The past two months have been challenging and made the road to 2012 a little bumpy, but myself and the team still remain on track.
March began with club commitments in Asker and intense preparation leading to the season finale against the league leaders, Follo. We were extremely focused and well on our way to promotion, flying through the last few games.
Our speed and power was penetrating our opponents and with excellent feedback from Vigdis there was no reason why we shouldn’t take Follo in the final match. Sunday 21st saw us travel away to Follo 45 minutes together in the team bus and spirits were high - almost up to the British team’s standards (that’s hard).
We arrived at the small sports hall stuffed with both Follo and Asker supporters up to the sidelines and the yell of the huge drums. Vigdis told us everything she could and we had gone through our routine warm up. The big promotion all came down to this one game so the pressure for every single one of us to perform at the best we could was immense.
The first 3 goals came from us without reply from Follo - but that was the closest we got to becoming victorious during the first half.
My head had stepped down a notch and it seemed the same thing had happened to some of the others. A quick break was all we had to find ourselves again and shake it off. We had a better second half and Follo had the upper hand. They had a good lead but that was nothing, we narrowed down the gap and got level. I personally had a better performance in the second half, scored a couple on the break and also lobbed the goalkeeper to add another.
The Asker supporters were loud and gave us an extra push but it just wasn’t enough the Follo shooters and goalkeeper especially were much stronger than us and we lost the battle 28-25. This unfortunately means that Asker will remain in the 2nd Division and Follo will go to the 1st Division.
The bus ride home was a drag and everyone was down but losing that game didn’t take away the reality of how great the season had been and how much I enjoyed it! There are now decisions to make as to what is going to happen next season whether it is to switch teams, stay or even find a team in another country. But it’s all part of the process and I am looking forward to seeing what the next few months will bring. Great Britain against Iceland was something that changed my focus from the happenings in Asker and instantly brought back my motivation. It was 10 days later that I got the chance to take part in yet another significant match. The first was to be in front of a home crowd. Our perspective of the Icelandic team had changed as they had beaten Austria and only went down to France by nine goals. This was something that we and our coaches hadn’t expected.
The first of two matches against Iceland took place in Crystal Palace, London. It was the first time we had come together as a national team since we were in Switzerland back in December so we were all thrilled to be brought back as a squad.
As usual we had gone through the process of studying Iceland by video and learned which players we had to take care of more than others. Similar to France and Austria they are tall in the back three and have a lot of physical power - two qualities that we lack.
Playing in front of a home crowd never fails to push us that extra mile and we actually put on a good fight. We had bad start to the game and lost our way a little with almost no goals from the distance. We had to use our strengths and go through the defence.
My own performance was something to be pleased about, I scored four times (three on the break and one from six metres) and had done a good job stopping my opponent (the right wing) on the break despite the fact that she was top goal scorer for Iceland. With positive feedback from the coaches I was feeling confident going into the away leg in Iceland. We had lost the home game 27-16 and this wasn’t such a bad result!
However we still had to play them in Reykjavik.
We had arrived Thursday afternoon and had a recover swim in an outdoor pool to loosen up. After two more handball sessions, a trip to the famous Blue Lagoon and more video analysis in the last few days we were ready to take them on once again and hopefully get more out of it.
Unfortunately this wasn’t the case and we had lost out by even more than in the home leg. An unacceptable first half as Jesper called it meant that the gap was too great for us to even come close to being satisfied with our performance. In the midst of so much focus on improving our attack it seemed as if we had forgotten to defend the overpowering Icelandics. We were defeated 40-20.
The only positive outcome of the game was that we had scored 20 goals which was something we had set out to do beforehand - this didn’t really mean much considering we let in 40 at the other end. Bad shooting efficiency from myself and the team didn’t really help but our new addition Marie Gerbon who is currently playing in France scored five times and was clearly our best player in the game!
Yet again, more lessons learned in our road to 2012 and more experience at top level handball gained. May 2010 has many exciting things to bring as we will travel to the north of Norway to Spain, Scotland and France and compete against Portugal, France and Austria all in the space of four weeks. So watch this space!