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SuperCup Women 2016: Final Preview

VILLENEUVE (SuperCup Women 2016) – Local favourites ESBVA-LM will be hoping they can cause an upset when they lock horns with reigning EuroLeague Women champions UMMC Ekaterinburg in this Thursday’s enticing SuperCup Women Final.

The game will be played at 20:30 CET and you can watch live and free here.

It has been a busy summer for the hosts after they decided to refresh their roster with some major summer acquisitions and that should position them well on what will be their first-ever appearance in the showpiece game. ESBVA-LM have made the last two EuroCup Women Finals, winning in 2015 and then falling to Tango Bourges last season.

Heading into EuroLeague Women 2017, confidence is high that entertainment levels could rise even further after the club moved for a headline trio of Olivia Epoupa, Valeriane Ayayi and Alina Iagupova.

However, the early weeks of the season have seen Senegalese forward Mame Marie Sy Diop in particularly impressive form and topping the team’s scoring and rebounding charts.

In contrast, UMMC Ekaterinburg are competing in their third successive SuperCup Women Final after winning the silverware 72-63 against Dynamo Moscow in 2013 before slipping up 93-91 against ZVVZ USK Prague last year.

They are currently flying high as usual with a perfect 5-0 record in the Russian Premier League – even though they have been without some of their kingpins in the likes of Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner during the early part of the campaign. But with unrivaled depth, they continue to roll on regardless and head into this game as favourites and ready to push yet another piece of silverware into their already bulging trophy room.

Did You Know?

- In 2013 when UMMC lifted the SuperCup Women title, it was Kristi Toliver who top-scored for their opponents Dynamo Moscow with 21 points. The juggernauts would later swoop to secure the services of the naturalised Slovak Republic national team playmaker.

- Some nine UMMC players who stepped out in that game three years ago against Dynamo, have since moved on elsewhere. However Deanna Nolan who led the way with 15 points, is still in situ and celebrating a decade in Ekaterinburg.

- UMMC forward Natalia Vieru is preparing for her third appearance in the SuperCup Women Final after previously stepping out with Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje at both the inaugural edition in 2009, as well as a year later.

- The 28 points netted by Diana Taurasi in the previous Final against Prague is the highest individual score in any SuperCup Women Final.

Key Match-Up: It’s going to be fascinating to see Alba Torrens back in full flow for UMMC in a big game like this after her Olympic exploits with Spain, in helping them surge to an historic first Final. She has to be slowed down in the open floor, but locking her down on the wing is easier said than done because of her dynamic skill-set.

She may face either Ayayi who might not be as quick, but has the size advantage – or perhaps ESBVA-LM play-caller Frederic Dusart will be tempted to match-up the explosive and similarly athletic Iagupova on Torrens. Either way – it will be fun to watch.

Outlook: This will be a great gauge for ESBVA-LM in particular to see where they are at ahead of the EuroLeague Women Regular Season and maybe they will have an edge as they have had all their players together for longer, with UMMC having to hand extra time off to many of their WNBA competitors. While there’s an argument which says these clubs might have bigger battles to win before next summer, this remains a prestigious piece of silverware and placing it in the trophy cabinet will mean a lot to both. UMMC will be favourites even if they are not quite fully loaded, but Villeneuve will relish the chance to shine in front of their own supporters in a big game that is sure to have a great atmosphere. There is also the added spice in that the clubs will meet again twice during the EuroLeague Women Regular Season, since they have both been pitched into Group B.