Bulatovic and Aguinagalde EHF Players of the Month for February
Individually they have been representing world-class handball for years and have been awarded All-star Team memberships at major events alongside their team silver ware, but now Katarina Bulatovic and Julen Aguinagalde top the EHF Player of the Month ranking for the first time.
Funnily enough, they are also the first ever EHF Players of the Month from their highly successful clubs Buducnost Podgorica and Vive Tauron Kielce and from their countries Montenegro and the Spanish senior national team.
The voting of the EHF journalists was clear - with Aguingalde being on top by nine of ten and Bulatovic by six of ten. While in the women’s ranking the Montenegrin shooter (36 points) is ahead of last month’s winner Amanda Kurtovic (Larvik/27) and young Russian Karina Sabirova (Astrakhan/26), Aguinagalde (45 points) left players like Andy Schmid (Löwen/21) or Borut Mackovsek (Celje/19) clearly behind.
Interestingly enough the individual performances of Katarina Bulatovic and Julen Aguinagalde were much better than the results of their teams in February: Buducnost lost two home matches (against Vardar and FTC) in the EHF Women’s Champions League Main Round, while Kielce lost three of four group matches since the re-start of the VELUX EHF Champions League.
Bulatovic: "I never, never had expected to win this"
With 65 goals so far, Bulatovic is sixth ranked in the top scorer list, but mainly her 14 goals against Vardar shone bright. “I wasn’t counting during the match, and when I left the court I was told that I scored 14 times.
"I could not believe the number,” said the 32-year-old and four-time EHF Champions League winner, adding: "I never, never had expected to win this. But more important for me is that we as a team are back on track after some weak matches.
"I am happy with this award, but I will be much happier if we make it to the FINAL4 in Budapest for the fourth straight time. I am quite confident that we have the chance to do so."
Before their last main round match at FTC, Buducnost are third in their group, but mathematically can climb up higher. Like their upcoming opponents, Vardar and Metz, the 2012 and 2015 EHF Champions League winners have already clinched their berth for the quarter-finals.
Aguinagalde, Kielce's diamond in the rough
Aguinagalde (34), the first line player to be awarded EHF Player of the Month since the start in January 2016, had a scoring ratio of five and more in February, topped by eight goals from eight attempts in Kielce’s 28:24 win against Szeged.
With, in total, 66 goals the 2013 World Champion and 2016 EHF EURO finalist currently is ranked eighth in the VELUX EHF Champions League top scorer list - as Kielce’s top scorer.
With one match to go, Aguinagalde and Kielce are currently fourth in Group B, but by beating Meshkov Brest, the defending champions would finish the group second.
Bulatovic and Aguinagalde follow on the Norwegian duo Amada Kurtovic (Larvik) and Sander Sagosen (Aalborg), who had been voted EHF Players of the Month for January.
TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc