Schmelzer: “We want to show that we belong here”
HC Dunarea Brăila are aiming for their second EHF European League Women group phase appearance after missing out on the 2021/22 and 2022/23 editions. However, they have a long way still to go after a narrow away win against Valur in the first leg of qualification round 2. The Romanian side want to confirm their qualification round 3 spot and one of the players ready to fight for it in Brăila is Meike Schmelzer.
The 30-year-old line player is also back in the second-tier competition after two years. She gained valuable European experience with Thüringer, where she played from 2014 until moving to Romania in 2021. The German international had seven successful years in Germany, winning three championship titles, three Super Cup trophies and one German Cup, before embarking on a new journey.
Departing the club where she arrived as a young talent and developed into a strong line player was not easy, but Schmelzer was ready for a new challenge. After a one-year stint in CS Gloria 2018 Bistrița-Năsăud she reinforced Brăila in 2022. Heading into her second year with the club, she has nothing but positive thoughts.
“I’m very satisfied in Romania, especially in Braila. We have a great atmosphere in the team and the club is giving us a very professional and supportive environment,” says Schmelzer.
The line player is eager to play against strong teams and is hoping for a duel with a German side in the next qualification round, as they already know they will have to fight the third-placed team from the EHF Finals - BV Borussia Dortmund - for a spot in the group phase. But to get there, they need to secure their spot at home against Valur.
Valur were fighting hard in the first leg of qualification round 2 and made Brăila sweat. Even though the Romanian side was in front for most part of the game, Valur levelled near the end, providing an exciting finish. While Jelena Živkoić secured a celebration in the land of fire and ice; Meike Schmelzel added three great goals in a 31:30 win.
“We haven’t been surprised about the strength of Valur. We’ve watched some videos and prepared the game, so we knew somehow what to expect. However, I have to say that they played very well and made it difficult for us to win,” says the German player about the first match.
HC Dunarea Brăila went through some changes during the summer but the biggest one happened recently. The club changed their head coach only four days prior to the game in Iceland. Jan Leslie, the former coach of Aalborg, Rostov-Don, CSKA Moscow and Team Esbjerg, made his debut against Valur after replacing Costica Buceschi. It will take time for everyone to adjust to the situation but they all have the same goal - win at home.
Schmelzer is confident they will make it happen just as she is honest about what they need to improve: “There are for sure some things that we need to work on, that we have to enhance, for example in defence.”
Valur is coming to Romania on Saturday 30 September, and they will not have it easy. In their last three European seasons, Brăila lost only two out of ten games at home, with one being against fellow Romanian side CS Minaur Baia Mare in the EHF European League Women 2021 quarter-finals.
“From the second match, I expect the same fight. There is just one goal difference so we have to put all in, in order to qualify for the next round. It would mean a lot to us if we qualify for the next round, that’s a big goal for our team. We’ve worked very hard in the last season to secure a spot in the competition and we want to show that we belong here”, adds Schmelzer
Playing on a high level means a lot to the club and the players, that is why they have straightforward goals; ”Our goals for the season are to achieve a place in our League that qualifies us for an international competition, to come as far as possible in the cup and of course as far as possible in the EHF European League,” concludes Schmelzer.