Dmitrieva hopes for home support in Togliatti
For Daria Dmitrieva, the final games of the Cup Winners' Cup are extra special. For the first time in her career, the 20-year-old playmaker and top scorer of the season for Handball Club Lada has the chance to win a European club trophy.
In the first leg against Team Tvis Holstebro played in Denmark, Lada lost 27:31, which was an unfortunate result for the Russian side as they were leading by six goals at half-time.
“It was a hard game for us with a lot of different emotions. Unfortunately, in the second half we lost the ball too often, which allowed Holstebro to come back and win the game,” Dmitrieva told eurohandball.com.
Yet Dmitrieva believes that on the home court in Togliatti her team will improve: “I am sure that we are capable of winning the trophy. For me, there is no favourite in the second leg.
“Home support is a very important factor, especially in such tough games. I hope that our fans will create a fantastic atmosphere which will help us.”
The final matches feature a duel of the tournament's top scorers. Holstebro's Nathalie Hagman scored ten times last Sunday and now has 62 goals in her tally for the season, while Dmitrieva holds second place with 50 goals.
It does not look possible for the Russian to catch up with her rival in the scoring race, but that is not her top priority in any case: “Of course our duel with Nathalie does play a role, but it is obviously the team result that matters first and foremost.”
Lada have had a good season in the last edition of the Cup Winners' Cup – a tournament that will merge with EHF Cup in next season. For Dmitrieva, the most memorable game so far has been the first-leg semi-final at home against Slovenia's RK Krim Mercator.
“It was really difficult. We did not expect such a tough game from our opponents. Actually, we were stunned by it,” admits Dmitrieva.
It may have been more difficult than expected but Lada won the semi-final 28:24 at home and 27:22 away to advance to the final.
Togliatti were not so fortunate in the semi-final of the Russian championship. Just a few days before travelling to Holstebro, they lost the decisive game to Astrakhanochka and with it the chance to fight for the domestic title.
“Maybe this setback also influenced our game in Denmark. But we tried to forget it as soon as possible since the European cup finals are the most important matches of our season,” says Dmitrieva.
Togliatti’s young, ambitious star
Dmitrieva’s connection to the city Lada Handball Club calls home was strong even before she donned the jersey, as she was born in Togliatti, into a family with a love for sport. Her father, a former ice hockey player, wanted her to play sports and it did not take long for his wish to come true.
When Dmitrieva was eight, she watched a local tournament and fell in love with handball, and when she was 14 she left home for Volgograd, where she joined the local handball school.
Dinamo Volgograd was her first professional team and she played with them through several seasons before returning to her hometown and signing a contract with Lada last summer.
“Volgograd gave me a lot, and sometimes I miss it. Yet I am happy to come back to Togliatti. It is so nice to be at home,” says Dmitrieva.
At the age of 20 she is already a team leader but speaks quite humbly about it: “I feel good in the team, but I do not do anything supernatural than makes me really stand out. We are a team, and we all play together.”
The young playmaker has already won a number of titles during her career. With Dinamo she was Russian champion three times, and representing Russia she won the European Youth Championship in 2011 and the European Junior Championship in 2013.
Modest as she is, Dmitrieva does not hide her ambitions: “I want to win many more trophies. This year, my goal is to play at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. I really hope to be a part of Russia's squad there.”
Her immediate goal however, is to win the Cup Winners' Cup, and on Saturday in the second-leg final streamed live on ehfTV, Dmitrieva will try her best to bring the trophy to Togliatti.
TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / cg