Double premier: Female coach and first Dutch sideArticle
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EHF Cup countdown, part 13: OCI-Lions (NED)
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Double premier: Female coach and first Dutch side

OCI-Lions made history in November: By beating Borac Banja Luka, the team based in Limburg became the first ever Dutch side to qualify for the group phase of the EHF Cup.

To make it that far was the icing on the cake of a year full of success: In the 2014/15 season, OCI-Lions won all competitions they played in, becoming Dutch league champions, cup winners and champions of the bi-national BENE league - all for the first time ever in their club’s history.

The “mother of success” is the only female coach in the men’s European cup competitions: Monique Tijsterman.

After some years coaching female youth teams in Netherlands and to be event organizer for the Dutch federation, she was asked by the Lions to start her mission in 2014. And right in her first season as head coach, she caused the biggest successes ever.

Lions are the only national champions, which are part of the EHF Cup Group Phase.

In the qualification tournament for the VELUX EHF Champions League they had finished third after a defeat against eventual winners Elverum (Norway) and a win against host Borac. Then they were drawn again against Borac and beat the Bosnian side twice.

33-29 winst op RK Borac Banja Luka. Foto Ermindo Armino Photography ©

Posted by Limburg LIONS on Tuesday, 8 September 2015

The squad is consists almost entirely of Dutch players with a huge number of national team players. Portuguese Joao Ramos is the only non-Dutch player in the team. To be part of international competitions shall be the springboard and the stage for Dutch talents to make their way abroad.

In their tough Group B with EHF Cup Finals host Nantes, former EHF Cup winners Göppingen and Danish side Holstebro, the Lions are seen to be the big underdogs.

Three questions to coach Monique Tijsterman:

What are your expectations for the group phase of the EHF Cup - regarding your objectives and your group opponents?
Monique Tijsterman: It will be the first time for a Dutch team to play in the group phase of the EHF Cup. We are looking forward to playing six top matches against HBC Nantes, Team Tvis Holstebro and Frisch Auf Göppingen.

What does the participation in the group phase of the EHF Cup mean to you and your club?
Monique Tijsterman: It is not only good for OCI-LIONS to play in the group phase of the EHF Cup but for the Dutch men’s handball in general. It is a huge promotion of the sport and hopefully it will give a boost to men’s handball in the Netherlands.

What teams are your personal favourites to reach the EHF Cup Finals?
Monique Tijsterman: In the group phase, any team can win against everybody especially at the respective home matches. I do not have personal favourites for the EHF Cup Finals.

OCI-Lions (NED)

Newcomers: Evert Kooiman, Rob Schmeits (both OCI-LIONS II)

Left the club: Joeri Verjans (Krease Houthalen), Marko Pejovic (Clubul de Handbal CSU)

Coach: Monique Tijsterman (since 2014)
Team captain: Tim Mullens

Qualification for the EHF Cup Group Phase:  Round 3, 31:29 & 27:23 against RK Borac Banja Luka

Past achievements

VELUX EHF Champions League records:
Qualification 2015/16

EHF Cup records:
Qualification 2013/14, 2014/15

Dutch league champions: 2014/15
Dutch cup winner: 2014/15
BENE-League champion: 2014/15

TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc