Huge positives for Polonia in 2nd Champions League campaign
7th October 2020
Underdogs IBB Polonia London can be rightly proud of their second campaign in the CEV Champions League Volley.
The pride of English volleyball put on superb performances for audiences tuning in via free-to-watch television and once more made history, this time for becoming the first volleyball club from England to win a set in Europe’s premier club competition.
When they made their Champions League debut in 2019, the Londoners added Olympic gold medallist and volleyball legend Giba to their ranks. For 2020, IBB Polonia London’s squad was reinforced with new star signings: opposite Marcus Nilsson, a former Champions League MVP and winner; outside hitter Anestis Dalakouras, a member of the Greek national team who has played in Greece, Germany and Austria; and setter Gijs van Solkema, a Dutch international who has competed in the German league these last few seasons.
In the first round of the competition, the English champions were drawn in Pool F alongside Trentino Itas and OK Vojvodina Seme Novi Sad. All teams played each other once, with the matches taking place at the BLM Group Arena, Trento, Italy, in front of a small crowd. Polonia’s matches were also played back on FreeSports TV hours after they’d taken place with Englishman Lewie Lett providing the commentary.
IBB Polonia London vs Trentino Itas
In their opener on Tuesday, 29th September, Polonia faced Trentino Itas in an almighty David and Goliath clash. The European giants won the Champions League trophy three years on the bounce from 2009-11, were triumphant in the CEV Cup in 2019 and have won the FIVB Club World Championships on multiple occasions in the last decade.
Despite the daunting task ahead of them, Vangelis Koutouleas’ men made a positive start to the match, helped by errors made by the Italians. But once they had found their rhythm, there was just no stopping the world class opposition, particularly the firepower from opposite Nimir Abdel-Aziz.
The match, arguably the biggest game ever played by a volleyball club from England, ended in a comfortable 0-3 (16:25; 17:25; 15:25) victory for Trentino Itas. Nevertheless, there was much to be positive about and proud of for Polonia.
After the match, Polonia opposite Marcus Nilsson said: “I think the result isn't what we should focus on. I am delighted how we played and the spirit that we showed.
“Trentino is a huge club and I am impressed with how they treated us: that they really wanted to win and that they played almost all match with their strongest players. They did everything that they could, but so did we. We knew the size of the task ahead of us, but we played with freedom.
“The biggest difference was the serve. They had some huge serving players on their side. In the end we were not strong enough to beat one of the top teams in Europe, but I think we gave a very good account of ourselves."
IBB Polonia London vs OK Vojvodina Seme Novi Sad
Next up for the Londoners were Serbian champions OK Vojvodina Seme Novi Sad, a dominant side in their domestic league who won the CEV Challenge Cup back in 2015.
Taking confidence from their first match, Polonia tore up the script against the Serbs to take the first set (25-21) – an historical first for an English volleyball club.
OK Vojvodina levelled the score in the second (21-25) and, with viewers sat on the edge of their seats, Polonia locked horns with their opponents for what was a nail-biting third set. Unfortunately, they let slip a five-point lead to lose that set (23-25) and in the fourth their fate was sealed (18-25).
The match finished 1-3 (25-21, 21-25, 23-25, 18-25). For his outstanding performance, Marcus Nilsson was named MVP.
The pride of English volleyball
Trentino Itas beat OK Vojvodina Seme Novi Sad in the final match of Pool F to secure their place in the next round of the Champions League. Polonia will be joined by the Serbians in the CEV Cup.
Bartek Luszcz, CEO of IBB Polonia London, said: “From my perspective, this edition of the Champions League was an emotional rollercoaster.
“We came to the high temple of volleyball to show that we can play volleyball, and we certainly did this. We have built a strong team that represented the club very well in Italy.
“I think, in the first match, we played as well as we could, we competed for every ball. In the second match, we believed we could do something special to show that we are heading in the right direction."
Polonia played against two volleyball giants and although they were not able to produce a mighty upset, thanks to their team spirit and determination they did produce some fantastic performances.
The club made vast improvements on their showing in last year’s competition, when they lost 0-6 on aggregate to Croatia’s Mladost Zagreb, and will no doubt be breaking more milestones in the years to come. Well done to IBB Polonia London’s players, coaches and staff, you did the country proud.