The Polish volleyball team is preparing for the European Championships. Biało-Czerwone approach the tournament with a bronze medal of the League of Nations. Magdalena Stysiak, one of the leading players in Stefano Lavarini’s puzzle, tells “Wprost” about the impact of the Arlington success or the team’s potential ahead of the upcoming tournament in Belgium, Estonia, Germany and Italy.
Polish volleyball players are finally experiencing a period of sports boom. Last year’s world championships, which ended in a defeat to the later gold medalists, Serbians, showed that the wins against the world’s leading teams are not accidental. The bronze medal of the League of Nations meant that Biało-Czerwone should be indicated as one of the candidates for the podium of each event. The nearest opportunity to confirm the form will be the European Championships starting in just over a week.
Interview with Magdalena Stysiak
The Polish women will face Belgium (co-host of the event), Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia and Ukraine in the group stage. The previous championship of the Old Continent ended with a 0:3 defeat to Turkey in the quarter-finals. Magdalena Stysiak and her friends had the opportunity to face the winners of the Nations League 2023 three times recently. The Polish women won two matches, causing satisfaction on the faces of the numerous fans gathered in Krosno and Mielec.
Istanbul, attacking the national team and Fenerbahce, in a conversation after the last match with Turkey, told “Wprost” about the conclusions from the clashes with the world’s leading team. The top-scoring VNL volleyball player also mentioned the presence of Malwina Smarzek, as well as the impact that the medal of the event had on the mentality of the team.
Michał Winiarczyk, “Wprost”: Three friendly matches with the winners of the Nations League are a real test.
Magdalena Stysiak: There is a difference when you play against one of the best teams in the world and not against one of our neighbors. We respect everyone, but Turkish women are the highest level of volleyball. Although it was sparring, we are happy with two victories. Man always wants to win, even in training. In addition, we managed after the defeat in the second game, which is also nice and good for the mentality. We are now at a point where we fully believe in ourselves. We are aware of the skills and the fact that we can beat the best in the world.
Where do you see room for improvement?
You definitely need to improve your block on the high ball. Individually, I have to point out stupid mistakes. I don’t like to poke the ball with my fingers. Even if it is on the fifth or sixth meter, I prefer to take a risk and hit it by force. Sometimes it doesn’t pay off. I have to remember that we also have a block that can be used to attack the opponent. On the other hand, the role of the attacker is as the name suggests – attack. I think it is learnable. The game will look better.
How will the attacker assess the return to the representation of her colleague, Malwina Smarzek?
I feel very comfortable with her in the frame. I don’t know why people think there’s a conflict between us. I have a very good relationship with her. Moreover, I often said that the more good players in attack and reception, the better. We need a strong national team, and we are no longer young people who argue about time on the pitch. Volleyball is a team sport. The more solid candidates, the better. Then there is the matter of our internal competition for a place in the squad and the coach who makes decisions. If we want to win at the biggest events, we need every top player.
Turkish women made a sensation in the League of Nations m.in. due to the simultaneous play of Ebrar Karakurt and Melissa Vargas, two attackers. Do you allow a similar opportunity in the Polish national team?
Why not? It’s also a matter of how we’re positioned. We have already tried to put Malwina in the party, and given the current health problems with players in this position, the idea is right. I don’t feel confident enough to play host again. I haven’t played in this position for a long time, besides, as a host, I wouldn’t be able to present the form to compete at the highest level. Of course, if such a situation were to take place, I would probably manage somehow, but it would require a lot of work and time, which we don’t have much at the moment. The right move would be for me to excel on offense where I can give the team the most.
Joanna Wołosz told me that the VNL medal raised the bar for you, but it was something you needed.
It was a break from a bad streak. Poland waited a long time for a volleyball medal at a world-class event. It seems to me that we have finally matured to success. We have gathered a lot of experience over the last years. We have a different mentality than before. This was evident in the match balls for the Americans during the tie-break for bronze. We didn’t hold our hands, we weren’t scared that we were at the climax of such an important meeting. The medal is a lesson for the future that we are able to win even more.
What did you feel after the VNL bronze match against the Americans ended?
A huge relief. When I watched the replay, I saw how after the winning ball I made a big “phew”. Everyone knew how difficult this meeting was. We won not only a medal, but also a powerful belief that we can win medals in other events. I fought the pressure, myself and pain because Kasia hit me in the rib. I won’t call this game one of the best, but you play with the whole team and this one made us do something great. This relief was followed by tears of joy. These are unforgettable moments.
The first match of the European Championship is already in your head?
We have to prepare for it now. We want to play good volleyball. What will come of it? We’ll see. We will definitely leave with the best possible attitude. The rest will soon explain itself.
Can you rest for several hours? That’s what you got after the last game.
We got five days off after the League of Nations. After the match against Turkey, we got less than a day, but considering that most of the girls are from the center or north of the country, there is not much time with their loved ones. But as the saying goes – a rydz is better than nothing (laughs).