23 - 31
July 2016
8 Digna Strautmane (LAT), ITA vs LAT
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Strautmane can fire Latvia to pole position in Group A

SOPRON (FIBA U18 Women's European Championship 2016) - Digna Strautmane could be one of the stars of the FIBA U18 Women's European Championship 2016 and will be expected to lead Latvia in Group A after some brilliant displays beyond her years at the recent FIBA U20 Women’s European Championship.

Strautmane now has a fine track record at youth events, since she was also the star of Latvia’s promotion from the FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship Division B 2015, after recording a tournament double-double.

Latvia will have an eclectic mix of players when they take to the court in Hungary at the weekend, or at least in the sense that many of their personnel have been playing at various different youth tournaments already this summer. Other players to watch out for are those who guided Latvia to an historic first-ever global youth ticket, which recently harvested a debut at the FIBA U17 Women’s World Championship. Luize Septe and Sabine Lipe were particularly impressive and alongside Strautmane, could make Latvia a real force and even podium contenders.

Czech Republic had been expected to lean on the exceptional Julia Reisingerova to lead the charge for top spot in Group A. The towering center helped her nation finish in a credible sixth position at last year’s edition, a run which was mainly fuelled by her near tournament double-double of more than 12 points and nine boards per game. However they have been dealt a major blow after she became a late withdrawal for health reasons.

The Czechs also don’t look likely to rely on any of the players who secured a first-ever U16 title last summer, but they will hope that the core of the team who made the U16 Final two years ago in Debrecen will be able to post a strong campaign - even without the power in the paint of Reisingerova. The backcourt will contain Michaela Krejzova who is a very talented guard both offensively and defensively, while the highly rated Lucie Hoskova is always influencing the game with her scoring, rebounding and passing skills.

Anne van Vlijmen will be looking to make plays in the backcourt for her country.

Netherlands will have been looking for the hugely talented Laura Westerik to lead their charge, but she is unavailable and so they will certainly miss her free-scoring ability. However, they do have several other members of the team that reached the Quarter-Finals last year in Celje, including playmaker Anne van Vlijmen, while the three-point shooting of Evi Dekker will be useful. Last year’s U16 side were relegated in Matosinhos which was disappointing, although Ilse Kuijt and Noelle Droste played well and they are on board for Sopron.

Finally, while Slovak Republic actually won the FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship Division B last summer with an impressive campaign to gain prompotion, the vast majority of their roster were 1997-born and have moved on. Julia Lelkes and Linda Dubenova are the only survivors, although they will embrace their leading scorer and rebounders from last year at U16 level in Nikola Kovacikova and Rebeka Mikulasikova.