By Paul Nilsen
|Click here to watch the season opener Municipal Targoviste v Famila Schio LIVE and for free on FIBA Europe TV. Tip-off on Wednesday 17:00 CET|
The sense of anticipation and excitement is building up for everyone associated with Municipal Targoviste as they prepare to take a first footstep in the EuroLeague Women when they host Famila Schio on Wednesday evening.
It promises to be a great event as history is made for women's basketball in Romania. Their first representatives at the elite level will be determined to make an instant impact, although it promises to be a tough initiation against a Schio team packed with experience.
Serbian playmaker Maja Miljkovic made the summer switch to Targoviste from Tarbes where she endured a difficult campaign last year in the competition with the French club losing all twelve games - including two against Schio.
She is expecting the disappointment of last season will drive her towards success this year and like everyone else in Targoviste, she is hoping the fans get behind the project and can really make the difference.
"After a tough season with Tarbes, I've came out of it mentally stronger" stated Miljkovic.
"After three seasons playing in the Euroleague Women, I have gained plenty of experience and I now feel confident I can try to help my teammates by transferring this experience onto the court."
She added, "Schio is a great team with EuroLeague Women experience.
"In order for us to have success from the moment we step onto the court, we need to execute our game plan, play as a team and with real heart.
"I am sure the presence of our fans will give us the energy and support we need to play at our best."
Certainly Municipal Targoviste are hoping they will receive support not only from supporters within the Arena itself, but also from right across the nation when they raise the EuroLeague Women flag for Romania.
"We really want to believe that the whole country will be with us on Wednesday" said team captain Ancuta Stoenescu.
"We need the support from the fans, to win. We believe that the venue will be packed, and there will be a great atmosphere."
Tasked with keeping his players focused on what will inevitably be a momentous occasion is new head coach George Dikeoulakos. He must mould this new team in such a fashion that they can get wins on the board early and everyone will be looking to Romanian national team star Gabriela Marginean to lead the way.
|Aggressive defence and fast offence are key for Raffaella Masciadri ahead of the season debut against Targoviste|
She was the marquee signing during the summer, not only because of the offensive production she will bring, but also because she can be the heart and soul of Targoviste both on and off the court. It will be interesting to see how she handles the burden of expectation along with what is a relatively young side. A factor which means the likes of the more experienced players such as Stoenescu and Ivanka Matic will be priceless.
Famila Schio also has a host of new signings to integrate, including Elodie Godin, Giorgia Sottana, Danielle Mc Cray, Kathy Wambe and Jantel Lavender. But, there are no problems gelling so far with Rafaella Masciadri issuing a warning that her teammates are feeling confident after scooping the Italian SuperCup and can be even more aggressive than last season when they made it to the EuroLeague Women Final Eight in Istanbul.
She said, "Winning the Super Cup was very important for us this year. Not only to send an important message to the rest of our opponents, but most importantly for our team morale because in the six games we played against Taranto last year, we were never able to come up with a win.
"We have guards who love putting full court pressure on the ball as well as posts who can run the floor quickly on the fast-break and in transition.
"We don't know too much about Targoviste since they are a new team in the EuroLeague Women this year" continued Masciadri.
"Because of this, we have been focusing on what it is that we want to do in this first match.
"Playing aggressive defence and also fast yet patient offence will be very much the key to hopefully our first victory."
Form Guide: In addition to beating arch rivals Taranto to win the Italian SuperCup, Famila Schio have also won their only league game of the season so far. Municpal Targoviste meanwhile have been playing for much longer with the Romanian season starting earlier, and they are still flawless with six wins from six games.
The Hot Hands: ‘Gio' Sottana has enjoyed a terrific last few months with some excellent performances for the Italian national team to catapult them to EuroBasket Women 2013 in France and was then crowned MVP of the SuperCup Final. For the home team, Gabriela Marginean was on fire all summer long with the Romanian national team and has taken this form into the new season with 15 points per game, a number also replicated by her team-mate Jillian Robbins.
‘X Factors': Both teams have many positives to focus on ahead of the new EuroLeague Women season. For this particular game, it could come down to how well Municipal Targoviste guards the Schio wings. Swingman Danielle Mc Cray can put points on the board in a heartbeat with her deadly three-point shooting whilst they must also ensure the veteran experience of Masciadri and Laura Macchi are not able to control the game too easily for the visitors. Municipal Targoviste need to be aggressive and confident but ensure it is complimented by composure and this doesn't translate into too many turnovers since Schio will surely press hard at times to try and put pressure on the home ball handlers.