Newcomers could give THC the edge
For the seventh time under the leadership of coach Herbert Müller, Thüringer HC became German champions in 2017/18.
The team, which has changed on some positions for the new season, hopes are to make it to the main round while two young German internationals, Emily Bölk and Alicia Stolle, could be rocking the Women’s EHF Champions League.
Three questions before the new season:
- Can the new goalkeeper duo fill the void Dinah Eckerle has left?
Dutch Kristy Zimmerman and German Ann-Cathrin Giegerich carry the THC hopes between the posts. In the previous season, Dinah Eckerle was the best German goalkeeper – despite her young age. With her transfer to Bietigheim, the role of the new No. 1 is not clearly marked yet. Both new goalkeepers have played in the Bundesliga before but are lacking much international experience. But they are ready to learn. One advantage of THC might be that experienced Jana Krause will be back in two or three months as a third option, after she broke her hand. Krause has already been coaching the new goalies.
- Will Iveta Luzumova be unstoppable again?
The Czech international led the top scorers’ ranking in 2017/18 until the FINAL4 in Budapest. Luzumova was Bundesliga top scorer and was awarded best player of the 2017/18 season – and now? Being the new team captain of THC, as successor of pregnant Kerstin Wohlbold, she even carries more responsibility. The first matches of the domestic season have already proved that Luzumova is still on fire, which could become a problem for her German THC teammates as Germany and Czech Republic share the same preliminary group at the EHF EURO 2018 in France.
- Can THC proceed to the quarter-finals for a second time?
The group matches seem to be a manageable task, mainly as THC coach Herbert Müller had been more afraid of Craiova as potential winner of the qualification tournament. Györ are out of reach, but Krim and Podravka are on a similar level. The main round hurdles are expected to be higher (Bucuresti, FTC), so maybe a potential all-German duel with Bietigheim could be decisive for the quarter-final spot.
Under spotlight: Emily Bölk
Almost all European top clubs were chasing the biggest German talent of the past decade, but she stayed on German ground, arriving at Langensalza from Buxtehude. At the age of 16, Bölk had her debut in Bundesliga. Two years later, and after becoming MVP of the U18 World Championship, she had her first cap for the German women’s team. Now, at the age of 20, the daughter of 1993 world champion and EHF EURO 1994 silver medallist Andrea Bölk is already a key player. Her Champions League debut will likely be the launching pad for a glorious international career. But the next two years Bölk want to develop and push forward the team of THC.
For Thüringer HC it is all about remaining in the competition in 2019.
“We have to face defending champions and main favourites Györ, but we expect to have the chance to proceed to the main round, which is our first and major goal. Mainly we have to gain our points in our home matches,” says team manager Maik Schenk, adding: “It is an honour for us to constantly be part of the Champions League, and our players learn a lot from those top matches.”
New team captain Iveta Luzumova shares this opinion: “We, the players, are always looking forward to playing Champions League. We have the challenge ahead to qualify for the main round and we want to fight for the second rank in this group, in which Györ are far ahead of the rest.”
Thüringer HC are used to play their home matches not at home. Their regular arena in Bad Langensalza doesn’t match all necessary criteria for Champions League games, so the Wiedigburgshalle in Nordhausen has become their second home. The atmosphere in the arena, with a capacity of approx. 2,000 fans, is brilliant but still the club hopes to return to their regular arena after renovation one day.
What the numbers say
Three current German internationals arrived at Thüringer HC at the start of the season: apart from Bölk, it is Alicia Stolle and Ina Großmann. Featuring also Anne Hubinger and Meike Schmelzer, THC are the backbone of the national team.
Thüringer HC (GER)
Qualification for Women’s EHF Champions League 2018/19 season: German champions
Newcomers: Emily Bölk (Buxtehude), Alicia Stolle (Blomberg), Kristy Zimmerman (Göppingen), Ann-Cathrin Giegerich (Neckarsulm), Ina Großmann (Metzingen), Jovana Sazdovska (Skopje), Krisztina Triscsuk (Kisvarda)
Left the club: Dinah Eckerle (Bietigheim), Patricia da Silva (Le Havre), Annika Niederwieser (Metzingen), Macarena Aguilar (retired)
Coach: Herbert Müller (since 2010)
Team captain: Iveta Luzumova
Women’s EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2018/19 season): 8
Quarter-Finals (1): 2014/15
Main Round (4): 2013/14, 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18
Group Matches (2): 2011/12, 2012/13
Other EC records:
Cup Winners’ Cup:
7 titles (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)
2 titles (2011, 2013)
TEXT: Björn Pazen / ew