DOMESTIC LEAGUES: Rostov-Don enjoy a perfect season with the national title alongside the EHF Cup, while Stopinu claim the Latvian championship in a dramatic final.
National Champions 2016/17 – Women Part 2: North-east
Part two of the six-part series on national champions of the 2016/17 season focuses on the women’s leagues in Belarus, Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan.
Second in a row for Gomel
BNTU-BelAZ were a major force in the Belarusian league for years, winning the trophy 22 times, but recently the centre of gravity in Belarusian women's handball shifted to Gomel.
Coached by the Belarus national coach Tomaz Cater, HC Gomel became the champions for the second straight year in 2016/17.
Having won the regular season, BNTU were unable to confirm their superiority in the final games against Gomel. The best-of-five series was a fitting end to the season, as the teams had to play all five matches to determine the strongest side.
BNTU led 1:0, then 2:1 in the series, but Gomel showed good morale and turned the battle around. In the decisive fifth match, they dominated and deservedly won 28:20, thus claiming the gold medal.
Same final, same winner
For the third year in a row, the final was between the two Helsinki teams Dicken and HIFK – and the outcome was the same as the previous years, with Dicken winning the championship.
In the final series, played ‘best of five’, the Dicken ladies only needed three matches to decide the matter. They started by winning 24:17 at home, then went on to a clear 30:17 away win before celebrating another title through a 23:20 home victory on April 23.
Perfect season for Rostov
Rostov-Don, who won the EHF Cup this spring, can also boast a perfect record in the Russian league, where they were crowned champions for the third time in history after 1994 and 2015.
Last year, the star-studded side sensationally lost the final to Astrakhanochka, but now Rostov showed full commitment and did not repeat mistakes from the past.
Having won all 20 matches of the regular season, they carried their brilliant shape to the play-offs, recording two wins in the two-leg quarter-final series against Stavropolye, two victories in the semi-final against Kuban – and ultimately the same 2:0 result in the final series against Lada Togliatti (30:26, 26:18). In the domestic arena, Rostov have been simply unstoppable.
Galytchanka do it again
In recent years, Galytchanka have become the dominant force in Ukrainian women's handball. For the third season in a row, the team from Lviv won the national title.
There are no play-offs in the league, so everything is decided after the regular season. With three games remaining, Galytchanka had already secured the gold medal, and ultimately claimed 48 of a possible 52 points.
Unlike the previous season, HC Karpaty Uzhgorod were unable to seriously challenge the champions, and they finished second with 40 points. HC Dnepryanka Kherson took the bronze with 26 points.
Garliava dethrone Zalgiris
HC Garliava SM-CASCADA ended ACME-Zalgiris’ reign of supremacy by beating them in the final series and thus claiming the champion's title after a five-year break.
From 2013 to 2016, Zalgiris won the national league four times in a row. Last year, Garliava tried hard to dethrone the team from Kaunas, but ultimately came up short.
This time, they were more convincing in the decisive games. In the best-of-five series, Garliava removed all questions after three matches to claim the title.
Stopinu win a dramatic final
For the second year in a row, Stopinu NHK won the national league. Overall, this team has been dominant in Latvian handball since 2011, winning five out of seven national championships.
Stopinu confidently won the regular season and had no problems in the semi-final, comfortably beating Salaspils SS. However, the best-of-three final series against Reira Dobele was extremely tight and dramatic.
The two opening games were decided only after penalty shots, with Dobele winning the first match 35:34 before Stopinu took revenge 27:26. Regular time was only sufficient to determine the winner in the third game, when Lana Nikolajeva's shot two minutes before the final buzzer earned Stopinu a narrow 25:24 victory.
Reval Sport/Padise win the league
Reval-Sport/Padise were crowned the national champions for the first time in history this season. The club from Tallinn ended Reval Sport/Mella’s reign, after Mella consistently won the league every season since 2012.
The two rivals with similar names faced each other in the final series, and Reval-Sport/Padise were stronger in both matches with final scores of 31:30 and 35:29.
TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / Peter Bruun / cg