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14.11.2018, 11:30
Five reasons behind Vipers’ success
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FIRST HAND INSIGHT: Last year bottom of the group with two points, this year already through to the main round with a match to spare. What has changed in Kristiansand?
 

Five reasons behind Vipers’ success

The progress has been remarkable for Vipers Kristiansand in the Women’s EHF Champions League this season.

After being eliminated with just two points after the group matches in their maiden season in the competition last year, the Norwegian champions are sure to reach the main round already before their last group match this year.

Two impressive away wins in the past two rounds - 31:26 against CSM Bucuresti and 34:26 against SG BBM Bietigheim - have made it all clear for Vipers. And with a further win at home against FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria on Sunday, they can double their number of points for the main round from two to four.

Let’s look for an explanation for Vipers’ success lately.

1. Successful signings

Vipers seem to have been acting very sensibly on the transfer market ahead of this season.

In the right back position, Silje Waade, who joined from Norwegian league rivals Byasen Trondheim, has turned out to be exactly the right supplement to the experiences Linn Jørum Sulland.

For the playmaker position, the club signed one of the most promising talents in Norwegian women’s handball, 19-year-old Henny Reistad. She moved from another Norwegian club, Stabæk IF, and her performances for Vipers have already earned her a nomination for the Norwegian squad for the EHF EURO 2018.

The biggest problem before this season seemed finding a qualified replacement to Norwegian international Kari Brattset, who left for Györ Audi ETO KC. Again, Vipers seem to have struck gold, however.

Hanna Yttereng, a junior world champion in 2010, joined from Byasen, and the 27-year-old line player impressed not only last Sunday, when she scored nine goals from nine attempts against Bietigheim, one of her former clubs.

2. Marta Tomac fit again

The experienced playmaker and Norwegian international was severely missed throughout last season, when she was out with a torn ACL.

Assistant coach Kristine Lunde Borgesen did well to replace, but being player, assistant coach and mother at the same time was too much. Emilie Hegh Arntzen had to move in from the left back, which is her best position.

So with Tomac back on court and with Henny Reistad as her backup, the essential playmaker position is in safe hands again, and Hegh Arntzen can focus entirely on the left back position again.

3. Ole Gustav Gjekstad’s return

A surprise to many, Ole Gustav Gjekstad got the interest and motivation to come back as a handball coach after a three-year break. In 2015, he ended an 11-year spell over two periods as head coach at Larvik HK after leading them EHF Champions League Final in 2015. At that time, he wanted more time with his family and focus on other things as away from the handball court.

But before this season, the 50-year-old Gjekstad quit his job in the insurance business to take over as head coach at Vipers, and his tactical, psychological and communicative skills already seem to have done wonders to the team.

 

Gjekstad has a proven track record: in 11 seasons with Larvik, the team failed only once to advance from the group matches. In his first season with Vipers, he has done it again.

4. Increasing international experience

Experience is important in the EHF Champions League. Last season, Vipers gained plenty of valuable international experience.

First they played two qualification matches and six group matches in the EHF Champions League, then they competed in 12 EHF Cup matches - including the two-leg final which they lost by one goal on aggregate against SCM Craiova of Romania.

There is no doubt that Vipers have been able to benefit from this international experience in their EHF Champions League campaign this season.

5. Winning gives confidence

Nothing boosts a team’s confidence more than winning matches.

And Vipers have got used to winning. They qualified for the EHF Champions League directly as Norwegian champions, and they won everything in the national league and cup competitions this season as well.

Gaining confidence from a victory is a self-perpetuating process. So the 31:26 win in Bucharest obviously made the Vipers players believe even more in themselves, which at least partly explains their big win against Bietigheim, after getting just one point in three previous matches against the German side

It will be interesting to see if Vipers’ upwards going trend continues against FTC on Saturday, and especially in the main round in 2019.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / ew
 
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