DOMESTIC LEAGUES: Radovic leads Medicinar to their maiden title after passing the 1,000-goal mark, while Champions League sides Bucuresti, Vardar and Buducnost reclaim their respective trophies.
National Champions 2016/17 – Women Part 4: Balkans
Part four of the six-part series on national champions of the 2016/17 season takes a look at the Balkans, featuring Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, FYR Macedonia, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Romania.
Brilliant Ana Radovic writes history for Medicinar
The city of Sabac celebrated another handball victory in 2017. After Metaloplastika brought handball to many households, local fans waited a long time to celebrate another championship title – and this time could do so with a women’s club.
The dream finally came true with Medicinar, after former Serbia national team coach Sasa Boskovic took over the project, which came to fruition in 2016/17 with their maiden title.
The name behind Medicinar’s monumental success is Montenegrin left back Ana Radovic, who came back to finish her career at her maiden club. The Olympic silver medallist was unstoppable, breaking every imaginable record throughout the season.
Ex-Buducnost star Radovic averaged a staggering 16 goals per match to rule the scoring chart. The 30-year-old also passed the 1000-goal mark, ranking among 14 legendary names to do so in the domestic league.
The monumental success inspired Radovic to sign a two-year contract extension with Medicinar, who will have big ambition in seasons to come.
Third consecutive title for Podravka on Mrdjen farewell
In one of the most tightly-contested finishes the Croatian league has seen, Podravka defended their title – though they relied on goal difference to do it.
After suffering a heavy 17:10 defeat in the ultimate round against Lokomotiva Zagreb, which put their title credentials under question, Podravka’s celebrations were kept at minimum.
The unexpected defeat was not met with approval, and as a result, coach Dragan Mrdjen resigned his post after lifting six trophies in four years with the club.
Nevertheless, Podravka celebrated their record 23rd title, and will continue their Women’s EHF Champions League ambitions in the new season.
Three in a row for youthful Grude
Though they are one of the youngest sides ever in the Bosnian Premier league, Grude came to prominence with their third consecutive title in 2017.
With a mission to develop talented youngsters, HZRK Grude took the league by storm from the moment they debuted in 2013, and three titles – 2015, 2016 and 2017 – followed soon after.
Meanwhile, the spirited club have maintained nation-wide dominance, remaining undefeated in the league since late 2014.
This time around, following their 30-month undefeated run, Grude faced little challenge from their rivals and were in control throughout the season.
Youngsters lead Buducnost to retain 11th double crown
All great stories come to an end – though not if you are Buducnost (which translates to ‘the future’).
Dragan Adzic’s team have been preparing for the inevitable, and this season was the final step towards what will finally come in 2017/18.
The contributions of Buducnost’s biggest stars were largely reduced to chasing glory in the Women’s EHF Champions League this season, while the domestic competition provided a blank canvas for the youngsters to shine.
And they did. Djurdjina Jaukovic terrorised their opponents’ defence as the youngest ever Buducnost team almost singlehandedly took care of yet another double title defence, for the 11th time in a row.
A mass exodus followed, leaving room for the youngsters to step in next season. Katarina Bulatovic, Dragana Cvijic, Cristina Neagu, Neli Irman, Kinga Achruk and Biljana Novovic will leave the club in the less experienced yet capable hands of Djurdjina Malovic, Ema Ramusovic, Jaukovic, Itana Grbic, and Matea Pletikosic.
Third consecutive title for CSM Bucuresti
CSM Bucuresti won their third consecutive title with an impressive show in 2016/17.
The Romanian powerhouse changed coaches three times – from Jakob Vestergaard to Aurelian Rosca then Per Johansson – over the course of the season, but the league was still a walk in the park for CSM.
Apart from one slip against second-placed Dunarea Braila in the early stages of the championship, CSM swept the opposition aside and won the title as early as March.
Easy task for HC Vardar
Vardar SCJS ended the Macedonian championship’s regular season in first place after 22 victories and two defeats, leaving their biggest rival, Metalurg, behind.
However, Vardar SCSJ’s dominance lasted only until the FINAL 4, when the Women’s EHF Champions League silver medallists joined the championship.
HC Vardar had an easy task and celebrated two high-scoring victories in the finals – 54:19 against Kumanovo and 54:24 against their younger team, Vardar SCSJ, earning the fifth Macedonian championship title for the club.
In the Macedonian Cup, Vardar wrote a new record in the history of the club. With stand-out performances from Camilla Herrem and Sara Ristovska, who scored 17 goals each, Vardar beat Gevgelija 56:16 in the semi-final and demolished Metalurg 45:19 in the trophy match.
Etar-64 defend the title
HSC Etar-64 continue to be the dominant force in Bulgarian handball, winning 10 titles and 13 cups in the last 15 years – including the 2016/17 championship title and Cup.
However, this year was the most difficult for the club, as the team from Veliko Tarnovo recorded four defeats in the regular season.
Several injuries throughout the season meant Etar-64 finished the regular season in second position, while the top spot when to their biggest rivals HC Baki.
Nonetheless, the winner was decided in the super final series where these two teams met. The champions first celebrated an away victory at 28:23. In the second clash at home, despite playing without captain Daniela Koceva, Etar-64 had an easy task winning in front of their fans with a score of 29:23.
Prishtina do it again
The competition in the Kosovan women’s league was very strong in 2016/17, with four teams as equal contenders for the title. Despite the strong competition, the team from the capital, KHF Prishtina, defended their crown in a dominant way.
Led by coach Rubin Kuzmanovski, Prishtina won all of their matches in the regular season, though they lost both goalkeepers due to injury in the middle.
In the play-off final series, Prishtina won the first match against Shqiponja 26:25. In the second game, their opponents were more fortunate as Prishtina lost 37:30 – but in the third match they did not allow any chance for their rivals, recording a 36:22 victory and lifting the trophy.
The 2016/17 title is the fifth in the history of the club. Aside from the league title, Prishtina also won the Kosovan Cup.
TEXT: Nemanja Savic / Amina Idrizi / Adrian Costieu / cg