Ana Gonzalez: past, present and future
Ana Gonzalez is coming off the back of a dream season. She was an important part of the Rincon Fertilidad Malaga side that qualified for the Challenge Cup, in just her first season with the club.
Then the icing on the cake was added when she made her debut for the senior Spanish team in the first leg of the world championship qualification tie against Ukraine.
The 19-year-old right wing from Málaga is also the captain of the Spanish women's U19 national team that will play at the upcoming Women's 19 EHF EURO in Slovenia.
"This season was incredible for me. I didn't expect to play as much as I did with Malaga in my first year at the club. It has been really beautiful, and a learning year," says Gonzalez.
Next year the youngster will join Puig d'en Valls (Ibiza), after the Balearic side were promoted to the first division.
"I'm more mature as a person. I got a lot of experience and I'm very confident with my play right now," said the teenager, who started to play handball at the age of 10 in Malaga Norte.
With Spain, she started to play with promise at the age of 14, before becoming a fixture in all age groups of the national team. In total she has accumulated 45 matches in the Spanish jersey, scoring 109 goals.
She defines herself as a very ambitious player, a view that is shared by her coach.
"She is a right wing with good finalisation, very aggressive in defence, and a hard worker. She loves handball, she lives with a lot of passion for this sport, and she does everything to improve.
"This gives her extra motivation and extra qualities," says Spain's U19 coach Jorge Dueñas.
Senior international debut
In June, the senior national team coach Carlos Viver called Gonzalez up to replace the injured Marta López for the world championship qualifier.
"When I recived the call I started to cry and jump for happiness. I couldn't believe that, it was a dream come true.
"I played very few minutes but just to be there was incredible. I have learnt a lot at the training sessions. They play at a high level, and it was special to live day-by-day with these excellent players," explain Gonzalez.
However, the Spaniard recognises her competitor in the national side is Carmen Martin, who also plays right wing.
"She has a great desire, is always fighting and she has a lot of quality in all facets of the game."
Ready for EURO action
After her cameo with the senior team, she is now preparing to start the Women's 19 EHF EURO in Slovenia.
"I'm happy to be with the junior team, it is my team and it is where I must be now. I will give my best, and fight," said Gonzalez.
"We have a tough group in the preliminary round with France, Germany and Serbia, but we are working hard to arrive in the best condition.
"Our objective is to go match-by-match. If we fight and play our best, we can beat anyone and, of course, we want gold," says the captain.
Spain's U19 coach Jorge Dueñas shares his captain's confidence.
"Unlike the other generations, this team is taller and more balanced. We will put the focus on defence, and with different systems will try to go for the fast break," says Dueñas.
The Women's 19 EHF EURO takes place on 29 July to 6 August in Celje, Slovenia. Discover more about the event and its participating teams here.
TEXT: Laia Coll / ap