RISING STARS: Gaining more and more experience, talented Tena Japundža plans to shine for Croatia at the Women's 19 EHF EURO starting in two weeks.
Croatia right wing Tena Japundža takes next step
Tena Japundža has already proven herself at international youth events. Bringing a bit more experience, the Croatian right wing is now confidently looking ahead to the Women’s EHF EURO in neighbouring Slovenia from 27 July to 6 August.
This season Japundža played for ŽRK Umag in the first Croatian league. She scored an average of about five goals per match and developed into one of the most efficient players of her team.
“I was lucky to play all 60 minutes of each match throughout the entire championship. I think that is the main reason why I improved this year and became more experienced,” the lefthander said.
Even though she is mostly playing with seniors, Japundža thinks the experience she gained from competing in the first Croatian league is very valuable when it comes to playing at junior level.
Keep your head cool
“Experience helps in some situations when you need to keep your head cool,” she said. “For me, maybe it’s a bit easier to play with the junior national team. Those girls are the same age and we are all relatively on the same level.”
Japundža almost can’t miss from the seven-meter line but also has a ‘killer instinct’ when it comes to shooting from her right wing position.
Two years ago, at the W17 EHF EURO in Macedonia, Croatia finished sixth and Japundža became the second best scorer of the tournament with 66 goals. And at last year’s Women’s Youth (U18) World Championship in Slovakia her team ended up eighth, while Japundža netted 58 times to become the best scorer of her team, and fifth best of the tournament.
Going into the W19 EHF EURO, Japundža thinks her team has improved since the tournament in Slovakia.
“We all play a lot in our clubs, which certainly helps in our game,” she said. “We are training really well, the atmosphere is great and I really hope that we will achieve a better result this year.”
At the tournament in Slovenia, Croatia will play in Group B with Norway, Russia and Macedonia. For Japundža and her team, the match against Norway is likely going to be crucial for reaching the main round.
“Our group is really though. We hope to beat Macedonia and fight with Norway for a place in the main round,” Japundža said. “I think that is the goal we have to focus on. If and when we achieve that, we will think ahead.”
‘European matches will certainly bring me more excperience’
Once the W19 EHF EURO is over, Japundža will move to Lokomotiva Zagreb, the current EHF Challenge Cup winners. Besides handball, she also has plans to study at university.
Joining Lokomotiva also means playing matches on European level as her new club will compete in the Challenge Cup again.
“European matches will certainly bring me more experience and that’s very important for a young player like me,” Japundža said.
Tena Japundža looks to be the future of Croatian handball on the right wing position. She has not yet been invited for the senior team but is for sure knocking on their door.
“Now I have a lot of things on my mind and I wasn’t really thinking about that,” she said. “However, I think things are going with their own flow so for sure, at one point in my life, I’ll start to think about that.”
TEXT: Jelena Bagarić / ew
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