By Cindy Garcia-Bennett, PA Sport
Spanish center Ana Montanana believes Perfumerias Salamanca have the right ingredients to make an impact in their debut season in the EuroLeague Women.
The Spanish reigning champions begin their European adventure by hosting French giants Bourges on November 1.
Montanana, a strong reinforcement to Jose Ignacio Hernandez's team this summer after leaving Ros Casares, has been impressed by the atmosphere and the camaraderie that exists at Salamanca.
"I left Ros Casares because they didn't point towards me this season and I wanted to have more playing time," said Montanana to PA Sport.
"Salamanca, whom I played for earlier in my career, welcomed me with open arms.
|Anna Montañana played last season with Ros Casares.|
"I really believe this is a club where I can improve.
"The coach has a lot of confidence in me and I just hope I can help the team achieve success this season."
The Spanish international already played in the EuroLeague Women last season with Casares and knows the challenges her team will encounter in this competition.
"It's a very physical and hard tournament," she said. "There is a lot of competition and there are no easy games.
"Although Salamanca will make its first appearance in the EuroLeague and although the average age of the team is 22, many of our players have played in European competition before.
"We just have to be ready to fight from the first minute to the last."
Salamanca have been drawn in Group B with Dexia Namur, ZVVZ USK Prague, Bourges, CSKA Samara and MiZo Pecs.
"They are all complicated rivals," she said.
"But I'm quite happy with the group we have. I think Ros Casares have a more difficult group than we do.
"Of course I know a lot about our first rivals Bourges because (national team-mate) Laia Palau played there.
"I know they have made a complete makeover to the team and just like us, they will be looking to gel."
Key to the Salamanca's hopes of success, according to Montanana, will be the team unity.
"We have no stars," said Montanana. "We do have a great team spirit. Each player contributes something to the team and so far, it's working well."
Considering that only three players remained from last season's Spanish title-winning side, it's already an achievement that they Salamanca have found some synergy.
Alongside Montanana, Americans Nicole Powell and Nicole Ohlde have joined the team while Liene Jansone, who made a huge impact at Lugo last season, also moved to the club.
"Everyone has adapted well to the team, including the American players," said Montanana.
"Mind you, it's no surprise because Salamanca is a great club and a welcoming city."
Salamanca also have one of the biggest fan followings in the Liga Femenina with the stands at the Wurzburg Pavilion always packed.
"Salamanca lives basketball like no other city in Spain and this is wonderful," said Montanana.
"We have 3,000 regulars in our games and they really make a difference. I think our home games will be crucial for us to advance to the next round of the EuroLeague."
They have won their opening two Liga Femenina games, including a 78 73 victory over title contenders Ros Casares - a result that allowed them to avenge their Spanish Supercup defeat earlier this month.
"Ros Casares are favourites for the Spanish title," admitted Montanana.
"But we know that we can play against them and even beat them."
Montanana admits that her experience at the FIBA World Championship in Brazil last month has given her growing confidence in her game.
Spain gave eventual silver medallists Russia in the quarter-finals before losing 60-56.
"I really enjoy playing for my national team," Montanana said.
"I really thought I had a good tournament but we expected so much more.
"It has nevertheless given me an extra motivation to work harder, play a lot of minutes this season and achieve some aims."