20191116 Valcea Gonzalez (1)
EHF Champions League

Strong bonds are Valcea’s driving force

EHF / Adrian Costeiu

For a team that celebrates unity and team spirit, Valcea did everything right this summer as they focused on building upon last season’s achievements.

Sure, there were unexpected and painful defeats throughout the campaign, yet the Romanian side managed to progress to the quarter-finals, a feat they will try to emulate this season.

There were no big changes, yet experienced players were brought in, while team captain Yuliya Dumanska left after a two-year stint in Valcea.

Expect more of the same gritty defence that Valcea tried to perfect last season, while a healthy side could force even the toughest opponents to fall in important moments.

Main facts

  • the Romanian championship was stopped when Valcea were in the first place, tied on points with CSM Bucuresti, but with CSM having a game in hand
  • it will be Valcea’s 15th season in the top flight - only eight teams played more games in the competition
  • players from nine different nationalities are in Valcea’s roster: Romanian, Spanish, Serbia, Ukrainian, German, Montenegrin, Hungarian, Norwegian and Danish
  • coach Florentin Pera enters his third season with the team and has already won plaudits for his time in charge
  • the Romanian side made only four transfers this season, with back Ewgenija Minevskaja from Brest and line player Maren Aardahl from Bietigheim leading the way
  • this will be the fourth season in the history of the competition when two Romanian sides line up at the start of the group phase

Most important question: Will Valcea’s long-standing core make the leap this season?

The Romanian side have outdone expectations in the past seasons, morphing into a strong team with an underdog’s spirit. Yet questions linger about their capacity to go even further. 

Winning the Romanian title was a surprise two seasons ago. And while qualifying for the quarter-finals of last year’s DELO EHF Champions League was expected, Valcea had to mount a comeback in the main round to achieve their objective.

Therefore, the question that beckons is if the current team is strong enough to challenge for a DELO EHF FINAL4 spot. 

Sure, the players are more experienced, they played together for a long time and there have not been painful breakups this summer, except for captain Yuliya Dumanska, who left for HC Podravka Vegeta.

Experienced players like Zeljka Nikolic, Maren Aardahl and Ewgenija Minevskaja have been ushered in to help with their European experience, yet Valcea look dangerously fragile when it comes to strength in depth in what shapes up to be a tough season for them as they eye the Romanian title and a lengthy spell in Europe’s premier competition.

Under the spotlight: Asma Elghaoui

The All-star line player of the last season has been superb for Valcea since she signed for them in the summer of 2019. Elghaoui, a Tunisian-born Hungarian player had two seasons at this level under her belt before signing for Valcea but surpassed her previous best of 41 goals with a 50-goal tally last season.

A mobile, yet versatile line player, Elghaoui has been Valcea’s top scorer and the Romanian side will expect more of the same, despite ushering in a new line player, Norwegian Maren Aardahl, who is likely to spend more time in defence rather than in attack.

How they rate themselves

There is no such thing as an easy game in the DELO EHF Champions League and Valcea learned the hard way last season when their form fluctuated. Consistency will be key in an-eight team group and if the Romanian side wants to be successful, they will have to pay more attention to crucial moments in games.

The DELO EHF FINAL4 is still a tough ask for Valcea, right now, but they are eyeing progressing to the knock-out phase of the competition. 

“Our main goal in the new season is to progress from the group phase. Reaching the quarter-finals will be a bonus, we will definitely be happy with it,” said Florin Verigeanu, SCM’s president.

Valcea’s history makes it mandatory for us to play at the highest level, both in the domestic league and in international competitions. Our fans have been accustomed to high-level performance and we want more of the same,” added Verigeanu.

Valcea also have a new captain in Marta Batinovic, the Croatian goalkeeper who replaced Yuliya Dumanska. They will face each other in the group and it will be a special game for Batinovic, who spent seven years at Podravka.

“I look forward to meeting Podravka, going back to Croatia, but also playing against Buducnost. After being their player, Podgorica feels like my second home,” added Batinovic.

Did you know?

Valcea’s coach, Florentin Pera, ended his playing career when he was only 25, taking up coaching.

What the numbers say

Valcea’s history in the competition has seen them win 65 times and only seven teams have racked up more at this level.

Arrivals and departures:

Newcomers: Zeljka Nikolic (SCM Craiova), Maren Nyland Aardahl (SG BBM Bietigheim), Ewgenija Minevskaja (Brest Bretagne Handball), Raluca Dascalete (Rapid Bucuresti)

Left the club: Yuliya Dumanska (Podravka Koprivnica), Raluca Elena Bacaoanu (Gloria Bistrita), Samara Da Silva Vieira (RK Krim Mercator), Alexandra Badea (Rapid Bucuresti), Madalina Zamfirescu (Dunarea Braila)

Past achievements

DELO Women’s EHF Champions League:

Participations (including 2020/21 season): 15
Runners-up (1): 2009/10
Semi-finals (3): 2008/09, 2011/12, 2012/13
Quarter-finals (1): 2019/20
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:

Women’s EHF Cup: Winners (2): 1984, 1989
Women’s Cup Winners’ Cup (1): 2007

Romanian league : 20 titles (1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2019)
Romanian cup: 13 titles (1984, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2011)

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