Lada looking for European glory
After winning the EHF Cup in 2012 and 2014, Handball Club Lada continued to regularly participate in the second-tier European competition. But although they were named among the favourites at the start of almost every season, the Russian team were never able to return to the good old days.
Ahead of the 2021/22 group phase, Lada are not hiding their ambitions - will they live up to expectations? They certainly have plenty of talent, but have occasionally lacked stability and character in the past. If they show enough commitment and determination, everything is possible.
- the two-time EHF Cup winners are looking for their first title since 2014
- a number of Russian talents grew up at Lada, including Darya Dmitrieva and Elena Mikhaylichenko
- Lada have an all-Russian squad except for Belarusian goalkeeper Valiantsina Vaitulevich
- two players left the club in the summer, while three newcomers arrived
- coach Aleksey Alekseev also worked with Russia's national team between February and September 2021 and led them to silver at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Most important question: Can they be trophy contenders?
In the Russian league, it is hard for Lada to compete with Rostov-Don and CSKA, who have more resources and can sign high-level foreigners as well as top Russian players to book tickets to the DELO EHF Champions League.
However, the Togliatti-based team have a good chance of being successful in Europe’s second-tier competition. Throughout the years, Lada have developed a number of talents, and although many of them have moved to other clubs, others are still at Lada and want to achieve something with the team.
In three of the four most recent seasons, Lada were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the second-tier European competition. However, their players have matured during recent years, and while Lada take nothing for granted for the Russian team, they certainly have a chance to advance from the group - and then everything could be possible.
Under the spotlight: Olga Fomina
Right wing Olga Fomina has spent most of her career at Lada, although she also had spells at HC Vardar and Rostov-Don. Since 2011, Fomina has regularly played for Russia's national team, and she was the only Togliatti-based player at the EHF EURO 2020 and Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Having a lot of international experience, she is one of the players who can lead by example in crucial moments.
How they rate themselves
"We have not won a European Cup for more than seven years, although we have repeatedly advanced from the group. We hope now not only to make the next step, but also to go as far as possible, showing a good game. I think if we show character and do our best, we will have a good chance to fight for the title," Lada's captain Julia Kakmolia said.
Did you know?
Irina Bliznova, the former right back who won the Rio 2016 Olympics and two world championships with Russia's national team, spent her entire club career at Lada. She decided to finish her career in 2016, but returned to the court three years later and played at Togliatti again in the 2019/20 season. After the club changed its owner in 2021, Bliznova became Lada's president in the summer, so this is a new, important chapter in her handball life.
What the numbers say
While Fomina was Lada's only player at the Olympics last year, four Togliatti-based players represented the Russian team at the IHF Women’s World Championship 2021. Beside Fomina, three back court players were called up to the national team - Olga Shcherbak, Valeriia Kirdiasheva and Veronika Nikitina.
Arrivals and departures
Arrivals: Valiantsina Vaitulevich (BNTU-BelAZ), Irina Nikitina (Astrakhanochka)
Departures: Anastasia Lagina (Rostov-Don), Viktoryia Shamanouskaya (CSKA), Polina Masalova (Ruch Horzow)
EHF European League Women participations (including 2021/22): 2
Quarter-finals (1): 2020/21
EHF Champions League
Runners-up (1): 2006/07
Semi-finals (1): 2007/08
Quarter-finals (4): 2002/03, 2003/04, 2004/05, 2005/06
Group matches (1): 2009/10
Winners (2): 2011/12, 2013/14
Semi-finals (1): 2010/11
Quarter-finals (2): 2017/18, 2019/20
Cup Winners' Cup:
Winners (1): 2001/02
Runners-up (1): 2015/16
Quarter-finals (1): 2004/05
Russian league: 6 titles (2002-06, 2008)
Russian cup: 1 title (2006)