After an easy come-back to action last week with just two matches played in Lithuania, Baltic Handball League returns with more serious activity this weekend. Seven teams will take the field of play in Tapa, Põlva, Vilnius and Alytus as the competition resumes in six-match clash between Estonian and Lithuanian clubs.
Serviti Põlva is currently on top of the table with 14 points, but VHC Šviesa Vilnius are close with 11 points and have two games in hand. ZRHK Tenax Dobele still holds the third place, as HC Dragunas Klaipeda are level on ten points with the Latvian champion. Four teams are on eight points and Varsa-Stronglasas Alytus on seven, so the mid-table is extremely tight.
Kalmer Musting: our recent form has been very good
Estonian champion Serviti have been a very busy in recent weeks, as they qualified to the quarter-finals of the EHF European Cup, while also defeating Tallinn in the domestic league on Wednesday by 29:20.
Serviti will take on Granitas-Karys Kaunas and HC Dragunas Klaipeda this weekend. They have not played Granitas in BHL since 2018, but have been in close contact with Dragunas. A month ago, the freshly crowned Lithuanian cup-winner beat Serviti on home soil by 32:30 and have a four-match winning streak against Serviti.
“Both Lithuanian visitors are strong teams and as recent matches in domestic competitions prove, quite equal in strength. We came back with a defeat from Klaipeda and are hoping to reverse the fortunes at home. In order to stay top of the league, we cannot lose points,” admits Serviti’s head coach Kalmer Musting.
“Our recent form has been very good and confidence is high. Some players got a rest after European matches, but we still won comfortably against Tallinn. Granitas have clear scoring leaders, while Dragunas has a longer bench of quality players, so I am sure the matches will be tight and interesting,” claimed Serviti’s long-time coach.
Granitas-Karys is preparing seriously against Estonian opposition
Granitas-Karys suffered a defeat in the Lithuanian Cup final to Dragunas, but last week took a sweet revenge in the BHL match with a 33:30 victory. After playing in Põlva, they will move to play SK Tapa/N.R. Energy on Sunday. Just one month ago those teams produced a highly entertaining match in Kaunas as Granitas-Karys emerged with a narrow 26:25 win.
“We are definitely preparing for two very difficult matches. Serviti has just qualified to the quarter-finals of EHF European Cup, which is great success for a club from Baltic States. Tapa proved their fighting spirit in Kaunas with several players missing, so strong opposition is waiting us on both days,” admits Vaidotas Grosas, head coach of Granitas-Karys.
“A nice victory over Dragunas was a sort of revenge, but the cup final defeat is still very bitter. But we got back to winning ways and are now preparing very seriously against the Estonian teams. It will be tough, especially away and with travelling issues through Latvia. Going to Estonia these days is like travelling to America,” joked Grosas.
Viljandi HC hoping to get points from away matches
Besides Dragunas and Granitas-Karys, the third team on the road this weekend will be Viljandi HC, travelling in the opposite direction. Viljandi will meet Šviesa and Varsa-Stronglasas in Lithuania. They have never met the latter before and have a terrible record against Šviesa in previous seasons – no wins in six encounters with just one draw.
“In official matches we have not played against Varsa, but they are a strong side. And so is Šviesa, the current leader of Lithuanian league. History does not look good, but all runs will one day come to an end. Due to restrictions we only travel on Saturday, so basically arrive to Alytus and go straight on the field,” said Viljandi’s head coach Marko Koks.
“If there will be a Final Four and we want to qualify, we need points, as there are not many games left. Why not take them in away matches, even if it is not easy. Our game has improved in recent weeks, we got some matches under our belt and our confident in our abilities,” added Koks.
Baltic Handball League weekend:
27.02. 18:00 SK Tapa/N.R. Energy – HC Dragunas Klaipeda
27.02. 18:00 Serviti Põlva – Granitas-Karys Kaunas
27.02. 18:00 Varsa-Stronglasas Alytus – Viljandi HC
28.02. 13:00 SK Tapa/N.R. Energy – Granitas-Karys Kaunas
28.02. 13:00 VHC Šviesa Vilnius – Viljandi HC
28.02. 14:00 Serviti Põlva – HC Dragunas Klaipeda
On photo: Granitas-Karys Kaunas beat SK Tapa/N.R. Energy by just one goal a month ago, now the teams meet in Tapa. (Photo: RK Granitas-Karys).