National Champions of Europe – Women Part 1: North-West
As the 2016/17 comes to a close, new teams raise domestic trophies and others defend their crowns. Part one of the six-part series on national champions of Europe focuses on the north-west, featuring Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Scotland and England.
DENMARK New kids on the block: Nykøbing Falster Håndboldklub
History was made in 2017 as both teams in the Danish championship final were debutants. Neither Women’s EHF Cup semi-finalists Nykøbing Falster Håndboldklub nor København Håndbold had ever made it that far in the domestic competition before.
København, who have no relation to men’s team KIF Kolding Kobenhavn, pulled off a sensation in the semi-final when they eliminated Women’s EHF Champions League quarter-finalists FC Midtjylland.
After a one-goal win in Ikast, København clinched their final berth through a clear win at home in Frederiksberghallen, while Nykøbing’s elimination of Viborg HK in the other semi-final was less of a surprise.
This season, the championship final series was played ‘best of three’, and all three matches were needed before the new champion was found.
Nykøbing had moved their home matches in the final from Nykøbing to Arena Naestved due its larger crowd capacity, but this seemed to be a bad idea at first, as København won the first match away 29:26. However, the second leg in Frederiksberghallen ended with exactly the same score, but this time in favour of Nykøbing.
A third match in Naestved was called for. For this event, Nykøbing split the 300 København fans into two groups, claiming that they had made too much noise in the first match – though this did not succeed in keeping the København supporters quiet.
Nevertheless, Nykøbing won the third match 27:25, claiming the Danish championship title for the first time in history.
SWEDEN H 65 Höörs HK break Sävehof’s dominance
After being named Swedish champions eight years in a row, IK Sävehof´s dominance was finally broken in 2017. Though H 65 Höörs HK were not able to win the Challenge Cup as they did in 2014, with defeats in both legs of the final against HC Lokomotiva Zagreb putting an end to that hope, Höör took surprising revenge in the final of the Swedish championship.
In the semi-final, Sävehof eliminated their opponents in the finals over the previous two years, Skuru IK, while Höör sent Lugi HF home.
Unlike the quarter- and semi-finals, which are played ‘best of five’, the final in Sweden is a one-match affair.
This time, the women’s final took place on Saturday May 27 in Malmo Arena before the men’s final between IFK Kristianstad and Alingsas HK.
Höör dominated from the start, leading by six goals as early as the first half and holding a five-goal advantage, 13:8, at half-time.
In the second half, Höör led by six goals again several times, before Sävehof were able to put a little cosmetic on the result. The final result of 27:25 does not provide a real picture of the difference between the two finalists, as Höör were in control almost all the way.
Not even 13 goals from right wing Emma Ekenman-Fernis were enough to save Sävehof from losing their first championship final in eight years.
“It was sad that we could not score on our opportunities. (Jessica) Ryde was good in their goal, and in particular, we were not good enough from a distance,” Ekenman-Fernis said.
For their maiden voyage in the Women’s EHF Champions League, Höör will have to do without two of their key players from this season, who are both joining other Champions League participants. Goalkeeper Jessica Ryde is joining FC Midtjylland, while left back Cassandra Tollbring is continuing her career in Larvik.
For siblings Cassandra and Jerry Tollbring, the day of the finals was a family triumph as later that same afternoon, younger brother Jerry copied Cassandra’s triumph and won the men’s championship with Kristianstad.
NORWAY Larvik again, but not without trouble
Once again, Larvik claimed all three titles in Norway – the Cup, the league and the play-offs. It was the 12th time in history that the club won the triple, while they were victorious in the play-offs for the 13th time in a row.
However, after having no problems on their way to the final, Larvik had more difficulty in the final than they have been accustomed to.
Numerous injuries played a decisive role as Larvik lost the first leg of the final away against Vipers Kristiansand 31:30. Vipers even took the lead at the beginning of the return match in Bergslihallen in Larvik, but the favourites soon claimed control and secured the title with a convincing 26:20 victory.
Next season Larvik will defend their three titles and contest the Champions League with an almost completely new team, as no less than 11 players are leaving the club after this season.
The coaching team will change, as former Glassverket coach Geir Oustorp is joining Tor Odvar Moen as co-coach.
FINLAND Same final, same winner
For the third year in a row, the final was between the two Helsinki teams Dicken and HIFK – and the outcome was the same as the previous years, with Dicken winning the championship.
In the final series, played ‘best of five’, the Dicken ladies only needed three matches to decide the matter. They started by winning 24:17 at home, then went on to a clear 30:17 away win before celebrating another title through a 23:20 home victory on April 23.
ICELAND Fram reclaim the title
After Grötta won the Icelandic women’s championship last year, Fram took the title back this season.
In Iceland, like in several other Nordic countries, the championship is decided in a five-leg final series. Out of those five matches, Fram needed four to secure the title against Stjarnan.
Following two home wins and an away defeat, Fram had the home advantage in the fourth match on May 17. Stjarnan started by taking a 4:1 lead, but Fram caught up at 5:5 and led 15:12 at half-time.
The home team maintained their three-goal advantage until 24:21 with nine minutes left, but Stjarnan still managed to create tension towards the end, before Fram secured the title with a 27:26 win.
FAROE ISLANDS Neistin win the league, but Kyndil are champions
HC Neistin and Kyndil Toshavn were almost unstoppable in their close race at the top of the league this season. Neistin won the league one point ahead of Kyndil, who finished no less than 13 points in front of third-ranked VB. In the final however, Kyndil had the upper hand.
After a 26:22 win at home in the first leg, Kyndil took the title with a 17:17 away draw in the second match. 21-year-old Kyndil left back Anna Brimnes scored 13 goals over the two finals.
LUXEMBOURG Premiere for HB Museldall
Grevenmacher-based Museldall won the national championship and the Luxembourg cup for the first time in the history of the club.
Steered by 40-year-old former Ukrainian international Tetyana Nykytenko, the team of Belarusian coach Elena Vereschako (both former players for former German champions Trier) dethroned defending champions HB Dudelange in the last match of the play-off round to finish the stage with nine wins and one defeat.
Museldall were cup finalists in 2015 and 2016, dominating Luxembourgish women’s handball nine years after their promotion to the first league.
NETHERLANDS Last-second penalty earns VOC Amsterdam first title since 2010
The Eredivisie ended with drama as VOC Amsterdam, runners-up in the past four seasons, won their first title since 2010 in breath-taking fashion. In the final second of the third and decisive play-off match against Dalfsen, 17-year-old Dione Housheer held her nerve as she converted a penalty to give Amsterdam a 24:23 victory.
The goal by Housheer, who was voted EHF Player of the Month in July/August 2016 after becoming MVP at the U18 European Open, ended Dalfsen’s six-year reign in the Dutch league.
There was some consolation for Dalfsen a few days later when they beat Amsterdam in the cup final, earning their fifth trophy in the past six seasons with the victory.
BELGIUM Leenen returns from retirement to help HB Sint-Truiden win the title
In 2014, Sint-Truiden player Sarina Leenen ended her career. But one year ago, the back-court player came out of retirement after her former club narrowly avoided relegation from the Belgian Eerste Klasse. 33-year-old Leenen’s experience helped the young team, with several 17- and 18-year-old players, to not only turn the tide but also win the national championship.
In the first play-off game, Sint-Truiden beat Initia Hasselt 21:19 with Leenen scoring 12 times. Sint-Truiden also won the second game (23:16) to secure the title.
It was the second championship trophy in the club’s history after their triumph in 2006, when Leenen was also part of the team.
IRELAND Dublin International Handball Club win close contest with Astra HC
While the men’s side lost the title after winning three consecutive trophies, Dublin International Handball Club retained the women’s IOHA Senior Ladies League 2016/17 crown.
Dublin International’s strong season included seven wins, one draw and one loss, with both the draw and defeat at the hands of league runners-up Astra HC. The two teams then met in the final, which Dublin International won 23:20 with the help of five goals from 2017 MVP Magdalena Andrzejewska.
SCOTLAND Tryst 77’s dominance continues
Tryst 77’s dominance of women’s handball in Scotland shows no signs of waning as they stormed through another league campaign unbeaten.
No true challenger emerged as Glasgow, Edinburgh and West Lothian routinely took points from one another and allowed Tryst to coast to the title with a goal difference of +218.
Tryst once again claimed the double with victory over Glasgow in the final of the cup in May.
ENGLAND Olympia London unseat defending champions London GD
Olympia London claimed the Super 7 – Women’s League title with a 24:18 victory against London GD, who won the trophy in 2016. The victory in the final match took Olympia to 33 points, one ahead of GD, while Coventry Sharks finished third with 27 points.
A few weeks after the Super 7 ended, Coventry Sharks claimed the England Handball National Cup for the third time as they beat GD 26:24.
TEXT: Peter Bruun / Bjorn Pazen / Eric Willemsen / cg