Storhamar aiming to make positive impression again
In their third consecutive season in a European Cup group phase, Norwegian league runners-up Storhamar Handball Elite enter the EHF European League Women group phase aiming to upset some of the more fancied teams and qualify for the quarter-finals.
With a squad containing seven players under the age of 20, Storhamar’s involvement in the group stage provides handball fans around Europe with the possibility that they may see a future star emerge.
- qualified for the group phase after their qualification round 3 tie against Alba Fehérvár KC was cancelled
- reached the quarter-finals of the EHF Cup in 2018/19 but narrowly missed out in 2019/20
- former Vipers Kristiansand coach Kenneth Gabrielsen took over as coach in March 2020
- will play against CS Minaur Baia Mare, Astrakhanochka and Thüringer HC in group C
The burning question: Can Storhamar progress from the group phase?
Storhamar know that the difference between success and failure in a group phase can be determined by just one goal, as that was all that eliminated them from group D in the Women’s EHF Cup last season. Needing a point in their sixth and final group match to progress, Storhamar suffered a 28:27 defeat against SG BBM Bietigheim in Germany.
The Hamar-based club begin the EHF European League group phase this season with an awareness that they may be about to face their most difficult challenge yet at this level.
“It’s going to be our toughest challenge so far in this competition. Baia Mare, Astrakhanochka and Thüringer are all experienced and great teams with great players,” said team manager Kamilla Sundmoen.
The departure of talented 19-year-old centre back Mia Svele to Herning-Ikast Handbold last summer is the type of transfer that Norwegian clubs have come to expect, but Storhamar signed Swedish international left back Cassandra Tollbring on a two-year deal as cover for Betina Riegelhuth, who is pregnant.
With 10 wins from 10 matches in the Norwegian league this season, Storhamar will try to take the confidence from their excellent domestic form into Europe and test Thüringer HC, Astrakhanochka and CS Minaur Baia Mare in group C.
“I think Storhamar will perform well, even though I think we are in the toughest group,” said captain Moa Fredriksson.
For Storhamar to reach the quarter-finals, they will need to replicate the home form that saw them claim nine points from 12 available in EHF Cup group phase matches in the last two seasons.
“We have opportunities to win against all the teams in the group, especially the home games in Hamar, but it will be a hard competition,” said Fredriksson.
The showstopper – Emilie Hovden
How important can a right wing be for a handball team? Well, Emilie Hovden’s sensational first season for Storhamar showed that they can be invaluable.
Hovden scored 43 goals in six group matches in 2019/20, replicating the domestic form that saw her named player of the year in the Norwegian league, and if she can continue that rate of goalscoring in the EHF European League, Storhamar have good reason to believe that they can cause more surprises in group C.
Big name – Maja Jakobsen
Now aged 30, Maja Jakobsen enjoyed her best season in a European Cup competition in 2019/20, scoring 29 goals in the EHF Cup group phase.
The experienced right back is Storhamar’s top scorer in the Norwegian league this season – having scored 56 goals in 10 matches.
Top signing – Cassandra Tollbring
Cassandra Tollbring has experience of playing for a Norwegian club in Europe's second-tier from her time at Larvik.
A cruciate ligament injury interrupted Tollbring's career at a time when she was looking to establish herself in Sweden's national team, but Storhamar coach Kenneth Gabrielsen was pleased to sign her from French club Bourg de Péage Drôme.
A night to remember
In the Cup Winners’ Cup in the 2009/10 season, Storhamar advanced from round 3 with a wide-margin 85:33 aggregate win against Cypriot club Panellinios Lefkosias, before they progressed from round 4 with a comfortable 77:66 victory over French side Mios Biganos.
Rewarded with a quarter-final tie against EHF Champions League regulars Buducnost, Storhamar had the opportunity to make an impression against one of the top clubs in women’s handball.
Facing a Buducnost team in the first leg that contained Katarina Bulatovic, Jovanka Radicevic and Milena Raicevic, Storhamar trailed 13:12 after the first half. Led in attack by explosive back court shooter Betina Riegelhuth and line player Lisa Loke, Storhamar won the second half 16:9 to claim a famous 28:22 win at home in front of 700 fans.
Whilst Buducnost’s 15-goal win in the second leg in Podgorica eliminated Storhamar, the Norwegian side’s first European quarter-final match win is still remembered fondly.
Newcomers and departures
Newcomers: Sara Rønningen (Oppsal), Caroline Amalie Nøkleby Dammen (Reistad), Kristiane Stormoen (Boden IF), Cassandra Tollbring (Bourg de Péage Drôme), Lone Sandvik (Charlottenlund)
Departures: Mia Svele (Nykøbing Falster Håndbold, Denmark), Anna Mortvedt (Retired), Maria Keiserås Haugen (Follo), Linn Andresen (Gjerpen)
Women’s EHF Cup:
Quarter-finals (1): 2018/19
Group phase (1): 2019/20
Round (3): 2008/09
Cup Winners’ Cup:
Quarter-finals (1): 2009/10
Norwegian league: 0 titles
Norwegian cups: 0 titles