Vipers aiming for Budapest again

After finishing their first Champions League adventure by saying goodbye after the group matches in the 2017/18 season, Vipers Kristiansand really made their mark last season. After winning their first Norwegian championship in history, the team from Norway’s fifth largest city made it all the way to the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4 in Budapest, where they finished third.

Vipers became Norwegian champions again this spring, so getting as far as last season is the goal going into the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League 2019/20.

Three questions before the new season:

– Do Vipers appear stronger or weaker than last season?

On paper they look stronger, but missing goalkeeper Katrine Lunde, playmaker Henny Reistad and a few others for a while due to injury, will have an impact on their first part of the season. The arrival of Heidi Løke is an obvious reinforcement, while players such as June Andenæs, who has joined from Larvik, tend to make the squad deeper than last year. When the injured players return to active duty, Vipers will appear very strong again.

– What does it mean to the team to miss Katrine Lunde for a long time?

A lot, obviously. Lunde is one of several regulars who are out with injuries, but her torn ACL from last season’s DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4 is a severe blow to the team. Vipers’ goalkeeper worries increased as Lunde’s back-up Eline Fagerheim has left for Flint Tønsberg. But Andrea Austmo Pedersen has been brought in from league rivals Byasen EH, facing a serious task now.

– Can Vipers make it all the way to Budapest again?

With all players fit again, Vipers will be as strong as ever. In the group matches, they are up against Metz Handball, whom they defeated in the bronze medal match in Budapast in May, as well as FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria and HC Podravka Vegeta. In the main round, the three best teams from Group B, containing Rostov-Don, CSM Bucuresti, Team Esbjerg and MKS Perla Lublin will be waiting. “FTC are a team of fast and technically skilled players. It’s always difficult to play them because you have to be on your toes all the time,” team captain Lunde says. “Podravka are significantly stronger than last season, and will be a challenge. Metz had an impressive last season, and are perhaps one of the favourites to reach another EHF FINAL4.”

Under the spotlight: Marta Tomac

With shooting star Henny Reistad recuperating from injury, Marta Tomac will be carrying a huge responsibility in the playmaker position. The experienced Norway international should be able to solve the task, but she will be facing a big challenge, being pretty alone in the position for the first part of the season.

Self-esteem

The third place in the Champions League last season has obviously given appetite for more and has also led to the belief that a repeat is possible. “The Champions League is the only place where you can measure your strength with the very best, and this makes it very important to our development,” Lunde says. “Our objectives for the season are to win all Norwegian titles and to reach the EHF FINAL4 once again.”

Fun fact

Vipers players Katrine Lunde and Heidi Løke both have the chance to win the Champions League with a third different club. Lunde won the competition with Danish side Viborg HK in 2009 and 2010 and with Györi Audi ETO KC in 2013 and 2014. Løke lifted the trophy with Larvik in 2011 and, alongside Lunde, with Györ in 2013 and 2014.

What the numbers say

Three is the number: Vipers are going into their third straight Champions League season, after finishing third last season.

Vipers Kristiansand (NOR)

Qualified for DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League 2019/20: Norwegian champions

Newcomers: Andrea Austmo Pedersen (Byasen EH), Ranghild Valle Dahl (Molde), Heidi Løke (Storhamar IL), June Andenæs (Larvik), Kristine Thomassen (Randesund), Larissa Schutrups (E&O Emmen)

Left the club: Eline Fagerheim (Flint Tønsberg), Jeanett Kristiansen (Herning-Ikast Handbold), Mathilde Kristiensen (Silkeborg-Voel)

Coach: Ole Gustav Gjekstad (since 2018)

Team captain: Katrine Lunde

Women’s EHF Champions League records:

Participations (including 2019/20 season): 3
Semi-final (1): 2018/19
Group Matches (1): 2017/18

Other EC records:
Cup Winners’ Cup:
Quarter-final: 2015/16

EHF Cup:
Final: 2017/18
Semi-final: 2004/04
Last 16: 2004/05

Norwegian league:
2 titles (2018, 2019)

Norwegian Cup:
2 titles (2018, 2019)

TEXT: Peter Bruun / ew