The HSG Würm-Mitte starts the year with an all-or-nothing game: In order to advance in the youth league, the handball players have to score points at the Thüringer HC.
Graefelfing - It's games like this that make the youth league (JBLH) so appealing: The A-Juniors from HSG Würm-Mitte will play at the multiple German handball champions Thüringer HC on Sunday (3 p.m., Salza-Halle, Bad Langensalza).
After both teams lost their opening game in the second round, both urgently need a win to keep the chance of progressing.
"We're looking forward to the weekend and want to win there," announces HSG trainer Miriam Hirsch.
In principle, she doesn't bother with a draw, which could possibly also make it possible to jump into the quarter-finals as second in the table.
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The two teams had already competed against each other in the previous season: They faced each other in the round of 16 in the game mode that had changed due to the pandemic: A 22:26 home defeat by the Young Wildcats was followed by a 25:27 defeat in Thuringia.
However, the HSG was not clearly inferior to the big names.
And this is not to be expected in the current season either.
While the young Gräfelfingen handball players narrowly lost their first group game at HC Erlangen at the end of November (26:27), the THC conceded a clear 19:33 bankruptcy against Frankfurter HC last weekend.
"They had a pitch-black day," says Hirsch, who doesn't see the result as a benchmark.
HSG Würm-Mitte mentally mature - Corona risk always plays a role
She also believes that her team is now more mentally mature than it was a year ago - also because of the numerous third division appearances by top performers such as Carolin Hübner and Isabella Leube.
The latter returns to the team after an injury, while Franziska Neumaier and Kristina Krecken are injured.
However, the danger of corona still looms over everything.
Since the Omicron variant is also spreading rapidly among vaccinated people, team athletes are on the alert.
The Ladies I of the THC had to experience this painfully.
Almost everyone in the squad tested positive in early January.
Whether players like Lucy Gündel, who also belong to the Thuringian first team, will be able to play again against HSG on Sunday is not yet foreseeable.
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"These are tough times for everyone," says Hirsch, and emphasizes: "If an entire team cannot train for two weeks, that is of course a form of competitive distortion."
Würm-Mitte still tries to focus on the sport, but remains cautious.
Although almost all players have now been vaccinated three times, regular testing continues.