By Paul Nilsen
|New Rivas Ecopolis signing Essence Carson was handed the difficult task of replacing Dewanna Bonner and her all-round contribution|
Rivas Ecopolis head coach Miguel Méndez is expecting a tough assignment as his team prepares to face Good Angels Kosice.
In what has been a difficult first few weeks for the new Rivas play-caller, things aren't going to get much easier with both teams desperate to bounce back after opening their respective EuroLeague Women seasons with losses last week.
Méndez is anticipating an intense atmosphere and is preparing his team to go all out for their first victory.
"We're going to play on a hot court since they have great support from their fans and the atmosphere will be encouraging for them, as is usual in that zone of Europe."
"Good Angels Kosice is a team with a good cast of national team players. They play and compete a lot and have got an interesting rookie in Kayla Pedersen."
"I'm pretty sure we're going to see an interesting game" continued Mendez.
"But, our goal is none other that competing for a win that would be quite important for us".
Certainly heading into the contest, Good Angels Kosice probably have more reason to be confident after producing a relatively strong performance, despite not shooting the ball very well.
Their defence pleased Coach Stefan Svitek, having held their Polish hosts to just 52 points, and they will be in with a great chance of winning the game if they can re-produce that level of defensive intensity.
Rivas meanwhile, look like a team who have some talent but are just finding their way a little. They have good experience, with Clara Bermejo Moreno and Elisa Aguilar in the backcourt, but perhaps lack real scoring power, something they hope WNBA All Star Essence Carson can help tackle.
Carson has essentially been drafted in to replace the production of Dewanna Bonner who has been making life tough for Rivas fans since she departed, by reminding them of what they are missing with an MVP Performance against them in the Liga Femenina SuperCup.
Both clubs do have in a couple of things in common with each other in addition to wanting to get their first EuroLeague Women victory on the board. Firstly, they will both be missing their veteran and influential stars with Zuzana Zirkova and Amaya Valdemoro ruled out due to their respective serious injuries.
Secondly, both teams have plenty of younger players on their rosters who are trying to make a name for themselves in the competition and fans will get their chance to watch the likes of Laura Nicholls, Vega Gimeno, Kourtney Treffers, Kayla Pederson, Natalia Vieru and Helena Sverrisdottir.
|Serbian guard Miljana Bojovic, now in her third season with Good Angels Kosice, actaully joined the Slovak club from Rivas Ecopolis|
SEASON SO FAR: Good Angels Kosice lost to Wisla Can Pack 52-45 last week but domestically have won all four of their games in the Slovakian league including a mammoth 91 point win last Saturday.
Rivas lost the Spanish SuperCup to Perfumerias Avenida, fell at home 74-69 to Gospic Croatia Osiguranje but then to their relief, tipped off the Liga Femenina season with a convincing 75-50 win against Ciudad De Burgos. The Rivas players dedicating the victory to injured Amaya Valdemoro who was out of hospital and courtside with both of her wrists in plaster.
THE HOT HANDS: The trio of Laura Nicholls, Asjha Jones and Essence Carson have shown some form during the early part of the season for Rivas. Nicholls in particular has suggested this could be a breakout year for her and the center has been particularly terrific on the glass.
In the three games she has played so far this season, she has not yet failed to reach double-digits in rebounding. Meanwhile for the hosts, shooting guard Danielle McCray has been the main scoring threat in pretty much every game so far this season.
THE ‘X FACTORS': Who is going to make an outside shot for Rivas in this game -their first of the season in fact? They were a truly horrific 0 of 11 last week and it's imperative someone finds some range from downtown. It perhaps shows Rivas do lack a pure shooter and difference-maker.
Maybe Essence Carson could prove to be the difference-maker needed, while young Vega Gimeno may be the one to make some shots from the perimeter. Offence is most likely to be the key in this game, since scoring was a problem for Good Angels Kosice too and while they have a few shooters, the scoring load is likely to fall onto McCray and it will be interesting to see if Rivas try to focus on locking her down and therefore ask a big question of her team-mates.
Equally, Pederson and Sverrisdottir didn't have the best debut games last week and it will interesting to see if they improve and show their unquestionable talent during week two.
KEY MATCH UP: It will be fun watching two 1989-born adversaries going head to head under the basket, when 22-year-old centers Laura Nicholls and Natalia Vieru renew their rivalry from National Team duty, where they met each other at youth level with Spain and Russia respectively.
Both now have a big role to play for their respective club teams and have a lot in common as they both aim to step out from the shadows and establish themselves as premier pivots during forthcoming seasons. Whoever comes out on top in that battle could be playing a big part in helping their team grab a precious first success.