A powerhouse reborn in Valcea
A powerhouse reborn in Valcea
2013 was the swan song of one of the beautiful Romanian handball stories. In a city that lives and breathes handball, Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea was a vantage point for fans that flocked to the “Traian” Arena to support their favourite side.
Oltchim won the Romanian title 19 times, was an EHF Champions League finalist in 2010 and won the Women’s Cup Winners’ Cup once. Yet a shortage of funds meant that the team folded in 2013, much to the despair of thousands of fans that questioned what could have been if the club they cheered for had been saved.
However, handball was still breathing in Ramnicu Valcea and a team rose from the ashes. The assumption was that the pathway to success was never going to be easy. And it never was. But success usually comes when you least expect it and this was the case also with the new iteration of handball in Ramnicu Valcea, SCM.
Starting last season as a huge underdog, SCM won the Romanian Super Cup against CSM Bucuresti, then shocked them in the Romanian league. In a marathon rather than a sprint, SCM never dropped a beat and won the title, which also handed them a berth in the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League.
Three questions before the new season:
- How will SCM cope with the pressure?
The role of the underdog suited Valcea perfectly last season, as nobody expected such a perfect season from a team with no true star. It was the team, rather than the players which exceeded all expectations, with a stout defence and a shrewd attack that helped propel SCM to the Romanian domestic title.
However, this time, it will be a different role and some different boots to fill for SCM. Now Valcea have a target on their back and no other team will take them lightly, as they had already shown how dangerous can be. To help their case, there are seven new players in the team, including experienced pros such as Ann Grete Norgaard, Asma Elghaoui or Kristina Liscevic, all with dozens of games in the European top competition.
Improved experience, depth and a strong bench are key to a successful season in the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League and as Valcea eye a main round berth, they certainly did their homework.
- Will the lack of European experience hurt them?
The aforementioned new players will surely add much needed experience into the team, yet SCM are still a newcomer in the European top competition. They might continue in Oltchim’s footsteps, but the new iteration of the team has only four European games under their belt, in last season’s Women’s EHF Cup.
While the 55:47 aggregate win against Kastamonu in Qualification Round 2 was superb, Valcea only scored 35 goals over 120 minutes against Herning-Ikast, who took a 43:35 aggregate win in the next round. This time, opposition will definitely be harder for Valcea, who must improve considerably if they are to fulfil their ambitions.
- Is chemistry going to be a factor?
Winning a domestic title in an emphatic fashion is always a superb feeling, yet SCM needed more than a revamp in order to be competitive in the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League. Seven players have been brought in to reinforce all positions, yet the first important test, the Romanian Super Cup, against CSM Bucuresti was a failed one, as Valcea lost, 29:23.
There were obviously chemistry issues and those will surely arise under pressure in the future and it will be Florentin Pera’s task, a coach with virtually no European top experience, to resolve. They say good players do not need time to click together and this will be tested in Valcea this season.
Under the spotlight: Iryna Glibko
29-year old Glibko is one of the most consistent scorers in the Romanian national league over the past seasons, plying her trade in Romania since 2012. She won the top goal scorer competition in 2013 and 2018 and scored 1,102 goals over the past six seasons. Yet this is her first season in the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League and the playmaker, who can also play as a left back, is eager to display her scoring prowess on the top stage.
While only 169cm tall, Glibko is a sharpshooter, has superb agility and tremendous speed that can dazzle the opposing defences. Her form might truly be the difference between a good or a bad season for Valcea.
Winning the Romanian domestic league last season was the biggest surprise in the history of the competition, as Valcea were barely seen as a top three candidate before the start of the season. They lost only two games, one in the last second against CSM and in the last round, when they already lifted the trophy, in a dominating season. This was a morale booster and they will surely remember last season’s success when they will throw-off the European season.
There are players from eight different nationalities in SCM’s roster this season. 11 Romanian players form the core of the team, while three Spanish players, and players from Brazil, Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia, Denmark and Croatia cap off the team.
What the numbers say
This will be the third time in the competition’s history when two Romanian teams will play in the group phase. Oltchim Ramnicu Valcea and Universitatea Jolidon Cluj represented Romania in 2012/13, while CSM Bucuresti and HCM Baia Mare took part in 2015/16
SCM Ramnicu Valcea (ROU)
Qualification for DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League 2019/20: Romanian champions
Newcomers: Marta Batinovic (ZRK Buducnost), Asma Elghaoui (Siofok KC), Ann Grete Norgaard (Viborg HK), Madalina Zamfirescu (Debrecen), Kristina Liscevic (Team Esbjerg), Ana Maria Savu (Kisvardai KC), Mireya Gonzalez (Siofok KC)
Left the club: Ines Khouildi (SCM Gloria Buzau), Marija Petrovic (SCM Gloria Buzau), Ana Maria Popa (SCM Gloria Buzau), Petra Blazek (SCM Gloria Buzau), Andreea Pricopi (SCM Gloria Buzau), Maria Gavrila (loan to SCM Gloria Buzau), Natalia Vasileuskaia (Gloria Bistrita)
Coach: Florentin Pera (since July 2018)
Team captain: Yuliya Dumanska
DELO WOMEN'S EHF Champions League record:
Participations (including 2019/20 season): 14
Runners-up (1): 2009/10
Semi-finals (3): 2008/09, 2011/12, 2012/13
Main Round (2): 2007/08, 2010/11
Group Matches (1): 2000/01
Champions League (4): 1995/96, 1996/97, 1997/98, 1998/99
1/16-finals (1): 1999/2000
Qualification Round 2 (1): 2002/03
Other EC records:
Cup Winners’ Cup:
Winners (1): 2006/07
Runners-up (1): 2001/02
Winners (1): 2006/07
20 titles (1989, 1990, 1991, 1993-2000, 2002, 2007-13, 2019)
13 titles (1984, 1990, 1992-99, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2011)