Vipers poised to strike again
With a fully fit squad, bolstered by a few solid signings and one potentially game-changing arrival, Vipers Kristiansand are in position to launch another serious attack on the DELO EHF Champions League crown.
- having lost just one match all season, Kristiansand were declared winners of last season’s Norwegian league, their third consecutive title
- in CL 2019/20 season they could not emulate the form which brought them to Budapest in 2019, losing all six main round matches
- signed superstar Nora Mørk after she left CSM Bucuresti due to an illness in the family; Mørk and coach Ole Gustav Gjekstad previously worked together at Larvik
- goalkeeper Katrine Lunde returns from a knee injury, forming trio between the posts with Andrea Pedersen and Swedish newcomer Evelina Eriksson
- core of the squad has remained stable and is further bolstered by Jeanett Kristiansen’s return from Herning-Ikast and Jana Knedlikova joining from Györ
Most important question: Can they remain injury free and consistent?
Having reached the DELO EHF FINAL4 in 2019, much was expected of Vipers last season. And while they entertained the neutrals with some rip-roaring matches early on, their vigour disappeared somewhat once they reached the main round and injuries took their toll.
The absence of Katrine Lunde in goal and Henny Reistad at centre back were most keenly felt and contributed massively to the team’s lack of consistency.
Everyone is fit now, however, and the squad has been strengthened in key areas. Nora Mørk is the obvious example, but the return of Jeanett Kristiansen will provide a lot more stability and more options in the back court.
Under the spotlight: Nora Mørk
Nevermind the glut of injuries and surgeries, this was the most spectacular and potentially impactful transfer of the summer.
Her return to Norway has got everyone excited as few players have captured the handball world’s imagination quite like Nora Mørk at her peak and that is what Vipers Kristiansand will be praying to see this season.
Despite the primary reason for her return to Norway being a sad family situation, Nora Mørk has reaffirmed her desire to compete for titles.
The pressure will be on the 29-year-old to prove her fitness and ability at a competitive level after her 10th knee surgery, but joining a club like Vipers could be the perfect move for the right back and if everything falls into place, this could be a stroke of genius for both club and country.
How they rate themselves
Despite a disappointing campaign in 2019/20, Vipers coach Ole Gustav Gjekstad has no doubts about the potential of his team, but realises that this competition is a marathon, not a sprint.
“Our objective is to be among the best teams in Europe, and that means that to reach the EHF FINAL4 is a major goal. In a group with a lot of good teams, the first job is to qualify for the next stage in the tournament, and we will concentrate on this task before we think further on.”
Legendary goalkeeper Katrine Lunde is back between the posts for her hometown club and her decades of experience has not lessened her competitive nature.
“I am really looking forward to play against the best teams in the world again. It has been a tough last year for me, because of a serious injury, but finally I am back,” Lunde said.
“To challenge myself against excellent players is the one that trigger me to go and do the training every day. This year we have a great and strong team and I think we can create some great results together.”
Did you know?
Some families in Norway truly understand the special recipe for top level handball and that is evident in three of Vipers’ biggest profiles, all of whom have sisters who have also played professionally.
Katrine Lunde played most of the first half of her career alongside twin sister Kristine, Nora Mørk’s twin sister Thea was a talented wing who played with her at Larvik and Jeanett Kristiansen’s older sister Veronica plays for reigning champions Györ.
What the numbers say
Defence will have to become a topic of focus for Kristiansand again this season. Having conceded an average of 28 goals in the group matches and main round en route to Budapest in 2019, to 29.6 last season, it is a clear indicator of where things went wrong and it will be interesting to see whether Ole Gustav Gjekstad takes a new approach this term.
Arrivals and departures
Newcomers: Nora Mørk (CSM Bucuresti), Jeanett Kristiansen (Herning Ikast), Evelina Eriksson (Skuru IK), Jana Knedlikova (Gyôr Audi ETO), Karine Emilie Dahlum (IK Våg)
Left the club: Yurou Yang (China), Josefine Intelhus (Tertnes), Kristine Thomassen (Randesund)
EHF Champions League:
Participations (including 2020/21 season): 4
Semi-final (1): 2018/19
Main round (1): 2019/20
Group matches (1): 2017/18
Cup Winners’ Cup: Quarter-finals: 2015/16
EHF Cup: Final: 2017/18; Semi-final: 2003/04; Last 16: 2004/05
Norwegian league: 3 titles (2018, 2019, 2020)
Norwegian cup: 2 titles