A historic loss: Vipers Kristiansand beats legendary Larvik

Photo: Terje Refsnes / Aftenposten
The Vipers club celebrates after winning against the unbeatable Larvik.

Molly Jones
The Norwegian American

Anyone who follows Norway’s premier women’s handball league, currently named GRUNDIGligaen, will know that Larvik is the team to beat—and they have been for the last two decades.

In fact, heading into the final league match of the season, Larvik had already secured the league gold—their 13th consecutive and 19th overall, no less—when they defeated Sola 37-27 on March 26.

The same day, Vipers Kristiansand had managed to snatch the silver with a 40-20 win over Glassverket, taking their first league medal in 14 years.

With the medals already decided, the March 29 face off between Larvik and Vipers might seem like a meaningless game. But when a team hasn’t lost at home in 19 years, no game is insignificant.

Vipers started off strong and took an early lead to the surprise of the home team. After just five minutes, Larvik trailed 0-5. The Kristiansand team managed to keep control throughout the half with both a solid defense and strong attacks. With five goals in six shots, Thorey Rosa Stefansdottir was certainly one of the MVPs of the half, along with Jeanett Kristiansen, Linn Jørum Sulland, and Kari Brattset. In the goal, Sakura Hauge impressed with several crucial saves. At halftime, Vipers led 20-15.

In the second half, it looked as if Larvik might make a come back. They scored five goals in the first five minutes, but Vipers managed to keep a two-goal lead for the next seven minutes. Fifty minutes into the game, Vipers led 28-25. Stefansdottir scored yet again. And then Tomac. And Kristiansen. With the score at 31-28, Larvik coach Tor Odvar Moen desperately took the last time out.

With a minute remaining, Marit Malm Frafjord almost managed to reduce the gap to one goal, but an expert save by Hauge stopped her attempt. In the end, Tomac scored the final goal for a score of 32-30, breaking Larvik’s incredible winning streak.

“It is very fun. They have been the leaders in Norway for so long. That we managed to beat them is so incredibly great,” said Sulland to NRK.

Larvik had won 353 regular premier league matches in a row since they lost their last to Nordstrand on April 18, 2001. One must go back even further, to the match against Stabæk on March 14, 1999, for their last loss at home.

“We were pleased on Sunday, but today we are even happier. The fact that we are the first team to beat Larvik at home since 1999 is a huge achievement. I am incredibly proud of the girls,” said Vipers coach Kenneth Gabrielsen to Aftenposten.

Larvik has won the playoffs, the cup, and the league every year since 2005. But many of Norway’s handball experts are predicting a shift in the power in the upcoming season.

The club has been dealing with economic troubles recently and is losing at least eight players for next season: Gro and Anja Hammerseng-Edin are retiring while Sandra Toft, Marit Malm Frafjord, Alma Hasanic, Vilde Ingeborg Johansen, Sanna Solberg, and Amanda Kurtovic are moving to other clubs.

The Kristiansand club hopes they will be able to keep up the momentum and take the gold in the league next year.

“We’ll see, but either way we’ll work hard. It is all about what we do each day. We are willing to put in that little extra. So we’ll see if it will be next year,” says Tomac.

Of course, Larvik can’t be expected to succumb easily to one loss and some changes to the roster after two decades of unparalleled success.

“Larvik has a tradition of being good over time and will manage to build a new team. I absolutely think so,” commented Anja Hammerseng-Edin to NRK on Larvik’s chances of taking their 20th gold next season. “There is a good culture of winning in the club.”

What’s in store for Norway’s women’s handball is yet to be seen, but there’s no doubt that things are shaking up.

This article originally appeared in the April 21, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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