Play-Off Preview: US Valenciennes Olympic v. Euroleasing Orsi Sopron

01.03.2004

Of the 3 French teams which have qualified for the Quarter-Final Play-Offs group  winners US Valenciennes Olympic have come out on top. In such a tight competition as this season’s EuroLeague Group B, USVO finished in 1st place just ahead on points from Gdynia and Pecs who shared their 9-5 record. Like Pecs, USVO has a 7-0 home record and the Salle du Hainaut has become renown as one of the toughest gyms to play in Europe.

In the French Ligue Féminine, USVO continues to dominate and is ahead of the rest of the field. A shock loss to Pays d’Aix Basket on Saturday will have stopped short any feelings of complacency and the Valenciennoises will be looking to keep their campaign message clear this week.

Euroleasing Orsi Sopron could be in position to cause an upset, however. Coming into this series as underdogs the Hungarian team could still make life difficult for the favourites. Sopron took 4th place in Group A, pipping UB Barcelona on points only to take the last qualification spot on the final game day. Nevertheless, Sopron still has the same win-loss record as Valenciennes and will defnitely want to force the 3rd Play-Off game.

Previously in the EuroLeague…

USVO have definitely taken up where Bourges left off and are currently the strongest French team playing in Europe. EuroLeague Champions in 2002, Valenciennes were runners up in 2001 and then again last year after a thrilling Final against UMMC Ekaterinburg. This will be their 5th Play-Off appearance in a row, from a total of 7, and after last year’s ultimate disappointment the north of France club will have nothing less in mind than adding to the trophy cabinet.

This will be Sopron’s 5th Play-Off participation in as many years, although the club has yet to make the Final Four. Ronchetti Cup winners in 1998, the Hungarian side has many years’ experience playing in European competition and would dearly love to take that one step further into the Semis. Unfortunately, the road to the Final Four is momentarily blocked by a formidable opponent…

The current standings between the two teams after 4 previous meetings is 4-0 in USVO’s favour.

Look out for…

Anna Vajda – a EuroLeague Women rookie, the 19 year-old is shown she quite capable of handling the pressure at this level, despite playing at small forward for the first time in her career. In one game she single-handedy lifted Sopron to the win, coming on to the court in the last quarter and burying 3 treys including the game winner.

Ann Wauters – the axel around which Valenciennes turn. Despite appearing tired and a little off form this season, the two-time EuroLeague MVP still leads USVO in both scoring and rebounds and is second in both categories in the Ligue Féminine.

A star who will no doubt turn on the magic once again.


 


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