Holcombe’s Nick Bandurak says his team’s “resilience and determination” will play a key role as they look to take down Real Club de Polo in the KO16 and reach the last eight for the first time.
They have been preparing in recent weeks without some of their star names, something that has been well-flagged with George Pinner and Barry Middleton in the England squad for the Commonwealth Games while David Ames is on the comeback trail from injury.
In their absence, though, they have recorded some big wins, getting the better of Hampstead & Westminster and Surbiton which has belief bubbling along nicely ahead of their trip to Rotterda,
“It’s no secret that we’ll be missing some big players and characters,” Bandurak told the EHL website. “We’ve had to adjust in recent weeks and we’ve integrated some new guys into the group that have had a really positive impact on how we play.
“There has been an inevitable learning curve for us as a team and we’re definitely heading in the right direction in the build up to KO16. We’re a young, tight-knit side that works exceptionally hard and as a group, we’re excited at the opportunity we have before us.
“Beating Surbiton away from home was massive for us, both in the context of the league and for the confidence of the group.”
They qualified in a strange way for the competition, accepting an invitation when Surbiton withdrew from the competition as England’s number one seeds due to potential Commonwealth Games commitments.
The Kent club jumped at the chance: “Holcombe has always been an ambitious club. We’ve set our sights as high as we can do and this season of re-building has been no different. When the opportunity to play in Europe came about once again, we were never going to decline, no matter who we drew in the KO16.”
They complete their preparations with a game on Friday evening against Canterbury and then a final regular season league tie on Sunday at Brooklands MU. An English playoff place is out of their reach, meaning there is an additional focus on the EHL but they are capable of switching up their styles of play.
“We’re a resilient group that likes to attack with pace. We stay disciplined in defence and it just so happened [against Surbiton] that our goals came from counter attacks.
“It is a definite strength of ours but not necessarily a style which we’ll look to utilise at the KO16. We like to build an offence just as much as we like to attack at pace so hopefully we can find the right balance in Rotterdam.
“We’ve seen bits of Polo and are aware of their prominent threats. They’re enjoying a great season in the Spanish league and will be no doubt full of confidence going into the weekend.
“Casasayas and Alegre will be pivotal to their offence but we know they have talent all over the field and it will be up to us to nullify their pace and skill in attack the best that we can.
“Our resilience and determination in defence will no doubt be the cornerstone of a strong performance next Friday and hopefully we can negate their attacking flare.
“From there, hopefully we can string some good attacking passages of play together and take any chances that fall our way.”
It is Holcombe’s second appearance in the EHL. They impressed in ROUND1 in Banbridge in 2016 with a big win over AZS AWF Poznan and they led against the then-reigning champions SV Kampong 2-1 with Sander de Wijn scored twice in the second half to turn thing around.
“It was great to be a part of Holcombe’s first experience in the EHL. To start so positively against AZS AWF Poznan was perfect to settle the group and we gave it our all against Kampong.
“It was always going to be tough facing Kampong in our second game in 24 hours but we fought hard and are proud of how hard we pushed the reigning champions.
“The biggest learning curve for us was the intensity in defence that Kampong showed. We had worked hard to be up at the interval and to not hold on to that lead was disappointing, despite playing a side of such obvious class.
“Experiencing such differing styles and the excitement around the competition as a whole was invaluable for the squad and hopefully will serve to benefit us next week.”
EHL | World Sport Pics