Vipers sting Larvik with rare defeat

Vipers end Larvik’s nine-year streak of women’s handball triple titles with one of its own

Kristiansand

Photo: Vipers Kristiansand. Vipers Kristiansand’s Linn Jørum Sulland prepares to shoot in title game against Larvik.

Jo Christian Weldingh
Oslo

Larvik HK (håndball klub) has won the league, the cup, and the playoff nine years running, but this year the team from Vestfold has been forced to step down and hand over the Norwegian women’s handball throne to Vipers Kristiansand. Vipers won their first three titles ever, all in one season.

On May 19, Vipers beat Larvik 40-28 in the last playoff final, 69-50 over two games, and in both matches, were clearly the best team in all aspects of the game. The Vipers won the first game, 29-22, May 15. Vipers’ star trio, Norwegian national team players Emilie Hegh Arntzen, Linn Jørum Sulland, and Kari Brattset, were the dominant force behind the clincher. They were also dominant on the scoreboard, scoring six, seven, and eight goals, respectively.

After the game, Brattset took home a triple of her own, winning three awards: Player of the Year, Circle Runner of the Year, and Fan Favorite of the Year.

Brattset has developed into a world-class player over the last couple of years, becoming a key player on both Vipers and the Norwegian national team. She will be leaving Vipers in favor of (European) Champions League winner Györ (Hungary) after the season, which already had Norwegian national players Stine Bredal Oftedal, Kari Aalvik Grimsbø, and Nora Mørk contribute to this year’s champions. This was her last game for the Kristiansand club. “It feels amazing, finishing my Vipers career this way,” she said after the match. “Eight goals, a playoff victory, and then three separate individual awards!”

Kristiansand

Photo: Terje Refsnes. Captain and tournament outstanding player Kari Brattset (left) and keeper Katrine Lunde with the trophy.

Larvik’s Kristine Breistøl also played her last match in the Norwegian league before leaving for Danish team Esbjerg. She scored her 500th career goal for the club during the playoff final but wasn’t happy with the final result. “Heading into the match, we thought we would be able to give Vipers a better fight for the title, but, sadly, that wasn’t the case today,” she told The Norwegian American. “I would have preferred to end my Larvik career with a better game, ideally a victory.”

Breistøl feels ambivalent about leaving the club she has been with for the past six years. “It feels strange, but I believe that the team has what it takes to do great things in the coming years. That makes it a little easier. It will be exciting to play in a different league and on a different team. Hopefully it will make me a better player.”

Since their promotion in 1992, Larvik has had only three seasons without winning a single trophy. They have won the triple 12 times, which is a record. In 2010-11, Larvik won everything it participated in: the league, the cup, the playoff, and Champions League, the first club ever to do so.

Still, Larvik won three silver medals this season, despite living in constant fear of economic collapse. In late April, the club was in danger of shutting down permanently. An old fashioned Norwegian dugnad (volunteer effort) became the answer. After a telephone campaign, where all the players participated, the team was able to collect the NOK 3 million it needed.

“With everything that has been going on off the court, I’m proud of everything we have achieved this year,” Breistøl said. “We have a talented, young team that will only get better in the coming seasons.”

With several clubs in many different sports struggling financially, and the Cycling World Championship in Bergen going bankrupt, money handling has been a much-discussed topic in Norwegian media this past year. The debate has concluded with a call for more professionalism in the clubs, and the world of sports needs to take inspiration and learn from the business world.

This article originally appeared in the June 15, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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