Young Lokomotiva back to the top tier
This is the second article in our countdown series ahead of the EHF Champions League Women 2022/23 season. The series will preview each of the 16 clubs in the group phase before the competition begins in September.
Lokomotiva Zagreb are back in the EHF Champions League Women after securing their first Croatian title since 2014, having overthrown Podravka Vegeta in the 2021/22 season. The Challenge Cup 2016/17 winners have proven to be a great development club for young talents, and now enter the new European season as underdogs in group B.
- Lokomotiva played the group phase of the EHF Champions League only once, in 2014/15. In 2004/05 and 2013/14, they played the qualification tournaments but did not progress
- the Zagreb-based team won the Challenge Cup in 2017 and played the EHF European Cup final in 2021
- ‘Lokosice’ will have a changed squad, with many of the pillar players leaving for Podravka Vegeta, while young talents will join
- head coach Sostaric took the helm in 2013 and is well-known for his extensive handball experience as well as leading Croatia to the bronze medal at the Women’s EHF EURO 2020
- last season, Lokomotiva took the Croatian throne after an eight year wait
Most important question: Can Lokomotiva’s young players keep up with their experienced opponents?
Lokomotiva are making their comeback to the EHF Champions League after raising the Croatian trophy for the first time in eight years. They took the title from their long-time rivals Podravka Vegeta thanks largely to a shocking away win against Podravka, 25:17, which was decisive in the end.
Playing the EHF European League group phase for the first time in the 2021/22 season gave the players additional experience. Even better results were missed due to many injuries the team faced throughout the season.
With no pressure for the top-tier competition in the new season, Sostaric can lead the team and also teach young players.
“We are playing the group phase of the EHF Champions League for the second time in the club’s history. Our team is very young and we will have only one goal: to show our quality and team spirit,” says team director Klaudija Bubalo.
With no easy opponents in group B, Lokomotiva will have a hard task in the upcoming Champions League season. Facing EHF FINAL4 2022 participants Team Esbjerg and Györi Audi ETO KC, as well as Metz Handball, Buducnost BEMAX, CS Rapid Bucuresti, Storhamar Handball Elite and Kastamonu Belediyesi GSK, the young Zagreb players will have to show their persistence and strong will.
However, Sostaric and his team have already shown they can do magic and draw out the maximum from the players.
Under the spotlight: Stela Posavec
One of the most important players for the game is 25-year-old centre back Stela Posavec. Stela is 10 minutes older than her twin Paula, also a handball player, and they used to share the club court.
Stela Posavec joined Lokomotiva in 2016 and was instrumental in the Challenge Cup win in her first season. Through Lokomotiva, she made it to the Croatia national team, later taking the bronze medal at the EHF EURO 2020.
Last season, Posavec suffered an injury and was missing for four months. Her absence was felt and she will be important link for Sostaric’s play. With Ana Malec in the same position, they form a great duo for another interesting season.
How they rate themselves
Lokomotiva’s squad will be significantly changed compared to last season. National team players like Josipa Mamic, Andrea Simara, Lucija Besen and Kristina Prkacin have all left the club.
Young players will try to fill their shoes and Lokomotiva so far look weaker than usual. It is yet to be seen how Sostaric will organise the team, but already proven players like Posavec, Malec, Tena Petika, Tena Japundza and Andrea Sedloska remain with the club.
“There won’t be any easy games for us. Maybe we can take our chance with Storhamar Handball Elite just because they are in the same position as us — they are the team who are playing Champions League for the first time — compared to the much more experienced opponents in the group,” says team captain Posavec.
The opening round of the new season is set for 10–11 September, when Lokomotiva will welcome Rapid Bucuresti.
Did you know?
Lokomotiva won the first Croatian championship held after Croatia’s independence in 1991, raising the trophy in 1992. A year before, they had won the club’s first international trophy, beating Bayer Leverkusen in the EHF Cup finals.
What the numbers say
Lokomotiva are one of the best women’s clubs in Croatia and they have come in second many times. However, the 2021/22 season marked their fourth Croatian championship title.
Their previous championship titles were in 1992, 2004 and 2014. Their Croatian Cup tally stands at six, after they won the finals in 1992, 1005, 2007, 2014, 2018 and 2021.
Newcomers and left the club
Newcomers: Sara Sabljic (ZRK Split 2010), Klara Birtic (ZRK Split 2010), Kristina Dramac (WAT Atzgersdorf), Mia Tupek (RK Sesvete Agroproteinka)
Left the club: Lucija Besen (HC Podravka Vegeta), Andrea Simara (HC Podravka Vegeta), Dora Kalaus (HC Podravka Vegeta), Ivana Dezic (ES Besancon Feminin), Kristina Prkacin (SCM Gloria Buzau), Josipa Mamic (HC Dunarea)
EHF Champions League
Participations (including 2022/23 season): 2
Group phase (1): 2014/15
EHF European Cup:
Finalists (1): 2020/21
Winners (1): 2016/17
Semi-finals (3): 2011/12, 2017/18, 2019/20
Cup Winners’ Cup:
Runners-up (2): 1995/96, 1997/98
Croatian league: Four titles (1992, 2004, 2014, 2022)
Croatian Cup: Six titles (1992, 2005, 2007, 2014, 2018, 2021)