23.11.2022  LIQUI MOLY HBL

Carstens: We don't fall into activism - GWD Minden prior to a groundbreaking duel against Hamm-Westfalen

They are the specialists when it comes to staying in the league: On the penultimate round of each season, GWD Minden celebrated staying in the LIQUI MOLY-HBL in the 2020/21 and 2021/22 seasons. And it was obvious to the club that there would be a relegation battle again in the current season right from the start.

And that's how it happened: As in the previous year, GWD started with nine defeats - but despite a small squad and injury problems, they managed a coup against leaders Füchse Berlin (32:27) and last week there was a 29:26 in the basement duel at Frisch Auf Göppingen -Away win, in which Luka Sebetic and Philipp Ahouansou, both of whom were signed during the course of the season, also played a major role.

On Thursday (19:05 CET) the next important game for the penultimate team of the LIQUI MOLY-HBL is coming up - bottom club ASV Hamm-Westfalen are the visitors a guest in the KAMPA hall for the neighborhood duel.

Even if they are "master of the relegation battle" in Minden, coach Frank Carstens (51) also knows how important the game is: "Every win is important in the current situation. And most important are victories against direct potential relegation competitors, such as Hamm Westfalen.”

Carstens, GWD head coach since 2015, assesses the current situation realistically: "We were aware that we were also fighting against relegation due to the economic changes. And it was clear to us that we can only be competitive if we have the best cast. But then there was bad luck with injuries to the small squad, many top performers like Marko Vignjevic are out for a long term. We also have many players who are either playing their first season in the Bundesliga or are in charge to take responsibility for the first time and have more important roles. And because of the small squad, we have few opportunities to give the top performers breaks, and that's when injuries like this happen."

In order to fill the gaps, they initially relied on internal solutions: “We brought in many players from the second team, which plays in the 3rd division. The guys did a good job and fought great, but the challenge was really big, so don't expect miracles. Everyone is passionate about it, and in a few games like the one against Hannover we kept up for a long time and put in great performances, but we didn't score a point. And because players were missing in the second representation, we used youth players there - the injuries and the squad situation had an impact on the whole club and were a massive burden for everyone," says Carstens.

However, the personnel situation has improved in recent weeks: First Doruk Pehlivan returned after a long injury, then transfers were made: "I was really happy that the club management released additional funds for newcomers," says Carstens. Luka Sebetic (Motor Zaporozhye) and Philipp Ahouansou (on loan from Rhein-Neckar Löwen) came to GWD. “The integration of the new players is progressing well. But we have to do that while the league is running and we don't have time to build it in like we did in preparation," says the coach.

Even as they rank penultimate, they are not going hectic in Minden at the moment, as Carstens emphasizes: "We are familiar with these pressure situations and have our experience with them, some players like Niclas Pieczkowski, Malte Semisch or Max Jahnke have been playing with us for a long time. So we can deal with it and will not fall into activism. Even if we lose against Hamm Westfalen, it's not over yet, the season is still a long way off."

Nevertheless, the coach would have wished for a better start, for various reasons: "We were regularly strong at the start of the season - and a successful start is always important for long-term planning, for negotiations with sponsors, with potential newcomers or for contract extensions. If you don't know where you're going to play for the coming season until the end of the season, that's not good for planning. We want to make ourselves interesting for newcomers, and they usually decide in the first half of the season. But on the other hand, we have proven more than once that GWD Minden has always managed to do this.”

Carstens would of course like to win against Hamm Westfalen on Thursday: "Every success brings us further on our way, the most important thing is to keep up with the current situation and to shorten the gap to the top. Hamm and we’re a bit off at the moment, so a win would be incredibly important.”

Photo: Metge