Spartak’s Hejkova is cool, calm and collected

31 January 2008

At what point if you coach Spartak Moscow Region does doubt begin to creep into your mind?

You might have one of the most talented teams ever assembled in the history of European women's basketball with the likes of Tina Thompson, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson in your star-studded line-up.

But there does seem to be no stopping the rivals just up the road, undefeated and red-hot CSKA Moscow.

When do you doubt?

Diana Taurasi (Spartak Moscow Region)
Diana Taurasi is one of the reasons Hejkova can be confident.
The answer, of course, is never.

At least not for Spartak coach Natalia Hejkova.

Did her team's defeat to CSKA earlier this month in the Superleague Women dent her team's confidence?

"I think this defeat was good before the (Gambrinus) Brno (EuroLeague Women) game," she says to FIBA Europe.

"It made our team better."

Then there is the ultimate aim.

The goal is not to go undefeated in the regular season. No, it's to win when it matters.

And now, as Spartak go deeper into the Superleague campaign and the EuroLeague Women - they are in the eighth-finals of the EuroLeague Women - is when it really matters.

"To achieve the target, the (EuroLeague Women) Final Four, we need to play our best in the coming weeks," Hejkova says.

"And we are hoping for help from Tina Thompson. She's come back after an illness (tonsillitis). She was our MVP last season."

There is much to be happy about, as far as Hejkova knows.

Nothing has happened yet that has ended her team's title defense in Europe, nor the Russian Superleague.

The team lost in group play of the EuroLeague Women to Lotos PKO BP, but Spartak did beat the champions of two years ago, Gambrinus, twice already.

"I am satisfied with our position," Hejkova says.

"After losing in Gdynia, we won two games against Brno and I think Brno are one of the favorites of the EuroLeague this year."

If Hejkova never doubts her team's ability, she certainly won't underestimate opponents.

Coming up in the eighth-finals is a best-of-three series against TEO Vilnius, a team that had a coaching change before Christmas.

"In the play-offs, every team has to be concentrated," Hejkova says.

"It doesn't matter who is on the other side. So we go into it with self-confidence to play them, but also with respect and concentration."

One thing that is out of Hejkova's control is the injury bug. She just hopes that Spartak are at full  strength inj the play-offs. 

"We are waiting for Kelly Mazzante," she says, "and God help us! No injuries."

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