Martin needs time and patience at Rostov
Reaching the Women’s EHF FINAL4 for the first time last season was an important milestone in Rostov-Don’s history. With experienced coach Ambros Martin now at the helm, the Russian champions would like to make it a long way towards Budapest again, but it is not clear whether their current squad is good enough to achieve the most ambitious goals.
Three questions before the new season:
How will the changes in the squad affect the team?
After last season, Rostov lost quite a number of key players, such as Siraba Dembele, Katarina Bulatovic, Ekaterina Ilina and Alexandrina Cabral Barbosa. In addition, Ana Paula Rodrigues has a serious injury and will be sidelined for a few months. On the other hand, the Russian champions have signed Lois Abbingh and Polina Kuznetsova, but it may not be enough to make up for all the departures.
“Many players have left the club, and the coaching staff has changed. So now we are building up a new team, which requires time and patience,” says head coach Ambros Martin.
How will Ambros Martin change Rostov’s game?
The Spaniard is a very experienced coach, who led Györ to four Women’s EHF Champions League titles during his six years in Hungary. He knows that his vision and approach should work, and he will try to change something in Rostov’s game, particularly in defence.
“Our players know how to demonstrate their talents and skills in attack. However, we need to improve our defence. We try not just to stop the opponents, but also to intercept the ball and quickly score from a fast break. This tactic is a challenge for our team, and we need time to learn it better,” says Martin.
Can Rostov reach the FINAL4 again?
Rostov’s ambitions are still there, and the arrival of four-time Champions League winner Martin appears very promising, but the team may struggle on their way to Budapest. After all the summer departures, the Russian champions have a shortage of quality back-court players, which may present a problem.
Team captain Iuliia Managarova is cautious speaking about the team’s objectives: “We are going step by step. We want to improve our game and to win every match.”
Under the spotlight: Lois Abbingh
Lois Abbingh is the first Dutch player ever to represent a Russian handball club. At 26, the key national team left back has experience playing in various countries, such as Germany, Romania, France, as well as the Netherlands. Moving to Rostov from Issy Paris Hand is a step forward in her career, and Abbingh hopes to help the Russian side to win more trophies.
“Obviously all people here want to see the improvement compared to the last season,” says Martin. “First of all, we have to make small but firm steps in order to lay the foundation for bigger goals in future.”
Following her move from Vardar, 31-year-old Polina Kuznetsova now plays alongside her younger sister, 23-year-old Anna Vyakhireva. In the past, the two sisters played together at Zvezda Zvenigorod (2011-14) and Astrakhanochka (2014-16). They are both 2016 Olympic champions.
What the numbers say
Rostov rely mainly on Russian players, but have four foreigners in the squad: Brazilians Mayssa Pessoa and Ana Paula Rodrigues, Ukrainian Viktoriya Borshchenko and Lois Abbingh from the Netherlands.
Qualification for the EHF Women’s Champions League 2018/19 season: Russian champions
Newcomers: Polina Kuznetsova (HC Vardar), Lois Abbingh (Issy Paris Hand)
Left the club: Siraba Dembele (Toulon Saint-Cyr Var Handball), Alexandrina Cabral Barbosa (Nantes Handball), Katarina Bulatovic (Buducnost), Olga Bashkirova (Kuban), Ekaterina Ilina, Alexandra Stepanova, Oxana Cvirinko (all break from handball)
Coach: Ambros Martin (since July 2018)
Team captain: Iuliia Managarova
Women’s EHF Champions League records:
Participations (including 2018/19 season): 7
Semi-final (1): 2017/18
Quarter-final (1): 2015/16
Group matches (1): 2016/17
Qualification (3): 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14
Other EC records:
Winner (1): 2016/17
Runners-up (1): 2014/15
Quarter-final (1): 2009/10
Last 16 (3): 2004/05, 2005/06, 2008/09
Qualification (3): 2003/04, 2006/07, 2007/08
Cup Winners’ Cup:
Semi-final (2): 2012/13, 2013/14
Quarter-final (1): 2010/11
Last 16 (1): 2011/12
Qualification (1): 2002/03
Russian league: six titles (1989/90, 1990/91 (USSR/EUN), 1993/94, 2014/15, 2016/17, 2017/18)