January 29, 2021
For months Baltic Handball League has not been able to resume the matches, especially the cross-border ones. But this weekend finally sees BHL’s return to action and with teams on the road again. Unfortunately COVID-19 has cut the scheduled eight matches to half, but Serviti Põlva and SK Tapa/N.R. Energy will travel to Lithuania to play against HC Dragunas Klaipeda and Granitas-Karys Kaunas.
Last time the handball fans of the Baltic States saw teams meeting opponents other than from their own country, was more than three months ago. Serviti leads the table with 14 points from eight games, as ZRHK Tenax Dobele and VHC Šviesa Vilnius follow with 10 and 9 points from seven and six games respectively.
Dragunas has a three-win streak against Serviti
The weekend will start with an absolute BHL classic, as HC Dragunas Klaipeda will host Serviti Põlva. In the last, interrupted season, the teams met three times and Lithuanian champion won all games, though the total goal difference in those was just seven goals.
Serviti has been unstoppable in the Estonian league, having won all 13 matches so far this season and have also advanced to the last 16 of EHF European Cup. But they were defeated in the cup final by HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper in December. Dragunas resumed games in Lithuanian championship two weeks ago with an impressive 50:23 win over SC-RSSG-Grifas.
“We are very eager to get back to playing serious games. The previous months have been tough, as most of our players and myself all went down with the virus. Everyone is healthy now, but obviously it is unknown in what kind form we are. Most important is to be back playing, we are tired of only training,” joked Arturas Juškenas, the head coach of Dragunas.
“In two weeks time we will continue in EHF European Cup and for this, the matches in Lithuania are very important. Firstly, to get international match practice and tough games, but of course we also have to be careful and stay negative in terms of testing,” commented Serviti’s head coach Kalmer Musting.
Granitas-Karys determined to add more points
Former BHL winner Granitas-Karys Kaunas is down in ninth place of the BHL standings with just two wins. Both of them came at home and defeating Estonian opponents as back in September they beat HC Kehra/Horizon Pulp&Paper and Viljandi HC. Granitas started the new year well and have taken two victories in the domestic league.
“We had a good start to the year and it is excellent to get some international matches now. But match practice is lacking, so it is difficult to know what to expect. Nevertheless we have set ourselves a target of winning both matches against our Estonian opponents,” is Granitas-Karys’ head coach Vaidotas Grosas determined to add some points.
Granitas’ first opponent SK Tapa/N.R. Energy is a BHL newcomer and thus have never played either of the Lithuanian opponents in official competitions before. Tapa finished domestic cup competition in December with a historic bronze-medal, but have been struggling for form – and points – both in the domestic league and BHL.
“This trip to Lithuania comes in a very tough time for us. Many of our players are working and the employers understandably will not allow them to travel. We do have enough players, but obviously the quality will not be the same if we cannot play with a full strength squad,” said Tapa’s head coach Elmu Koppelmann.
On photo: Granitas-Karys Kaunas has so far beaten two Estonian sides at home, the next two will be visiting this weekend. (Photo: RK Granitas-Karys).