and Buducnost is not that easy, especially if you are not used playing a group phase.

“We have a good team this year, but it’s the first time for us in the Champions League, so we expect that it will take some time to reach a top European level,” says Brattset, adding: “Every group match will be a great challenge for us. We must be at our very best to make it to the main round.”

Fun fact

After twins Kristine Lunde-Borgersen and Katrine Lunde (37) had gone their separate ways for several years, now they are playing together again. Regularly acting as assistant coach, Kristine was on court in the qualification tournaments, as other playmakers were injured.

Together with Katarina Bulatovic (now at Rostov), goalkeeper Katrine Lunde is the most successful current Champions League player, winning the trophy each four times. Katrine Lunde is also a four-time EHF EURO champion, two-time Olympic gold medallist and World Champion, EHF Cup winner and national champion in Denmark, Russia and Hungary.

What the numbers say:

If there is an indicator for the changing of the guard in Norwegian women’s handball, just check the nominations for the start of the EHF EURO 2018 qualification: National team coach Thorir Hergeirsson counts on five Vipers players (Lunde, Arntzen, Kristiansen, Aune and Brattset) and none from Larvik. No other club is represented by more players in the current squad of the defending EURO and world champions.

Vipers Kristiansand (NOR)

Qualification for the 2017/18 EHF Women’s Champions League season: Norwegian runners-up, winner of qualification tournament 1

Newcomers: Emilie Hegh Arntzen (Byåsen/NOR), Malin Aune (Oppsal/NOR), Kristine Lunde-Borgersen (comeback), Katrine Lunde (Rostov Don/RUS), Pernille Wang Skau (Halden/NOR), Eline Fagerheim (Gjøvik/NOR), Sunniva Andersen (Gjerpen/NOR)

Left the club: Thorey Rosa Stefansdottir (FRAM Reykjavik/ISL), Sanne Bak-Pedersen (Grane Arendal/NOR),  Mona Bruskeland, Camilla Holmøy Feenstad, Martine Rønning (all retired), Annick Lipman (Gjerpen/NOR), Hanne Andve (Molde/NOR), Elisabeth Benestad Rosenvold (Grane Arendal/NOR), Anne Charlotte Benestad Rosenvold (Grane Arendal/NOR), Ulrika Olsson (Skuru IK/SWE)

Coach: Kenneth Gabrielsen (since 2016)

Team captain: Kari Brattset

EHF Women’s Champions League records:

Participations (including 2017/18 season): 1

Other EC records:

Cup Winners’ Cup: quarter-finals 2015/16

EHF Cup: semi-finals 2003/04, Last 16 2004/05

Norwegian league: - (runners-up 2017)

Norwegian Cup: - (runners-up 2010)


TEXT: Björn Pazen/jh
 
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