Vipers victorious for third straight year
In the women’s handball championships, Vipers Kristiansand continues winning streak
Jo Christian Weldingh
Vipers Kristiansand had to dig deep to secure the season’s third and last title, but in the end, Vipers secured the women’s cup title and a place in next year’s women’s EHF Champions League after beating Storhamar 24-23 May 21, sweeping the finals 2-0.
Grundigligaen Champions Vipers Kristiansand were favorites beforehand, but as the match unfolded, it became clear that it would be a tough and even game.
“We made it a bit too exciting,” Vipers player and Woman of the Match Henny Reistad told the media after the match. “We played decent on defense, but we’re struggling with our offensive plays.”
Reistad has had her big breakthrough this year. She has been one of the best players in the entire league and made her debut on the national team at only 20 years old. Reistad, Emilie Hegh Arntzen, and Malin Aune each had four goals.
Storhamar dominated big parts of the second half with surprisingly creative and unorthodox offensive plays, pulling out their goalkeeper when the team was on offense to get an extra player on the court.
“I must congratulate Vipers on a fantastic season, but I am extremely proud of my team today,” Storhamar coach Arne Senstad said. “Most people expected Vipers to win effortlessly, but we really gave them a good fight.”
With the cup final win, Vipers took home their third trophy of the season, after having won both the league and the playoff earlier in the season. Storhamar came in second in all three tournaments.
Vipers also did better than ever before in Champions League, winning the bronze after getting knocked out in the semifinal by Hungarian Győri, a team in large parts made up of the best Norwegian national team players, including Stine Bredal Oftedal, Nora Mørk, Veronica Kristiansen, and Kari Brattset.
The fact that Vipers are one of the best teams in Europe gives the Storhamar players some comfort.
“It feels disappointing losing by only one point,” said Storhamar player and Norwegian national Heidi Løke, who scored six goals. “But if we think about the fact that we’re facing off against the third best team in the world, we played a very good game.”
In Game 1, Storhamar led 18-17 at halftime, but Vipers outscored Storhamar 25-22 in the second half for a 42-40 win. Arntzen scored 10 goals, Jeanett Kristiansen nine, Reistad and Linn Jørum Sulland five. Guro Nestaker had nine goals for Storhamar, then had five in the second game.
Vipers have become the leading Norwegian handball team the last couple of seasons after Norway’s big handball locomotive on the women’s side, Larvik Handball Club, got dethroned in 2017, after years of financial issues. Before their second place in 2017, Larvik HK had won the league 13 years in a row, almost without losing a single match. Larvik also won Champions League in 2011 as the first team with only Norwegian players. On May 14, the financial issues took its toll as the Norwegian Handball Federation demoted Larvik to the first division for 2019-2020.
In a press release published in VG, the federation noted:
“Larvik HK has today been told that the club—according to the elite licensing committee’s conclusion—does not meet the requirements for games at the upper level. The consequence of such a decision is that the club is placed in the first division. ‘The club does not meet the requirement for positive equity per share… and is awarded a license in the red category,’ says the head of the elite licensee committee, Arne Modahl.”
Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, and lives in Oslo. He has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from the University of Oslo and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from BI Norwegian Business School.
This article originally appeared in the June 14, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.