Talent Julie Scaglione focused on EHF Finals Women
Ikast Handbold are going into their third straight EHF Finals hoping to break the curse of two previous defeats and go past Thüringer HC to the final.
The Danish side were unstoppable in the earlier stages of the EHF European League Women and young star Julie Scaglione was an important part of the success at only 18 years old.
Julie Scaglione is not a new face in the second-tier competition. Just like her club, she is also attending her third straight EHF Finals. Born into a handball family, it could not really have gone any other way for the talented left back.
Her mother Lone Mathiesen won the gold medal with Denmark at the IHF Women's World Championship in 1997, and her father and brother were also keen handball players.
“It is nice to have your family support you, especially when they know handball. My mom is always here to give me advice, but she always asks for my permission – because sometimes she can really get into it. She is good at distracting me; when I'm sad about something she always asks if I want to talk about it, she is not just coming up to me and saying what I did wrong and what I need to do. We have really good communication between us,” says Scaglione.
“My father and brother are also in handball, so sometimes it's a lot of handball. But we try to keep the family-related things and handball apart.”
Even though still very young, the left back already shows a great understanding of handball, and maturity on the court, putting her raw talent to the test. Since her debut at 16 on the European stage, Scaglione is aware of the progress she made.
“These last three seasons helped me a lot. When I look back to the first season in the European League, it was all about me. I wanted to go over my limits, when I got the ball I only had a goal, a target in mind,” says Scaglione on her start.
“Now, I play for the team, looking more at the game and my teammates, and how to help them. I still have a lot to learn and to work. I look forward to keeping moving forward, together with the team,” adds Ikast's second-best top scorer.
Even though Ikast are unbeaten in the EHF European League and in the Danish league, the Kvindeligaen, they finished the main phase of the season with 18 wins and six defeats, they had a small scare mid-season.
“The whole season was difficult. We had a good start in the Kvindeligaen but then had a few losses in the mid-season. But thankfully, we started to play better just in time for the European League. We played on a high level throughout and it feels nice to be here at the EHF Finals again,” says Scaglione.
Ikast will open the EHF Finals Women in Graz at 15:30 CEST on Saturday (live on EHFTV) against Thüringer, in what they hope will be a historic semi-final. After losing to German team SG BBM Bietigheim last season, Ikast will go all in.
“Thuringer are a strong team. We know their qualities and what we need to do. But that won't matter if we do not concentrate all 60 minutes. We know we have to be good to win, without any mistakes. If we provide the same level we did until now, we can qualify for the final,” Scaglione believes.
In 28 matches played in the European League over three seasons, Ikast have lost only four times – three at the EHF Finals. The numbers say for themselves how much it would mean for the Danish side to finally get into the final.
“We weren't lucky in the past at the EHF Finals but despite those losses, we gained new experience and learned something new. We finally want to get that trophy, but we learned anything can happen during the weekend. It is a special event and one game decides it all. If we lose the first game it will feel like the whole season, all the good we have done, it's been lost,” says Scaglione.
Julie Scaglione has given her best on the court the whole season, scoring 30 goals after 65 total in the two previous seasons. Coming a long way from Skanderborg, the Danish bright star came to the spotlight already while playing for the youth national team. Being selected for the All-star Team at the 2021 W17 EHF EURO in Montenegro also gave her an opportunity to become part of the EHF's Respect Your Talent programme, which was launched in 2019 to nurture up-and-coming players.
“Respect Your Talent is amazing. I like the concept and it means a lot to young players. I was part of it during the championship in Montenegro and I have such great memories. I got close to the other players and was able to meet someone you play against. To learn about different aspects of sport not just the tactics and play. It is a great experience,” Scaglione thinks.
“I remember our ambassador Anja Althus was really kind and full of understanding. She and everyone else helped us with different approaches. For example, talking to the media through practice. The ambassadors are key to the programme.”
Meeting new friends and going out of your comfort zone is an integral part of sports. Every little thing learned on the way is an important piece of the puzzle and can shape players for the future. Having a glimpse of what to expect in her professional career, Scaglione was very happy about the experience she had.
“For me, it was great that I couldn't be in a group with players from my team. We were mixed together and we all had to speak English, get to know each other better to have a better understanding and become more relaxed when talking in different languages,” concludes Scaglione.
Now her talent will be put to the test as Ikast aim for victory in Graz.
Photos © Frederik Dahl, Hamistolen; Sasa Pahic Szabo / kolektiff