Handball season wraps up with excitement
Kristiansand, Elverum repeat titles; Nærbø wins its first European Cup
Business and Sports Editor
The Norwegian American
At 42 years old you’d think you’d learned to play without butterflies. There’s a first time for everything.
“I hardly slept last night,” said Vipers Kristiansand netminder Katrine Lunde to NTB. “I think it’s the first time in my career that it was like that. I tried to relax and meditate a little instead. It did not seem to do anything.”
What wasn’t new was the result. With Lunde having a tremendous two games in the EHF (European Handball Federation) Champions League FINAL4, Vipers won its second straight championship June 5 with a 33-31 win over host Györi before 15,400 fans, a record crowd for a women’s handball game, at MVM Dome in Budapest, Hungary.
Vipers became only the fifth team to defend its title.
“I am proud and happy after this,” said Lunde. “It also shows that I still have something to contribute.”
The hosts led by 3 points on multiple occasions in the first half, but Kristiansand rallied from a 10-7 deficit to take a 15-13 halftime lead on a Nora Mørk goal with one second left. Once Lunde made some saves, it sparked the Vipers. Györi went scoreless for nine minutes, 40 seconds.
Györi forged a 16-16 tie, but Kristiansand took the lead to 21-17. Down the stretch, Lunde made some sensational saves, including three Györi possessions with an open net, but she ran out and covered the ball. She did a victory dance following the final buzzer.
Two other teams in the FINAL4 had Norwegians on their rosters. Vipers were sparked by two from the Czech Republic, Markéta Jerábková who had 7 goals and Jana Knedlikova, who had 5. Isabelle Gulldén added 6. Anne Mette Hansen had 6 for Györi. Jerábková, who scored 19 goals in the two games was named Most Valuable Player. Lunde had 12 saves. Norwegians Veronica Egebakken Kristiansen and Stine Bredal Oftedal each had 3 goals for Györi.
Lunde and Mørk, who will be moving to Team Esbjerg in Denmark next season, are among only two of four players to win six Champions League finals together.
“Katrine closes and we are experienced,” said Mørk to Viasat 4. “It’s often about playing a little simple and not making it that difficult.”
“Fantastic,” said coach Ole Gustav Gjekstad to Viasat 4. “We have a group that works and stands on and I am incredibly happy for the effort that everyone puts in.”
“We lost to a better team today,” Kristiansen told NTB. “None of the teams were good on defense, but Katrine Lunde was experienced and good.”
Metz (France) won the bronze medal with a 32-26 victory over Esbjerg (Denmark), which has six Norwegians on the team. Metz was led by Grace Zaadi Deuna with 7 goals and Tamara Horacek with 5. Esbjerg was led by Norwegian Henny Reistad (10), Turk Beyza Irem Türkoglu (4) and Norwegians Michala Elsberg Møller (3), Sanna Charlotte Solberg-Isaksen (3), and Marit Røsberg Jacobsen (2).
In the semifinal June 4, Vipers Kristiansand rallied to beat Metz (France) 33-27. Except for one six-minute stretch, Lunde was sensational. Six goals in six minutes took Metz from a 14-9 deficit to a 15-14 halftime lead. Vipers went scoreless for eight minutes. Before and after Lunde was a stone wall and her teammates outscored Metz 19-12 the rest of the way. Eight of Lunde’s 15 saves came in the second half.
A 14-6 run gave Kristiansand a 28-21 lead. Jerábková led Vipers with 12 goals, Mørk added 7, and Sunniva Amalie Naes Andersen, 5.
In the other semifinal, Györi defeated Esbjerg 32-27. Norwegians Oftedal, had 5 goals and Silje Margaretha Solberg had 11 saves, while Esbjerg’s Norwegians Reistad had 8, Kristine Breistøl and Vilde Mortensen Ingstad had 5 each.
Kristiansand Vipers win another REMA 1000 title
It was also deja vu for Kristiansand as they swept to another REMA 1000 championship, 2-0, in the best of three. Vipers took care of the usual victim, Storhamar, 29-23, on May 24, and 24-17 on May 28 before 6,478 spectators at the Amfi in Hamar, Norway.
In the opener, Kristiansand jumped to a 16-7 halftime lead. Mørk finished with 7 goals and 4 assists, Jerábková 5-5, Knedlikova 4-0, and Lunde made 11 saves for a 44% save percentage. Storhamar was led by Emilie Margrethe Hovden 6-0, Maja Jakobsen 5-1, Anniken Obaidli 4-3 and Betina Riegelhuth 1-5.
In Game 2, the teams were deadlocked at 11 at the 25-minute mark of the first half, but Vipers took advantage of Storhamar errors for a 14-11 halftime lead. Early in the second half, the hosts scored 4 straight goals, two by Kristin Venn, for a 15-14 lead. Kristiansand scored 7 unanswered goals, including 5 in six minutes to take a 21-15 advantage with seven minutes left. Kristiansand held Storhamar to 6 second-half goals. Knedlikova (5-1) and Lysa Tchaptchet Defo (4-0) led the Vipers, while Venn (6-0), Ane Cecilie Høgseth (3-1) and Jeanett Egebakken Kristiansen (1-5) paced Storhamar.
And it’s Elverum again, too
Just like always, Elverum (25 wins-0 ties-1 loss-50 pts) and ØIF Arendal faced off for the REMA 1000 men’s handball championship. It was the 10th straight year Elverum has been in the final, winning the last eight times. Elverum took the top seed, but Arendal (14-2-10-30) had to climb up from the sixth-seed, 20 points behind Elverum.
This year, the playoffs had a new format, best-of-three quarterfinals and best-of-five semifinals and finals. Arendal swept Runar Sandefjord and eliminated Drammen in four games, while Elverum swept Bækkelaget and Nærbø.
In Game 1 on June 1, Elverum edged Arendal 32-28. Tobias Schjølberg Grøndahl, Eric Oscar Johansson, Sindre Heldal, and Thomas Alfred Solstad each scored 5 goals. Grøndahl added 10 assists, Johansson 3 helpers. For Arendal, Jørg William Fiala Gjermundnes scored a game-high 8 goals, while Magnus Søndenå had 5 goals and 7 assists.
Elverum needed a late surge to put Arendal away. It was 24-24 and the hosts clinched the game with an 8-4 run, including 3 goals in a three-minute span.
June 4: Elverum used a strong second half to win Game 2, 35-29 at Arendal. The visitors led 19-16 at halftime, then built as big as an 8-point lead. Johansson had 7 goals and 4 assists, Josip Vidovic 6 goals and 6 assists, Grøndahl 5-2, and Solstad 5-0. For the home team, Sander Løvlie Simonsen found the net 8 times, Mario Matic was 3-8, Olaf Richter Hoffstad 5-2, Gjermundnes 1-4.
Then, there were the first-timers …
It was a happy day for he Nærbø men when they won the European Cup on June 8. They finished an improbable run to the European Cup championship. The team from a village of 7,000 people, who as recently as 2017 was playing in Norway’s third division, and in its first European competition, finished off Romania’s CS Minaur Baia Mare 27-26 on May 28, after winning the first game of the series, 29-23, on its home floor May 21, winning the aggregate, 56-51. The clincher was the first home loss during European Cup play got Baia Mare. It was also the first time a Norwegian club won the European Cup since 1996, when Drammen pulled off the feat.
The first half of Game 2 was controlled by the goaltenders and the game was scoreless for the first five minutes. At the 10-minute mark Baia Mare led 3-1. Nærbø goalie Vegard Bakken Øien was thwarting Baia Mare’s chances and Nærbø took advantage of the host’s errors to build a 13-10 halftime advantage.
Baia Mare drew within 19-18 in the second half and then managed to even the score at 22-22. Nærbø regained the lead and held on. Cousins Andreas Horst Haugseng and Tord Haugseng each scored 6 goals for Nærbø, Stefan Vujic had 6 for the Romanians.
“I’m very happy and proud of the players,” said Nærbø coach Heine Jensen to europeanhandball.com. “I think we did an excellent job today, to go down here to not defend a win at home, but to try to win here and also that we did it. I am very proud of the team and, of course, I’m very happy. It’s very difficult to imagine that we went all the way. I think I need some days to understand what we have done now.”
Game 1 marked the first time a European Cup final had been played in Norway since 2007. Comfortable before, 4,200 fans in DNB Arena in Stavanger, Nærbø took a 5-2 lead shy of the 10-minute mark of the first half. Baia Mare had a 6-3 run to tie the score 8-8 and took its first lead 10-9 with 11 minutes left in the half.
Nærbø had its own 6-2 run and took a 15-12 lead at halftime. They continued the momentum in the second half, building a 23-18 advantage and repelling any Baia Mare threats. Tord Haugseng led Nærbø with 9 goals.
This article originally appeared in the June 24, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.