Last weekend saw ECKC enter the qualification round for the Europa Cup, korfball’s most prodigious club competition. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of players to go with, the spirit within the playing squad was fantastic and I was delighted that Graham Robertson had agreed to come along as part of the coaching team. His input was invaluable and meant that I could focus mainly on playing rather than coaching whilst on-court.
Our first match was against the French champions Bonson, this was a crucial one as the other teams in our group were viewed as overwhelming favourites to qualify before the tournament started.
Unfortunately for us we made a few too many errors during the game and despite a strong fight towards the end of the match it wasn’t enough to close the gap with the final score 15-12 in favour of the French side.
The next match was against the Hungarian side Szentendrei and on paper was going to be the biggest challenge of the weekend. But the fight and determination shown by ECKC was incredible, it was great to see the team going toe to toe with Szentendrei and the 7-14 scoreline did not reflect just how closely contested the match was.
With results going our way, qualification was still in our hands as long as we could beat Kocaeli by 4 or more goals in the final group match. The game plan for this match was to keep the tempo high throughout the match in the hope that the Turkish champions would tire in the latter stages.
By half time, the tactics seemed to be working. We were almost level with Kocaeli and they had begun to show signs of frustration. Everyone played their heart out and I really couldn’t have asked for any more from the players but towards the end of the match the goals just stopped flowing for both sides and it finished 12-15 to Kocaeli.
The final match was to play for 7/8th place and there was little difference between the two positions, but with the new Scottish season getting underway it would be a great opportunity to take some momentum back home. The match also had some British pride at stake with the opposition being Welsh champions Cardiff Raptors.
The first half was comfortable for ECKC, controlling in attack and exerting real pressure in defence but conceding a very fortuitous goal just on the stroke at half time left the score at 7-4 going into the break. With substitutes coming on, ECKC lost a little bit of fluidity and allowed Cardiff to come back into the match but the lessons learned during the earlier matches meant that there was no panic. We soon were back into a commanding lead and closed the game out well to secure a morale boosting win to finish the tournament on a high.
The team has improved so much since the process started just over a year ago, I’m hoping that in another year’s time I’ll be saying exactly the same again!