Wollingerová wishes for a comeback
MKS Iuventa Michalovce have been part of European competitions since 2003/04, whether in qualifications, group phases or knock-out stages, missing out only the 2017/18 season.
In the 2022/23 season, the Slovakian club are competing in the EHF European Cup Women and by reaching the semi-finals, they have created one of the club's biggest successes in Europe, according to centre back Patrícia Wollingerová.
“It is a historic success of the club and my personal one. It means a lot to all of us. We still dream of playing in the final," says Wollingerová.
Experienced Wollingerová has been a constant presence at the club since 2008 and a true leader on the court. She has been through it all with the club, from playing on the international scene to winning the Slovak championship nine times.
“I've been here for a long time and I'm satisfied, The club goes out of its way to accommodate me. I already have a family and we are happy here. Iuventa always has high goals and it suits me,” says Wollingerová on her 15 years in the club from eastern Slovakia.
Michalovce were defeated 24:31 in the first leg of the semi-finals against Antalya Konyaalti BSK, and Wollingerová hopes their fans will give an additional push in the rematch on Slovakian soil, on Sunday 26 March (16:00 CET).
“We are stronger at home, we have an excellent fan club and they will definitely push us forward. We will fight as much as we can to overcome the deficit from the first game. We are a great team and there is still strength in us,” says one of the club's top scorers with 34 goals netted in the competition.
The Slovakian side eliminated four teams in the previous stages of the competition on their road to the semi-finals. Michalovce had a narrow aggregate win over Yellow Winterthur, truimphed over Lugi and then defeated two Polish teams, KPR Gminy Kobierzyce and Eurobud JKS Jaroslaw, to set up a clash with Antalya.
Despite reaching the semi-finals, it was not an easy journey for Michalovce who were two players short of the full squad of 16 in the last four matches.
“All the matches were extremely difficult for us. We do not have a very wide squad and we also play in our domestic league and every single defeat is felt. But despite this, we managed to beat very strong teams and we value that.”
The Turkish side sealed a comfortable win in the first leg of the semi-final thanks to a seven-goal run in the second half. Iuventa were trailing by only one at half-time and the performance from the first half is something they want to repeat.
What was missing in the first game against Antalya, especially in those crucial moments of the match?
“We certainly didn't play as aggressively as we said we would. That is something we have to change in the rematch. Also, we failed to deliver in the end and closing the match on a high is what we must do better.”
Alena Ikhneva and Ivana Gakidova were unstoppable in the first match, scoring 17 goals for Antalya, backed by a good goalkeeper. However, Michalovce's strong forces are ready to take the court once again and deliver an outstanding performance just like they did in all their matches this season.
Martina Popovcová, Bibiana Štefaniková, and Alena Dvoršcáková - all under 24 - with the experienced Iryna Kompaniiets, accompany Wollingerová in the top scorer table. They will be the spine of the coach's tactics on Sunday.
“Antalya certainly played a good match but we will definitely try to change something in the return game. We will not let them advance so easily. Coach will definitely prepare us and try to do something new. I believe that it will work out and we will be successful in fulfilling our goals," concludes Wollingerová.