MONTPELLIER (EuroLeague Women) - France guard Anael Lardy has typified the team ethic which has seen Basket Lattes Montpellier Agglomeration (BLMA) keep their EuroLeague Women play-off dream alive.
Most observers had not been expected BLMA to be in contention, but re-starting after the mid-season break they are the dark horses of Group A and their 3-3 record means they have every chance of making it to the post-season.
Much of their success has been down to team work - as evidenced by their assists tally which is the best in the competition and also the contribution of leading French talents like Valeriane Ayayi and also Lardy, who played with her country at the FIBA World Championship for Women.
She is enjoying a rock solid season and producing the kind of performances which have given Montpellier a foundation and launch pad to strike for that coveted play-off place.
One of the reasons for their current impressive record was a famous win in Istanbul against defending champions Galatasaray odeabank - currently struggling with just one win from their six games.
Now the teams will meet again this week and Lardy insisting that even though the belief is that Montpellier can go further than they had imagined, they won't put any added pressure on themselves - especially with defending their French Championship at the top of their list.
"We will approach the game with no pressure as we have approached the moment of all our EuroLeague Women matches," insisted a relaxed Lardy ahead of the match-up.
"EuroLeague Women is not our (main) goal, but we would still like to go as far as possible.
"It is at home and there is no pressure. We will approach the game as simply as possible, while keeping in mind that it is important for us.
"If we can go for the qualification (to the play-offs), that would be fine."
Elsewhere, there have been a number of personnel changes during the mid-season EuroLeague Women pause in action.
French side Tango Bourges lost their leading scorer Danielle Adams to a season-ending knee injury, but will at least welcome back Endene Miyem who has finally recovered from the calf problem which curtailed her participation at the FIBA World Championship for Women.
They face struggling BK Imos Brno who have turned to former Agu Spor Kulubu guard Ivana Jalcova as they pursue their first success of the campaign.
Good Angels Kosice have waved goodbye to veteran forward Asjha Jones and German national team player Katharina Fikiel, with Crystal Langhorne and Slovenia talent Teja Oblak returning from their respective injuries after lengthy lay-offs. They lock horns with Wisla Can-Pack, as both sides prepare to either breathe chances into their respective play-off hopes or watch them left dangling by the finest of threads.
Fikiel has signed for Energa Torun who face Nadezhda, while Isabelle Yacoubou will make a return to the tournament with Beretta Famila Schio in a tough road trip at CB Avenida in Salamanca.
Meanwhile, Fenerbahce may have won the Turkish Cup recently, but they have lost an unthinkable three consecutive league games in the TKBL so probably didn't want to face Turkish opposition in their latest EuroLeague Women fixture.
They will go up against Agu Spor Kulubu, who have penned a deal with Croatia national team forward Mirna Mazic who returns to the city having played last season at the club. They are also waiting on the much-anticipated arrival of USA star Lindsay Whalen who they inked last month.
Perhaps the most attractive tie of the first round of action in 2015 will be in Ekaterinburg where UMMC host ZVVZ USK Prague, with the home side and competition favourites looking to bounce back after their home loss to Dynamo Kursk before the break.
– Pauline Courtois leads after first day
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