Kristopans: “We are going to fight until the end of the season”
In his second year in Skopje, Latvian right back Dainis Kristopans has established himself as one of Vardar’s key players, demonstrating outstanding performances in the red-and-black jersey.
No surprise he is leading Vardar’s top scorers list before the quarters-finals with 67 goals from the group phase and the Last 16.
Kristopans also played a crucial role in Vardar’s successful defence of their SEHA-Gazprom League title. After his strong showing throughout the season and great performance at the finals tournament earlier in April, he was named MVP as the top scorer and the player who provided the most assists.
Besides being a serious threat for the opponents’ goalkeepers, Kristopans also plays an essential defensive role in coach Roberto Garcia Parrondo’s squad.
"My focus is to help the team"
“I spent more time on the court and this is one of the reasons,” Kristopans says about his many goals this season. “However, I don’t care how much goals I have scored since my focus is to help the team in every manner I can.”
Despite many changes in their squad before the season, Vardar finished third in Group A, just one point short of second-place Telekom Veszprém HC.
In the Last 16 the North Macedonian champions earned two convincing victories over HC PPD Zagreb (27:18, 32:30) to enter the quarter-final phase for the sixth time in a row.
“This season we have a great team and we understand each other very well,” Kristopans says. “Nobody expected that we would pass the group phase and we didn’t have that much pressure. Our coach made a good job since in every game he had new ideas and new tactics.”
Winning the SEHA League for the third consecutive time was additional confirmation for the strong form of the 2017 VELUX EHF Champions League winners. However, the team lost Christian Dissinger through injury and the German back court player will miss the rest of the season.
Also, Montenegro’s Vuko Borozan has fallen out with the club, leading to even more back court troubles for coach Parrondo ahead of Vardar’s first quarter-final leg against MOL-Pick Szeged in the Jane Sandanski Arena on Thursday at 20:00 CET (live at ehfTV.com).
“It will not be easy for us because every player is important and has its role in the game, but Parrondo always finds some solutions,” Kristopans says. “There is no need to point out the quality of our opponent, Szeged. They have more players on the bench, but we will do our best and fight until the end. I’m sure we will demonstrate a good game for our fans.”
Extra motivation for the players
While main sponsor and club owner Sergey Samsonenko has recently announced his departure from the club after the season, Kristopans believes it might give the players extra motivation to advance to the VELUX EHF FINAL4 for the third straight year.
“Nothing is changing for us and we are going to fight until the end of the season,” Kristopans says. “We have important games and we want to go to Cologne.”