Former finalists or first-timers?
Having won the Women’s Challenge Cup in 2016 and reached the final again last year, Rocasa Gran Canaria will be chasing their third final when the second leg of the semi-finals are being played this weekend.
At the same time, SPR Pogon Szczecin are aiming for their second Challenge Cup Final, after reaching that stage in 2015.
Their opponents, Kristianstad Handboll and H.V. Quintus, have never contested a European cup trophy match before.
Rocasa defending a five-goal lead
Rocasa Gran Canaria have the proudest Challenge Cup tradition among the four semi-finalists. In 2016, the Spanish club won the competition after defeating Turkish side Kastamonu in the final. Last year, Rocasa lost the final to Polish team MKS Perla Lublin.
This season, Rocasa have a very good chance of reaching their third final in only four years.
When they travel to southern Sweden to face Kristianstad in the second leg, Rocasa will be taking a five-goal lead with them, as they won the first match at home 22:17.
However, Rocasa must be cautious, as Kristianstad are led by a very experienced coach in Ulf Schefvert. Schefvert has previously been men’s national coach for Denmark and Greece and has also coached several top clubs around Europe.
While Rocasa are chasing their third trophy match, it would be Kristianstad’s first European final if they turn the tables and take the aggregate win.
Szczecin aim to follow Lublin's footsteps
Last year, MKS Perla Lublin won the Challenge Cup, and there is no doubt that SPR Pogon Szczecin will do their utmost to keep the trophy in Poland.
They have an extremely good chance to take another step towards fulfilling that goal when they host H. V. Quintus in Hala Miejska, Szczecin on Saturday afternoon.
Szczecin won the first match in the Netherlands 25:21, a result which puts the Polish team in a very good position ahead of the return leg.
While Szczecin lost the Challenge Cup Final in 2015 to Union Mios Biganos-Begles from France, H.V. Quintus have never been as far as the final yet.
Race for top scorer crown
A further aspect of the semi-final matches this weekend will be the race among the top scorers in the competition.
Right now, left back Sarah Carlström from Kristianstad is on top with 33 goals, but Szczecin centre back Agata Cebula is not far behind, having hit the net 31 times so far.
Montenegrin left back Nada Pejovic, currently third, can no longer add to the 30 goals she has scored, as her Serbian team, ZRK Naisa Nis, are no longer in the competition.
Therefore, the honour of top scorer in the Women’s Challenge Cup this season will see a battle between Carlström and Cebula.Author: Peter Bruun / cg