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17.12.2019, 16:20
Ambitious Lada set the bar high
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WOMEN'S EHF CUP COUNTDOWN #15: Handball Club Lada (RUS). The only remaining Russian team in the competition, who have won it in 2012 and 2014, hope to go far again.
 

Ambitious Lada set the bar high

Similar to last season, Russia has just one team in the Women's EHF Cup group phase. In 2018/19 it was Kuban, who went on to reach the quarter-final, and this time it is Handball Club Lada, who are determined to do even better.

Three questions before the Women's EHF Cup group phase:

- How far will Lada go in the EHF Cup?

The Togliatti-based team won the EHF Cup in 2012 and 2014, and obviously they would like to emulate that result.

However, Lada have gone through a lot of changes in the summer of 2019, when four important players left to the newly founded CSKA Moscow, and the head coach Alexander Khomutov was replaced by Alexey Alekseev.

The renovated team has been playing quite well in the Russian league, but it remains to be seen how they will do in the EHF Cup.

- How will the team do without Daria Dmitrieva?

Despite many lucrative offers, the 24-year-old had been loyal to her home town club for several years, but in the summer of 2019 she signed with CSKA Moscow. It is a huge loss for Lada, as Dmitrieva had been a true leader of the team, and she is hard to replace.

- Will the talented Elena Mikhaylichenko continue to progress?

Previous leaders may go elsewhere, but Lada continue to generate new talents. The 18-year-old left back Mikhaylichenko, who was born and raised in Togliatti, is seen as one of the prodigies in the Russian handball. In 2019, she made her debut in the Russia's national team and won bronze in the World Championship, which has certainly gave her some important international experience.

Under the spotlight: Irina Bliznova

After captaining the Russian national team to the gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the right back decided to retire from handball. She became a teacher of physical education at a college in Togliatti and enjoyed her job, but three years later decided to resume her playing career.

In the summer, Bliznova signed with Lada, where she had played for many years in the past, and the 33-year-old even harbours hopes to return to the national team.

Self-esteem:

"We set the highest goals in the EHF Cup. It is very important for our club to play in that competition. A lot of fans come to home matches. For our city, it is really a happy day when we play in the EHF Cup," team manager Alexander Kashirin says.

Team captain Julia Kakmolja seconds his words. "Our team got strong rivals in the group, so the more interesting it will be to play against them," she says.

What the numbers say

In the World Championship in December 2019, the bronze-winning Russian squad had three Lada players - Anastasia Lagina, Olga Fomina and Elena Mikhaylichenko.

Handball Club Lada (RUS)

Qualification for the EHF Cup 2019/20 group phase:
Qualification round 3: 70:52 aggregate win against HC Zvezda (RUS)

Newcomers: Anna Golubeva (BNTU-BelAZ), Natalia Reshetnikova (Universitet Izhevsk), Viktoriya Shamanouskaya (HC Gomel), Anastasiia Portyagina (Universitet Izhevsk), Itina Bliznova (came out of retirement).

Left the club: Daria Dmitrieva (CSKA Moscow), Kristina Tarasova (Astrakhanochka), Maria Gafonova (Astrakhanochka), Elena Utkina (CSKA Moscow), Polina Vedekhina (CSKA Moscow), Polina Gorshkova (CSKA Moscow).

Coach: Alexey Alekseev (since 2019)

Team captain: Julia Kakmolja

Opponents in the group phase: SG BBM Bietigheim (GER), Herning-Ikast Handbold (DEN), Storhamar Handball Elite (NOR) in group D

Women's EHF Champions League records:
Final (1): 2006/07
Semi-final (1): 2007/08
Quarter-final (3): 2002/03, 2003/04, 2005/06
Group matches (1): 2008/09

Other European cup records:

Cup Winners' Cup:
Winner: 2002

EHF Cup:
Winner: 2012, 2014

Russian league: 6 titles (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008)
Russian cup: 1 title (2006)


TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / cor
 
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