Vipers victorious again

Kristiansand wins women’s handball title

Vipers

Photo: Tor Erik Schrøder / NTB
When Vipers Kristiansand won Game 1 of the finals, it was their 100th consecutive league victory.

Michael Kleiner
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

Vipers Kristiansand celebrated twice in the championship round of the REMA-1000 women’s handball league playoffs. Their 37-33 victory over Storhamar in Game 1, May 21, marked the Vipers’ 100th straight league victory, 123 including the Norwegian Cup, and there were balloons spelling out 100. They added on after withstanding Storhamar 32-27, May 24, which gave them their sixth consecutive league title. Storhamar was the finals foe in 2019, 2021, 2022, and 2023, swept each time.

Storhamar was the last team to beat Kristiansand on Feb. 26, 2020, which snapped a 32-game Kristiansand winning streak. Vipers tied Fana in 2021-2022. Since finishing second in 2016-2017, Vipers have won seven straight regular season titles. There were no playoffs in 2019-2020 because of the pandemic, and a one-game playoff in 2021, but the Vipers have been in every final since 2016-2017, losing to Larvik in 2017 and beating them in the final the next year to start their streak of playoff championships. They are 26-0 in the playoffs since 2018.

Vipers dominance since 2017-2018

Since 2017-2018, Vipers have won 143 regular season games (20.4 average)-tied three (0.4), lost 4 (0.6), for 289 points (41.3), scored 5,199 goals (34.7 per game), conceded 3,593 (24 per game). Vipers set a league scoring record this season with 931 goals, surpassing Larvik‘s 929 in 2002-2003.

At the same time, Storhamar finished third in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 and second in the following five seasons. Since 2017-2018, Storhamar has won 120 games (17.1), tied six (0.9), lost 26 (3.7) for 246 points (35.1), scored 4,668 goals (34.4 per game), allowed 3,801 (28.5). In the last three playoffs, they are 12-2 in the quarter- and semifinals.

Game 1

In Game 1, Storhamar couldn’t get over the hill and Kristiansand couldn’t quite pull away.

There were no ties in the game. In the first half, Kristiansand maintained a mostly two-three goal lead, but the Dragons trailed by one eight times in the first 21:46. Anna Vyakhireva (10-6) scored twice, Paula Arcos Poveda and Mina Hesselberg each scored once to give Vipers a 17-12 lead with 5:04 left in the half. It was 19-16 at halftime. Sunniva Amalie Næs Andersen (5-0), Luisa Schulze, Jana Knedlikova, and Vyakhireva scored to open up a 23-17 advantage at 5:15 of the second half. Storhamar couldn’t get closer than 3 points, the last time 35-32 on a Guro Nestaker goal (6-3) with 2:14 on the clock. Goals by Jamina Caroline Roberts and Lysa Tchaptchet Defo (7-0) gave Vipers a 37-32 lead with 1:10 remaining.

“A bit sick that it was 37-33 after an exceptional match by the goalkeepers. It was quite intense, but a win is a win,” said Vjakhireva to TV2.

Lois Abbingh was 4-8 and 44-year-old goalie Katrine Lunde had 14 saves for Vipers, while Kristin Venn was 8-0, Anniken Obaidli 5-5, and Mia Solberg Svele 4-5 for Storhamar.

Game 2

Vipers

Photo: Frederik Ringnes / NTB
Lysa Tchaptchet Defo of Vipers Kristiansand prepares to unload a shot in Game 2 of the REMA-1000 women’s handball finals. Defo had six goals and an assist in the 32-27 victory over Storhamar for the Vipers’ sixth straight championship.

Kristiansand grabbed a 3-1 lead after 4:34, but Storhanar went on a 6-3 run (Olivia Linnéa Josephine Löfqvist 3; Tina Abdulla, Obaidli, Venn 1 each) to go in front 7-6. From there it was a battle. There were five ties the rest of the half. VK led by one goal four times–14-13 at intermission–by two once. Storhamar led only once, 13-12 with 3:43 left in the half. With the score 17-17 in the second half, Vipers went on 6-2 run (Defo, Abbingh 2 each; Poveda, Hesselberg 1 each) for a 23-19 advantage with 18:17 remaining.

Three goals by Mathilde Rivas-Toft, 2 by Abdulla, 1 by Nestaker closed Storhamar’s gap to 27-25 with 8:55 on the clock. That’s as close as they got as Vipers went on a 5-1 run (Abbingh 2; Defo, Vjakhireva, Schulze 1 each) for a 32-26 lead with 3:21 left.

Vipers were led by Abbingh (9-5), Defo (6-1), Vjakhireva (5-5), Poveda (4-4) while Venn (7-0), Obaidli (4-7), Toft (4-5), and Svele (1-7), paced Storhamar.

“It’s very nice. We pulled it off and it’s another final we’ve won in Norway,” said VK player Marta Tomac to TV2. “It is important to build on this, because we have a lot to go on.”

In the semifinals, Vipers swept Larvik winning 34-25 and 39-25. Storhamar bounced back from losing Game 1 to Sola 27-25, by winning 27-23, and 32-26.

In the quarterfinals, #1 Vipers swept #8 Gjerpen, 31-19 and 33-19; #2 Storhamar held off #6 Oppsal 28-27 and 39-27; #3 Sola took down #5 Fredrikstad, 30-24 and 37-21; #4 Larvik and #7 Molde 29 went to three games, Larvik winning 35-29; Molde evening the series with a 32-27 win, then Larvik holding off Molde, 28-27 to win the series.

This article originally appeared in the July 2024 issue of  The Norwegian American.

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Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of NorCham Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.