Kastamonu search for first win with new start
This is the first article in our countdown series ahead of the EHF Champions League Women 2022/23 season. The series will preview each of the 16 clubs in the group phase before the competition begins in September.
It is safe to say that the EHF Champions League Women 2021/22 season did not exactly pan out as planned for Kastamonu Belediyesi GSK, after the Turkish champions built the third-longest losing streak in the competition's history.
However, the Turkish club renewed their vows to come back even stronger, added key players in crucial roles in the side and tried to strengthen the team as much as possible in order to win their first game in the competition.
- after losing all 14 matches in the group phase last season, Kastamonu will feature in Europe's premier competition for the second time
- Danish coach Claus Mogensen, who is testing the waters outside outside Scandinavia for the first time in his career, has been appointed as coach
- three of the four Montenegrin players who were signed last season – Jovanka Radicevic, Milena Raicevic and Marina Rajcic – left this summer, as only left wing Majda Mehmedovic stayed at the club
- in a bid to bring more spirit to the side, Kastamonu signed experienced right wing Simone Böhme and line player Katarina Jezic
Most important question: Will Kastamonu finally break their duck in the EHF Champions League Women?
Winning is definitely a difficult business in the EHF Champions League Women, as Kastamonu proved last season. In their maiden appearance in Europe's premier competition, the Turkish champions suffered 14 losses in 14 matches against some of the best teams in Europe, including finalists Vipers Kristiansand and Györi Audi ETO KC.
Armed with experienced Montenegrin players like wings Jovanka Radicevic and Majda Mehmedovic, centre back Milena Raicevic and goalkeeper Marina Rajcic, Kastamonu delivered on the court — but failed to secure a win. From that Montenegrin core, Mehmedovic is the only player still at the club. The departures of the three other players has left the door open for more transfers.
The Turkish champions have added Katarina Jezic and Simone Böhme, two experienced players who featured for their national teams at recent major championships, Brazilian back Samara da Silva Vieira and Angolan right back Azenaide Carlos, who scored 113 goals for champions CS Rapid București in the Romanian league last season.
But are those players enough to lift Kastamonu's level enough to clinch at least a win in the competition? After last season's participation, their Turkish players also have more experience, though captain Serpil Iskenderoglu, who made her debut in European competitions in 1997, could play the last season of her career.
Moreover, a new and experienced coach has been tasked with leading the team: Claus Mogensen. Taking over at Kastamonu, Mogensen ended his six-year spell with Kobenhavn Handbold – after spending the three previous years at Norwegian club Byåsen Håndball Elite. A new experience, far away from Scandinavia, will be a challenge for Mogensen, who will need to work his magic to deliver good performances.
Under the spotlight: Katarina Jezic
This will be the sixth club for the captain of Croatia's senior national team. Jezic is one of the best defenders in women's handball and a player who can galvanise the whole team with her infectious spirit. However, after a six-year stint in Hungary at Siófok KC, Jezic is poised to make her return to the top level after last featuring in the EHF Champions League Women in the 2015/16 season, when she represented Romanian side HCM Baia Mare.
Jezic needs no acclimatisation to the top level, having long been of the best line players in the world, as proven at the Women's EHF EURO 2020, when she was captain of Croatia's bronze medal-winning team. Jezic's key experience in clutch moments should make her transfer a great piece of business and a coup for Kastamonu.
How they rate themselves
Last season, Kastamonu were newcomers who had plenty of ambition. Their best results, however, were a one-goal loss against Krim Mercator Ljubljana and a two-goal defeat against CSKA. Their average margin of defeat was a huge 8.1 goals per game, and they conceded the most goals (462) and had the worst goal difference (-113).
This interesting mix of experienced Turkish players and some veterans in European competitions will need some chemistry building exercises in the first months.
However, after her unveiling at Kastamonu, new signing Jezic was optimistic. She said: "I believe we will have a good and successful season. I will do my best to bring a lot of energy, joy and hard work to the team."
What the numbers say
3 – WHC Buducnost BEMAX, Györi Audi ETO KC and CS Rapid București will be the first three opponents for Kastamonu in the EHF Champions League this season. If Kastamonu lose their first three games, they will set a new record for the longest losing streak in Europe's premier competition.
Did you know?
No team has ever played more games without securing their first win in the EHF Champions League Women than Kastamonu.
Arrivals and departures
Arrivals: Claus Mogesen (coach), Simone Böhme (Siofok KC), Katarina Jezic (Siófok KC), Azenaide Carlos (CS Rapid București), Samara da Silva Vieira (CSM București)
Departures: Marina Rajcic (Siófok KC), Jovanka Radicevic (Krim Mercator Ljubljana), Sara Kovarova (Krim Mercator Ljubljana), Milena Raicevic (WHC Buducnost BEMAX)
EHF Champions League
Participations (including 2022/23 season): 2
Group phase (1): 2021/22
EHF European League Women: group phase (2020/21)
Women's EHF Cup: semi-finals (2017/18); quarter-finals (2019/20)
Women's Challenge Cup: runners-up (2015/16)
Turkish league: 5 titles (2016/17, 2018/19, 2019/20, 2020/21, 2021/22)
Turkish Cup: 2 titles (2021, 2022)
Turkish Super Cup: 2 titles (2017, 2019)