27 Oct 2023

Super League Round 3 preview: Beach roots serving Maggio well in powering Polonia

Super League Round 3 preview: Beach roots serving Maggio well in powering Polonia

From Vasto to London, via Missouri and Newcastle... Andrea Maggio’s route into the Men’s Super League has been an interesting and unusual one.

Living in a coastal town in his native Italy, the now 29-year-old's first love as a ‘seven or eight-year' old was playing on the sand down at his local beach. 

It was only as he got older that he took the indoor game seriously and began playing competitively in local leagues.

A first success came the way in the form of a Regional Championship win as a 13-year-old playing for San Gabriele Volley Vasto, with the team going on to compete at the Italian National Finals.

From there, Andrea worked his way up through the junior ranks until his talent – initially as a setter, though he has subsequently also played as an opposite and outside – saw him earn a scholarship in the United States, where he studied for a degree in Finance and Financial Management, alongside playing for Park University. 

After the conclusion of his four-year college stay, he then headed to the UK to study for a Masters at Northumbria University in the North East, once again combining time in libraries and lectures with time on the court and in the gym.

He has now found a home in the bright lights of the capital, where the city’s eminence as a financial hub, as well as its propensity to produce some of the strongest volleyball teams in the country, suits him down to the ground. 

This is Andrea's fourth season with the club spanning either side of the Covid-19 Pandemic and his growing influence during that time has meant that he was named as captain to succeed the long-serving club Bartosz Kisielewicz. 

After an excellent start to the season that has brought two wins from two matches, against Leeds Gorse and Team Sunderland, he hopes he can help England’s oldest club mount a successful title challenge after a third-placed finish last season. 

It was an amazing experience playing in America and a very good standard, training twice daily with studies in between,” said Andrea. “It could be very mentally demanding, but it taught me a lot... and that you need persistence, patience and dedication to do well. 

Arriving in the UK and Newcastle I was used to the cold from my time in America, but it was the Geordie accent that I struggled with up there... I thought I had just spent four years learning English and then I would have to learn the language all over again! 

After finishing my masters I then moved down to London because I wanted to see what it was like living in a big city. I have enjoyed it and ended up staying and got a job here (at financial company Vanguard). 

“Being captain of the team is a big honour as I am following in the footsteps of someone in Bartosz who was doing it for 10 years, worked so hard for the club, built up a fantastic reputation and won so many medals. 

“It has been a learning curve for me during my time at the club, learning from him and others, and hopefully now I can do as good a job as him. 

“Polonia is always a club that strives for excellence and are one of those clubs that strives each season to be the best in England. 

Pic above and top pic by Nathaniel Macrae

Winning trophies is what they want and every player who is part of the squad wants that same thing. 

“Last year it didn’t quite work out, but you know that you cannot always win everything every year. But we have been a developing team and this year we hope it can all come together. 

It is roughly a 50-50 split on the Polonia roster between those who have remained at the club from last season and those who have joined for this season’s Super League title tilt. 

In have come Diego Tamburini (Richmond Docklands), Ian Chau (Kings College London/SideOut), Piero Mueller (City Volley Basel) and Filip Denchev, Olafs Matjusenoks and Mihail Stoev (Malory Eagles). 

Leaving, meanwhile, have been Godi Jibi (Ikast Volley Rams), Łukasz Tokarzewski, Marlon Silva and, Hassan Farhat and Asher Miller (Essex Rebels), Peter Soczewka (Purdue University Fort Wayne), Vitor Oliveira (Richmond). 

Andrea said: “We have changed things around a little bit from last season, but the core of the squad is still here and we are pleased with our progress two games in. The new players brought in offer a lot of experience, quality and a great work ethic that fits well within the team.

“We have a couple of Malory players from last year who actually pipped us to second place in the league, but we managed to win both games against them, so we have a bit of a joke around that. 

“We are training twice a week around our work, after training three times a week to get us ready for the start of the season, which has helped us. 

“Having made a good start, the focus now must be keep it going.” 

This weekend, Polonia face what looks like, on paper at least, to be their toughest test so far when they welcome reigning champions, the Durham Palatinates to London. 

The Sunday clash will be a second of Saturday-Sunday double in the capital for the North Easteners, who first visit Richmond Docklands on Saturday. 

While, theoretically, that should give his side an advantage, Maggio knows they must be cautious and will have to be at their best to maintain a 100 perf cent start. 

“Durham are going to be a big test for us and at the end of it we are going to see where we are at as a team,” he said. 

“They are always a good team who have experience and have just won the title last year, but it’s always fun to play against these good teams... it’s exciting. 

“It is definitely harder to win games on the road when you have a long trip first and two games in a weekend. The travelling is tiring, as we found out when we left early to get the train up to Durham last year. 

“But you know that as a player you lift yourself when games are on the line, so we know they will still come at us hard and find some extra energy. 

“Our focus has to be on what we can do, to do our jobs collectively and individually and execute our skills as best we can.” 

Pic by Graham Shellswell

Although Maggio now spends much of his time playing indoors, he has never lost his love of the beach game. 

He continues to play on the UK Beach Tour during the close season, partnering with Pierre Tang-Taye this summer, and encourages any budding youngsters to try their hands at both versions of the sport. 

Andrea said: “I have always played both – for the last 15 years I have done it – and I can never stop. Just don’t ask me to pick which I like best because I don’t know! 

“Although the weather here in the UK is not always the best for it, there is a good beach scene now which is getting stronger with more players coming through. 

“I think playing both gives you a good all-round understanding of the game and it helps you develop skills that you otherwise wouldn’t have. 

“You have to get involved in all the aspects when there is just two of you on court and that can really help you when you play indoors. It’s how I learned and I would definitely suggest it as a good way for young players to aid their development. 

To view all the weekend's Super League fixtures in full, click here. 

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