Vaci NKSE braced for group phase rideArticle
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COUNTDOWN #11 Vaci NKSE (HUN). The Hungarian side are prepared for the group phase adventure that awaits in the EHF European League
»2020-21 Women's News

After three consecutive seasons of losing in Women's EHF Cup qualification rounds, this season Vaci NKSE finally ended their sequence of qualification heartache when they overcame DHK Banik Most in a single match to reach the EHF European League Women group phase. 

Vac are highly motivated to show their skills as a team and are aiming to surprise the more fancied teams in group A. 

Main facts

  • Vaci NKSE beat DHK Banik Most 42:41 in qualification round 3 to qualify for the group phase
  • Vaci NKSE will play in group A against Herning-Ikast Handbold, HC Zvezda and Paris 92
  • this is the Hungarian club's first appearance in a European Cup group phase
  • Rita Lakatos and Gréta Kácsor head strong core of Hungarian players 

The burning question – How will Vaci NKSE perform against the strong opponents in group A?

Any group in women’s handball featuring club teams from Denmark, Russia, France and Hungary is bound to be strong. Group A in the EHF European League is no exception from that expectation, but Vaci NKSE have the additional challenge of this being their first appearance in a group phase.

In contrast, both Herning-Ikast and Zvezda have lifted European trophies in their history, while Paris 92 tasted group phase action in the Women’s EHF Cup as recently as the 2017/18 season.

Vac enter the group A with a squad largely comprised of young Hungarian players, and there is a recognition at the club that facing high-quality opposition on the European stage will provide both an opportunity and a challenge.

“These games will be a great experience for our players and will be a big challenge for our small club,” said András Németh, the club’s technical director.

While the EHF European League will be a new experience for Vaci NKSE, they are familiar with facing Győri AUDI ETO KC, FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria and Siófok in the Hungarian league.

Indeed, Vac’s experience of playing against the top three clubs in Hungary perhaps instils an understanding that it would be unwise to measure their performance in the EHF European League only by results, especially when development is a core objective.

“Our objective is to improve our young players’ tactical and technical ability and for these things it will be great to play against different handball cultures,” said András Németh.

Captain Konszuéla Hámori believes that finally reaching the group phase will provide the young team with a “big motivation” to succeed. She is also hopeful that they can demonstrate their collective unity to a wider audience as they seek to cause some upsets against their group A opponents.

“I hope we can show how good we work together and that we can surprise many teams,” said Hámori.

Signature players

Big name – Sanja Radosavlijevic

Serbian left wing Sanja Radosavlijevic, who has represented her country at three EHF EUROs and three World Championships, is undoubtedly Vaci NKSE’s biggest name.

Radosavlijevic scored 10 goals from 11 shots in three matches at the recent Women’s EHF EURO 2020, proving again that she is a clinical shooter when the opportunities arise.

Pivotal playmaker – Rita Lakatos

Rita Lakatos is in her second spell at Vac on loan from Győri AUDI ETO KC. The 21-year-old played alongside Noémi Háfra and Katrin Kljuber in Hungary's 2018 IHF Women's Junior World Championship-winning team.

More recently, Lakatos made a valuable contribution in Hungary's win against Romania in the main round at the EHF EURO 2020, using her one-on-one skills in attack to score five goals, and she will be a pivotal part of Vac's team in the EHF European League.

Emerging talent – Gréta Kácsor

Gréta Kácsor only played 22 minutes for Hungary at the EHF EURO 2020, but the 20-year-old left back is an instrumental part of Vac’s side.

With 40 goals in nine games in the Hungarian league this season, Kácsor is Vac’s top scorer in the Hungarian league – and her shot has been clocked at more than 100 kilometres per hour.

A night to remember

Unusually for this section, although Vaci NKSE have reached three European quarter-finals in their history, we will focus on a match from this season: Vac’s qualification tie against DHK Banik Most.

Vac certainly made a strong start to the game and led 11:6 when coach Zoltan Szilagyi called a timeout with just over 10 minutes played.

As Vac’s attack – led primarily by Rita Lakatos and Konszuéla Hámori – proved almost unstoppable, Banik Most started to employ a defensive strategy of one-on-one defence. Initially, Most’s move did not appear to have much success, as Vac extended their lead to eight goal (19:11) after 20 minutes, but their persistence reduced Vac's advantage to four goals at half-time.

Staggeringly, with Most's good run continuing at the start of the second half, Vac found themselves trailing 34:31 after 45 minutes – meaning that the Czech side had enjoyed an 11-goal swing in their favour. 

In a match where both teams had over 70 attacks, Vac somehow summoned the energy in the closing stages to fight back. With the score level at 41:41, Vaci NKSE line player Fanny Helembai scored with seven seconds left, leaving Banik Most with insufficient time to respond. 

Newcomers and departures

Newcomers: Andrea Aron (Szent István SE), Noémi Bárdy (Dunaújvárosi Kohász KA), Vivien Grosch (Dunaújvárosi Kohász KA), Laura Szabó (Érd), Ágnes Triffa (DVSC)

Departures: Barbara Arenhart (Buducnost), Lili Káldy (Szentendre NKE), Noémi Kovács (Vasas SC), Rea Mészáros (Retired), Sára Paróczy (Érd), Kitti Szabó (Érd)

Past achievements

EHF Cup:
Quarter-finals (1): 2010/11
Last 16 (2): 2011/12, 2013/14
Qualification round 3 (2): 2017/18, 2019/20
Qualification round 2 (1): 2018/19

Cup Winners’ Cup:
Quarter-finals (2): 2003/04, 2012/13
Round 4 (2): 2004/05, 2005/06

Hungarian league: 0 titles
Hungarian cup: 0 titles

TEXT: Jamie Whittington