Apocalyptic scenarios have often been touted in Romanian handball, yet the women’s national team has always dribbled its way out of trouble and found a star who galvanised the fans and the entire team behind her.
It happened with Mariana Tîrcă in the 1990s and now with Cristina Neagu, who has been the outspoken star and the leader of the team for the past ten years.
Neagu is now 30 years old, and as she is not getting any younger, the hunt for a new star is under way. It may not happen overnight, it may not happen until the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo or even in the next five years - but one player has caught the attention of many.
Sorina Tîrcă is only 19 years old, but has the heritage, the name, the qualities and the hunger to become the next big thing in Romanian handball.
She has just been called up for the Romanian national team, alongside other 35 players that were divided into two rosters for the current national team week.
A name with handball heritage
Her mother, Mariana Tîrcă, has been one of the best Romanian players of all times and still holds the top goalscorer record for the women’s national team, with 2043 goals scored in 335 matches.
The former Oltchim star has also been the first Romanian player to win the Women’s EHF Champions League, with Podravka Koprivnica in 1996.
“When Sorina was born, I was still playing handball and she was on the court since she was two years and could barely walk. Since she was little, she tried to mimic what the players were doing and everything was so smooth. I felt like she could become a handball player,” says Mariana Tîrcă.
A child that loved sports, Sorina played handball since she was 9, being coached by her mother on-and-off, including a stint at Corona Brasov last year.
“I don’t know if between me and handball it was love at first sight, but I definitely do love it now. Maybe because I’m not an egoistic person, and this is a team sport? Maybe because of my mother? I don’t know,” says 19-year-old Sorina.
Mariana Tîrcă has definitely been the best playmaker Romanian women’s handball has seen to date, but Sorina plies her trade on the left back. Taller, but with the same vision, Sorina shows both similarities and differences from the way her mother played.
“Coaching her and seeing her play, I think she does not resemble my style that much. She is a more physical player, maybe has a more powerful shot, yet she does something I remember doing on the court.”
“She goes with the flow, she likes to improvise, she likes to change a lot and surprise the opponents,” says a smiling Mariana Tîrcă.
“It is true, maybe I even tend to go off the beaten track too much and this could make the coaches go mad. I like to improvise,” says the 19-year old left back.
A rising star
The Corona Brasov player looks and thinks in a mature way for her age: “It is hard, but I try to focus both on handball and on education. I enrolled at university, because life as a player can be short and you never know what might happen.”
However, Sorina seems to have a great handball career in front of her. She has been an integral part of the Romanian national team that finished 8th at the Women’s Junior World Championship in July, becoming the top scorer of her side with 47 goals.
Moreover, she has already been selected by eurohandball.com as one of the 20 rising stars to watch for the future.
“I really don’t think about where I see myself in five years. Maybe with my degree and playing for a foreign club. If I had to choose, I would now love to win a medal for my country in an EHF EURO,” says Sorina.
This may not happen at the Women’s EHF EURO 2018 in France, as Romania is in a phase of rebuilding the team and competition for the left back position is tough, but everything could happen in the next years. Patience is a virtue and the young star will learn this over time.
“If she stays hungry and has the same passion in the future, she could become a star. She already knows she has to work a lot, but she already made me proud,” concludes Mariana Tîrcă.
Photo: Dan Lixandru