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France: Melain Confident Team Can Overcome Departures

24 May 2006
By Isabelle Rondeau, PA Sport

Bourges captain Cathy Melain is confident the mass exodus of leading players this summer will not damage the unity of the team ahead of next season.

Catherine Melain (France)
Catherine Melain will represent France at this year's FIBA World Championship for Women
Bourges on Sunday put an end to US Valenciennes' five-year reign as French Women's champions with a 71-58 victory in Game Three of the Ligue Feminine final.

"It was a relief and a great satisfaction to win the title, we believed in our chances and we truly felt capable of beating them despite the second-leg loss," said Melain, a French international who is set to represent her country at this year's FIBA World Championship for Women, to PA Sport.

Pierre Vincent's troops also won the Tournoi de la Federation and the French Cup over their arch-rivals earlier this season.

However, Bourges, who dominated the French league between 1994 and 2000 as well as Europe as they won the EuroLeague three times between 1997 and 2001, have largely had to play second-fiddle to US Valenciennes since the start of the new millennium.

Vincent took the reins in 2003 in a bid to create a team capable of recapturing the title.

That is now done but the Berruyeres are facing another challenge ahead of the next campaign as five players - Laia Palau (Valencia), Anete Jekabsone (CSKA Moskow), Bernie Ngoyisa (Italians Schio), Elodie Godin (Valenciennes), Sabrina Reghaissia (Montpellier) - will all leave the club this summer.

Pauline Krawczyk is also expected to complete a move to Clermont-Ferrand.

"It is true that we managed to build up a competitive side over the past three years, although I only joined last campaign," said Melain, who returned to Bourges last summer after a two-year spell with Italian side Venice.

"It's been very positive and we want to continue that spell.

"At the same time seeing so many players leaving is disappointing but that's the way sport is.

"Next year's team will not have the experience that we had this season but the club is full of talented players and is ambitious."

I don't know yet whether this will be my last season
Cathy Melain
Despite the successful 2005-06 campaign Melain insists her side's failure to book a place in the 2006 EuroLeague Final Four will remain a major disappointment.

"Our season was fantastic but when you are a professional basketball player you always want more," she added.

"And the fact we just missed out on a place in the Final Four is a disappointment. We were not far away from it.

"But as a whole the campaign is very satisfying. The team never stopped progressing and most of all we showed our ability to bounce back from difficult situations."

Melain, 32, is contracted to Bourges until 2007 but admitted she has yet to decide on her future.

"I don't know yet whether this will be my last season," she added. "I will see how I feel physically and mentally. But for now I am ready to start a new season."

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