Polish volleyball can win everything! Jastrzębski Węgiel will play for dreams

Polish volleyball can win everything!  Jastrzębski Węgiel will play for dreams

On May 5, Jastrzębski Węgiel's volleyball players will have the opportunity to win the Champions League for the first time in history. This would be the fourth trophy in a row for PlusLiga.

It seems that the last dozen or so months have been the best time in history for Polish men's volleyball. The Polish national team won the Nations League gold and the European Championship in 2023. Additionally, coach Nikola Grbic's team can boast of Olympic qualification after winning the tournament in China, where the series of a total of 24 matches won in a row by the Poles was maintained.

Three European cups for PlusLiga clubs?

The club is also doing great. Two of the three cups from the European CEV stable for the 2023/24 season are already in the showcases of Polish teams. The Challenge Cup was won by the Projekt Warszawa volleyball players, and the CEV Cup went to Asseco Resovia Rzeszów. There is one more trophy up for grabs, the most prestigious one, namely the Champions League.

The Champions League has been dominated by volleyball players from Kędzierzyn-Koźle over the last three seasons. ZAKSA or later Grupa Azoty ZAKSA won the Champions League three times, sitting comfortably on the throne. The Kędzierzyn team defeated Itas Trentino twice, and the last triumph was the Polish-Polish battle in Turin, where ZAKSA defeated Jastrzębski Węgiel 3:2.

However, it will not be “four times lucky” in the case of the team from Kędzierzyn-Koźle. This does not mean that PlusLiga has no chance of success, because the team from Jastrzębie will attempt their second summit attack in a row. The newly crowned Polish champion has never won the title of the best team in Europe in its history. This may happen on May 5 in Turkey. Antalya will host the Polish champions and the Italian Itas. This is the same club that ZAKSA beat in 2021, opening a beautiful chapter for Polish volleyball. Then Aleksander Śliwka was chosen MVP of the final. A year later, Itas lost to ZAKSA again, this time Kamil Semeniuk was the best. And the trio of MVPs of the ZAKSA finals in 2023 was completed in the Polish final by… American center David Smith.

Jastrzębski Węgiel in the game for gold and Russia eliminated

Looking at the history of the Champions League and its predecessor, the European Champion Clubs' Cup (1960-2000), the all-time table of competitions is dominated by Russian clubs, or those formerly from the USSR. Counting since 1960, the first winner, i.e. CSKA Moscow, has had the most triumphs – thirteen.

In more recent history, Zenit Kazan is in second place among the best in the history of the Champions League. The club where in the past he played, among others, Wilfredo Leon or Bartosz Bednorz, has six titles to his credit. The all-time podium is completed by Italian Modena Volley and Sisley Treviso. The first club had its great time in the 1990s, scoring four wins and leaving it at that. That's one more than ZAKSA. The last time the club from Treviso won was in 2006.

This shows how strong Russian clubs have been in history. Currently rightly excluded from the competition due to the brutal attack on Ukraine by troops led by Vladimir Putin at the end of February 2022. The war on Ukrainian soil has been going on continuously for over two years, involving, among others, innocent civilian population.

Although Russian club volleyball was a strong force in European cups, this does not diminish the successes achieved in recent years, including: by teams from PlusLiga. In direct competition, Polish teams were able to outplay, for example, Italian competitors, which did not seem so obvious a decade ago.

As a chronicler, it is worth adding that Poland had the best team in Europe for the first time in the 1977/78 season. During the PEMK final tournament in Basel, the Płomień Milowice volleyball players turned out to be the best. Wiesław Gawłowski, Ryszard Bosek, Zbigniew Zarzycki and Włodzimierz Sadalski are just a few of the great names who played for the club, which unfortunately does not exist now.

Polish places on the PEMK volleyball podium / Champions League

  • 1960 – AZS AWF Warszawa (3rd place)

  • 1963 – Legia Warszawa (3)

  • 1968 – Legia Warszawa (3)

  • 1973 – Resovia Rzeszów (2)

  • 1976 – Resovia Rzeszów (3)

  • 1978 – Płomień Milowice (1)

  • 1979 – Płomień Milowice (3)

  • 1981 – Gwardia Wrocław (3)

  • 2003 – Mostostal Kędzierzyn-Koźle (3)

  • 2008 – PGE Skra Bełchatów (3)

  • 2010 – PGE Skra Bełchatów (3)

  • 2012 – PGE Skra Bełchatów (2)

  • 2014 – Jastrzębski Węgiel (3)

  • 2019 – PGE Skra Bełchatów (3)

  • 2021 – ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle (1)

  • 2022 – Grupa Azoty ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle (1)

  • 2023 – Grupa Azoty ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle (1)

Joanna Wołosz will show her master class again?

Jastrzębski Węgiel seems to be the favorite in Sunday's match for the title of the best club team in the Old Continent. In recent weeks, Itas has not been in a form that would put them on par with the fast-paced team led by Tomasz Fornal or Jean Patra. The Italians even fell off the podium in Serie A1, ultimately losing even in the game for third place, in the “consolation final”.

In addition to the men's competition, Antalya will host the two best teams of the Champions League. What's more, the ladies will be the main course – and the men will be the appetizer, looking at the match start times. The volleyball final will be an intra-Italian match. A. Carraro Imoco Conegliano will play against Allianz Vero Volley Milano. The first of these will feature Joanna Wołosz. The undisputed leader of the team from Conegliano, who has been playing for this club continuously since 2017.

Wołosz has just won her sixth Italian championship (2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024). It triumphed in the Champions League “only” once, in 2021, when it could enjoy the victory side by side with ZAKSA, which opened the golden series. In addition, the experienced setter has three losses in the Champions League finals (2015, 2019 and 2022).

There is nothing left but to wish that this time the captain of the Polish national team and leader of A. Carraro, Imoco Conegliano, will achieve success, on exactly the same day and in the same place as another Polish club. The third in the history of the most important European competitions, after Płomień and the golden years of ZAKSA – Jastrzębski Węgiel.

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