Kudlacz: Prepared to grab our chanceArticle
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COUNTDOWN: Women’s EHF Champions League countdown, part 9: HC Leipzig (GER)

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Kudlacz: Prepared to grab our chance

After a two season absence, German record champions HC Leipzig (21 titles) are back in the Women’s EHF Champions League Group Matches and they want to continue the way they played in the 2009/10 and 2010/11 seasons, when they were the last German women’s team to make it to the Main Round.

Despite the only former EHF Champions League winner in the Leipzig team – Nora Reiche (2010 with Viborg) - has ended her career, the squad seems to be stronger compared to last season, thanks in no small part to the transfer of “homecoming” Susan Müller, who arrived back after three years playing in Denmark (Alaborg, Randers) and Slovenia (Krim).

After Leipzig managed to earn their ticket to the group matches by beating Minsk and Trondheim in the qualification tournament in Trondheim, Müller has the great joy to face her former Krim teammates and Leipzig will additionally face former player Nina Wörz, who is still in the Ljubljana squad.

But a “positive problem” has an effect on the season goals, as last year’s German handball player of the year Katja Schülke, also number 1 in the German goal, is pregnant.

She was replaced during pre-season by Austrian Melanie Herrmann, moving from Frankfurt/Oder.

New coach Thomas Szwed Ørneborg keeps the Danish tradition at the helm, as he is the fifth straight HCL coach arriving from Denmark.

He joined the team already in spring as successor of his country-fellow Stefan Madsen, but missed his chance to win a title in his opening months, as Leipzig lost both league and cup finals against their arch rivals Thüringer HC.

Thomas Szwed Ørneborg’s arrival also means the arrival of his wife, Polish international Karolina Szwed Ørneborg, to the squad.

The hopes at Leipzig, and the brand new club board, are high - to proceed to the next stage in Europe by overcoming the like of Metz, Sävehof and Krim as well as fighting for both domestic titles in Germany.

“It was one of our main goals for this season to qualify for the Group Phase, and we managed this objective in a very positive way,” says manager Kay-Sven Hähner, adding: “Now we are aiming to clinch the berth for the main round, knowing that we have tough opponents ahead.

“When we were part of the group matches the last two times in 2010 and 2011 we also made our way to be among the best eight teams in Europe.

“We are convinced that we have a chance to march ahead, if we show our regular level of performance. We will see great matches, attended by a huge number of spectators in Leipzig – and this is what we are all looking forward to.”

Polish international Karolina Kudlacz, the new team captain after Katja Schülke’s spell off the court, does not estimate her team as the big favourites in their group, but thinks that progression is possible.

“We have trained so hard and prepared so intensely this summer to grab our chance on the international stage. We can manage it, if we play as a team,” says Kudlacz.

Three questions to coach Thomas Szwed Ørneborg:

What are your expectations for the upcoming season of the Women’s EHF Champions League - concerning your objectives and your group opponents?

Thomas Szwed Ørneborg: If we perform well, we have a chance to go to the next round. We will do our outmost to qualify for the main round.

What does the participation in the Women’s EHF Champions League mean to you and your club?

Thomas Szwed Ørneborg: We are looking forward to participate at the highest level in European club handball. I think that it will lift the team, and the Champions League matches will be some of the highlights in an interesting season.

What teams are your personal favourites to win the Women’s EHF Champions League season – and why?

Thomas Szwed Ørneborg: Györi Audi ETO KC and FTC Rail Cargo Hungaria.

HC Leipzig (GER)

Coach: Thomas Örneborg (since April 2013, before Stefan Madsen)
Newcomers (including former club): Susann Müller (Krim/SLO), Karolina Szwed Ørneborg (Odense/DAN), Melanie Hermann (Frankfurt), Isa Sophia Rösike (HCL youth team)
Left the club (including new club): Jessy Kramer (Vag/NOR), Nora Reiche (retired), Anne Ulbricht (retired)

Qualification for the 2013/2014 EHF Women’s Champions League season: winner of the qualification tournament 1, runners-up in Germany

EHF Women’s Champions League records:
Participations (including 2013/2014 season): 10
Main Round (2): 2009/10, 2010/11
Group Matches/Champions League (4): 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2002/03, 2006/07
Qualification (3): 2000/01, 2008/09, 2012/13

Other EC records:
Cup Winners’ Cup:
Finalist: 1996/97
Semi-finalist: 2011/12
EHF Cup:
Finalist: 2008/09
Semi-finalist: 2004/05

German champion: 1953, 1957, 1965, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1984, 1988, 1991, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2006, 2009, 2010
German Cup winner: 1983, 1987, 1996, 2000, 2006, 2007, 2008

TEXT: Björn Pazen / cor