Rebuilt Krim looking to make impact again

RK Krim Mercator have an illustrious history in the Champions League, winning the title in 2001/02 and 2002/03 and reaching the final on three other occasions.

Although it has been a long time since their last title success, and though the direction of the club has changed over the years, Krim have reached the main round in each of the past three seasons.

For the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League 2019/20, Krim will be participating with a revamped side compared to last season. 14 newcomers are included in this season’s squad, including seven developed through their own youth system, but coach Uros Bregar remains in the position that he has held since 2016.

Three questions before the new season:

– How will Krim’s squad changes impact their season?

Adding 14 newcomers to any team represents a massive change, but potentially the most significant change to Krim’s squad is the departure of left back Tjasa Stanko, who joined HC Podravka Vegeta in the summer. With 57 goals, Stanko was Krim’s top scorer in the Champions League last season, finishing one ahead of left wing Tamara Mavsar.

With fellow left back Lamprini Tsakalou also joining Podravka, Krim have two new left backs in their squad. Slovakian international left back Marianna Rebicova has joined from Hungarian club Kisvardai KC, while Laura Cerovak, previously part of Krim’s youth team, steps up to the senior team. Cerovak scored 23 goals for Slovenia at this summer’s Women’s EHF Euro 19. With the retirement of experienced goalkeeper Misa Marincek, who had been at the club for the past seven seasons, Krim have signed 24-year-old Austrian goalkeeper Antonija Mamic.

The overall shift towards a more youthful team is recognised by new team captain Polona Baric. “We have built the youngest team in the last 10 years – the average age is around 22 years old,” she said. 

– What lies ahead in group D for Krim?

Krim will meet one extremely familiar opponent in group D: Györi Audi ETO KC. Krim have faced the defending champions from Hungary in each of the past three seasons, but they have lost all six matches played – and Györ have won all six matches by more than eight goals.

However, whilst taking on Györ is again likely to prove extremely challenging, there is belief in Ljubljana that Krim will be able to take on Swedish champions IK Sävehof and qualification tournament winners DHK Banik Most on a more equal footing.

Facing Sävehof and Most in rounds 1 and 2 should provide a good indication of Krim’s prospects for the 2019/20 season.

– What are Krim’s objectives this season?

The 2019/20 season will be Krim’s 25th consecutive season of involvement in the EHF Champions League. Competing at the highest level in women’s handball for such a length of time is a source of pride for the club. “We are glad and very proud to participate among the best teams in Europe for 25 years in a row,” said Baric, adding that all three domestic titles will be a priority this season. But that does not stop the Slovenian champions from wanting to impress on the biggest stage.

“We will do our best to perform at the highest level possible to show that we deserve a spot among the best ones,” said Baric.

Reaching the main round would prove that Krim remain among the best teams in Europe.

Under the spotlight: Polona Baric

New team captain Polona Baric has been a part of Krim’s senior squad since the 2014/15 season. The Slovenian left wing recorded her best tally in a Champions League season in 2018/19, with 29 goals, improving upon her previous high of 23 goals in 2016/17. Baric’s rise also saw her play for Slovenia at the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 in France.

Self-esteem

Krim head into this season as reigning Slovenian league and cup champions. Even though the aspirations for Krim are not what they were back in the glory days, there remains a sense of positivity that the team will again be able to produce modern handball for their fans and Europe to enjoy.

What the numbers say

Including qualification in 1995/96, this is Krim’s 25th consecutive season of involvement in the EHF Champions League, which is the joint-longest run – along with Buducnost – of the clubs participating in this season’s competition.

Fun fact

Krim have three players in their squad who were born in the year 2000.

RK Krim Mecrator (SLO)

Qualification for DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League 2019/20 season: Slovenian champions

Newcomers: Ana Kojic (ZRK Bekament), Manca Juric (ZRK Ajdovscina), Nives Klobucar (ZRK Ivanic), Harma van Kreij (Borussia Dortmund), Marianna Rebicova (Kisvardai KC), Antonija Mamic (HC Lokomotiva Zagreb), Yuliia Snopova (Kastamonu Belediyesi GSK), Iza Bon Brzin, Ema Abina, Hana Gjerek, Laura Cerovak, Valentina Klemencic, Tjasa Polajnar Vesligaj, Tija Gomilar Zickero (own youth team).

Left the club: Sara Ristovska (CSKA Moscow), Dora Krsnik (Handball Plan de Cuques), Tjaša Stanko and Lamprini Tsakalou (both HC Podravka Vegeta), Olga Perederiy (Metz Handball), Amra Pandzic (Kastamonu Belediyesi GSK), Lea Krajnc (RK Celje); Misa Marincek, Ines Amon, Ana Zrimsek (all retired)

Coach: Uros Bregar (since February 2016)

Team captain: Polona Baric

Women’s EHF Champions League record:

Participations (including 2019/20 season): 25
Winners (2): 2000/01, 2002/03
Runners-up (3): 1998/99, 2003/04, 2005/06
Semi-final (1): 2012/13
Quarter-final (4): 1996/97, 1997/98, 2004/05, 2006/07
Main Round (9): 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19
Last 16 (1): 1995/96
Group Matches (4): 1999/00, 2001/02, 2007/08, 2015/16

Other EC records:

Champions Trophy:
Winners: (2) 2002/03, 2003/04

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Semi-final (1): 2015/16

Slovenian league:
24 titles (1995-2015, 2017-2019)

Slovenian cup:
26 titles

TEXT: Uros Volk / jw, ew