Sides from Turkey, Croatia and France all in for glory.
Women's EHF Challenge Cup Semi-Final First Leg Preview
H.A.C. Handball - Lokomotiva Zagreb
H.A.C. Handball from Le Havre in France are one of the strongest teams in the Women's EHF Challenge Cup, as the French club lies in fourth position in their strong domestic league, only three points behind Issy Paris and Metz, the latter having played in the Main Round of the EHF Women's Champions League recently.
H.A.C. Handball features several top names, such as national team player Paule Baudouin, former national team goalkeeper Linda Pradel and other internationals such as Macedonian Dragica Kresoja and Russian sharpshooter Elena Polenova.
Their current top scorer with 24 goals is Spaniard Alberto Francisca Nely, the former Itxako Navarra player.
Their opponents Lokomotiva only have Croatian players in their squad and the Zagreb-based club has traditionally been an important facility for producing youth players. Therefore, no 'big' names are found at the club, only talented youngsters.
With them, Lokomotiva will face in H.A.C. Handball a strong opponent with big names in their ranks. The fierce duel between the two teams will be the clash of the young prospects against the experienced players.
Fleury Loiret Handball - Muratpasa Belediyesi
Last year´s finalists Muratpasa Belediyesi are ’on a roll’ again, as, just like last season, they’ve reached the semi-final stage of the EHF Women's Challenge Cup.
In the 2010/11 final they were stopped by French team Mios Biganos, and now they will face another French team, Fleury, in the semi-final.
Fleury lie third from bottom in the French league and feature several internationals in their squad, among them one Hungarian, one Tunisian, one Romanian, and in Laima Bernataviciute, a strong Lithuanian back-court player who has scored 24 goals so far in her side´s six EHF Women's Challenge Cup games.
Recently, Bernataviciute was part of the Lithuanian home success in the EHF EURO qualifications against the Turkish national side and the back player hopes to continue the success story against her Turkish club opponents.
On the other side, Muratpasa from Antalya is the team built around Turkish Serpil Iskenderoğlu, one of the biggest names in the Turkish national team. With her on field, the Turks will aim to reach the EHF Women's Challenge Cup final again.
TEXT: Márk Hegedüs
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