The BVB women’s handball team fell short of their high expectations in the European League on Sunday. The first leg of their quarter-final tie, away to French side Neptunes de Nantes, ended in a 28-19 (14-7) defeat despite a gutsy performance on the part of the Black & Yellows. Borussia thus have a mammoth task ahead of them in the second leg next Sunday in Hamm if they are to have any chance of qualifying for the final four in Graz. 

The scenario: In comparison to previous weeks, the strained personnel situation had eased slightly before the quarter-final first leg in Nantes. Only Meret Ossenkopp, who had fallen ill, did not make the trip to France. Alina Grijseels, who has been out for more than three weeks due to a thigh injury, sat on the bench in Nantes though did not get any playing time.

The game and analysis: BVB got off to a good start and soon took a 3-2 lead thanks to a brace from Dana Bleckmann and a goal from Frida Rønning. After ten minutes of play, the scoreboard read 5-5. The Black & Yellows looked particularly sharp on the defensive end of the court. 

But in the proceeding phase of the game, Borussia’s offensive efficiency plummeted, while the Italian refereeing team gave out four time penalties and three seven-metre penalties in the first half alone. Within ten minutes, the Black & Yellows found themselves 12-6 down. Swedish star Nathalie Hagman, the top scorer at the 2021 World Cup, had netted three times by this point. Marine Dupuis on the Nantes left flank proved a constant thorn in the side of the Dortmund defence. BVB failed to get on the scoreboard at all between the 14th and the 24th minute, before Sara Garovic finally lifted the drought six minutes before the interval to bring the score to a more respectable 12-7. In the end, the two sides went into the dressing room at half-time with the scoreboard reading 14-7 in favour of the home side. 

But the second half started much in the same vein as the first period had ended, as Nantes scored three goals in quick succession. BVB, for their part, needed five minutes before Zoë Sprengers was able to reduce the deficit to 18-7. Often outnumbered, BVB fell further and further behind. After 15 minutes in the second half, the score was 22-13, and by the 50th minute, Nantes led 26-16. Try as they might, the BVB defence could not find any effective means of containing the threat posed by right-winger Nathalie Hagman.

Dana Bleckmann was BVB’s top goalscorer, netting seven times. It was also the 21-year-old who at least cut the gap to single figures right at the final whistle to bring the score to 28-19. Bleckmann, Zoë Sprengers and goalkeeper Yara ten Holte, who made several good saves, were the stand-out performers for the Black & Yellows.

Rupert Thiele, acting head of the handball department: ”Going into the second leg with a nine-goal deficit is obviously a tough task.”

Coach Henk Groener: ”The positive thing was that we fought hard for 60 minutes. We just let them pull too far ahead in the first half. After the break, we managed to reduce the deficit from twelve goals to nine, but the bottom line is that Nantes were simply better than us today.”

Outlook: The second leg of the European League quarter-final against Neptunes de Nantes will take place next Sunday, 26 March. The game in the Westpress-Arena in Hamm will commence at 16:00 CET. Tickets for the second leg are available in the BVB online ticketshop. In the Bundesliga, the Black & Yellows are not in action again until 15 April, when they host Zwickau. 

BVB women’s handball: Moth, ten Holte, Kohorst; Grijseels, Sprengers (5), Kusian, Antl, van Kreij, Sasaki, Olsson (1), Rønning (4), Bleckmann (7), Hausherr, Stens, Birk, Garovic (2)