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31.01.2020, 16:30
Mikhaylichenko: “I would easily swap my goals for Lada wins”
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FEATURE: Women’s EHF Cup top scorer Elena Mikhaylichenko hopes to help her team progress to the quarter-final although Lara are bottom of their group after four matches
 

Mikhaylichenko: “I would easily swap my goals for Lada wins”

After four matches in the Women’s EHF Cup group phase, Handball Club Lada sit bottom of group D with just two points. However, unlike all last-place teams in the other three groups, the Russian side still have a chance to go through.

One of Lada’s trump cards is Elena Mikhaylichenko. At just 18, the left back is seen as the rising star of Russian handball.

“I don’t even follow the scoring chart”

This season she is living up to that billing and leads the EHF Cup top scorer standings, with 52 goals.

“To be honest, I don’t even follow the scoring chart. It’s nice to be a top scorer, but team results are much more important. I would easily swap my goals for Lada wins,” Mikhaylichenko says.

In each of the four group matches, Mikhaylichenko scored at least eight goals. Statistically, her best game was at Bietigheim, where she netted 11 times but Lada lost 31:29.

Yet the player prefers to recall Lada’s so far only win in the group, 33:28 at Storhamar.

“I think it was my best game. I scored 10 goals and converted my chances quite well,” she says.

A week after winning in Norway, Lada hoped to beat Storhamar again on home court but this time the Togliatti-based side suffered a 31:27 defeat.

“There was no underestimation, that’s for sure. We knew that our rivals would be highly motivated to take revenge. Unfortunately, we couldn’t show our best game both in attack and defence,” Mikhaylichenko explains.

Key player in rebuilt squad

Despite that setback, Lada still have an opportunity to reach the quarter-final.

“There is always a chance. Now we have to beat Bietigheim and then grab points at Herning-Ikast,” says Mikhaylichenko, who remains optimistic.

Mikhaylichenko and her teammates are determined to make Lada’s fans happy on Saturday. The game against Bietigheim starts at 14:00 CET and will be streamed live on ehfTV.

“We have lost both games at home, and it’s sad. Now we hope to finally win in Togliatti,” Mikhaylichenko says. “We need to prepare well for the game, maybe to make some changes in defence in order to hold back their attack.”

Lada had to rebuild their squad after a number of key players left last summer, most notably Russian international Daria Dmitrieva and three other players, who moved to the newly created and ambitious club CSKA Moscow.

“Of course their departure has affected us. It takes time to create a new team, and now we are just starting to find chemistry,” says Mikhaylichenko, who has quickly become one of Lada’s leaders.

“I realised that handball is my life”

Being a new key player for the team, the 18-year-old feels some extra responsibility. However, it seems to be too early for her to be also a leader off the court.

“Not that I always keep silent, but I realise that there’s a difference between me and more experienced players. Still I treat my older teammates with respect, and I communicate with everyone,” she says.

Elena’s biography looks pretty straightforward. Born in Togliatti, she started to play handball in the fifth grade and fell in love with the game.

“I also ran for my school and did ballroom dancing, but later I realised that handball is my life,” she recalls.

Olympics is the goal for 2020

Not just at Lada, also in the Russian national team Mikhaylichenko has had her breakthrough. She was the MVP of the Youth World Championship in 2018 and the Women’s 19 EHF EURO 2019 before making her debut in the senior team.

The left back was part of the team that won the bronze medal at the World Championship 2019 in Japan.

“It was really exciting. It was a big experience and I had a lot of emotions when I made the team,” she says. “In Japan, the coach even gave me some minutes on court.”

Rather not wanting to be called “a prodigy” or “a rising star,” Mikhaylichenko finds it hard to imagine how far she will have gone in about five years.

However, the Russian has a specific goal for 2020.

“I would like to play at the Olympics and I hope that maybe I will get my chance,” Mikhaylichenko says about the 2020 Tokyo Games, where Russia are the defending champions.

“However, I know I need to work hard as the competition at my position is really big.”


TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / ew
 
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