NVL Champions: Q&A with Super League winners IBB Polonia
24th March 2021
With the excitement around volleyball’s long-awaited return building, the 2019/20 Men’s and Women’s National Volleyball League (NVL) title winners from each league are taking a trip down memory lane to reminisce on their triumphant season.
First up is IBB Polonia London, whose captain Bartosz Kisielewicz reflects on what made that team so strong and playing alongside Brazilian volleyball legend Giba.
Tell us a bit about your club, its ambitions and history.
IBB Polonia London has been on the volleyball map since 1973. The club has become one of the most long-lived and successful sides in English volleyball.
Polonia won its first English league titles in 1984/85 and 1985/86. League success followed in 1990/91 when a 3-2 win over Liverpool made them KO Cup winners.
Over the last 15 years IBB Polonia London has been one of the top teams in English volleyball. When I started my adventure with IBB Polonia London in 2012/13, club ambitions were high and year by year were increased to be the top club in the UK. But thanks to the opportunities made by our sponsors we could also try our skills outside the UK playing in the Champions League, CEV Cup and Challenge Cup.
For a player like me it was a big boost in my adventure with volleyball and I never thought that IBB Polonia would give me a chance to play against the best clubs and players in the world.
How does your team’s 2020 title win rank against your club’s other major achievements?
It was another great achievement where lots of people were involved. But that year was different to others. That season our club faced a big event which was the Champions League matches against Croatian side Mladost Zagreb and CEV Cup matches against Dynamo Draisma.
Aside from winning the league, tell us about some of your favourite memories from that season.
It was a great season for IBB Polonia with new challenges and more training and matches. With my teammates, we spent more time together than in the normal season. But spending time in training with the volleyball legend Giba has been my favourite volleyball moment of my entire life.
How would you describe your side’s style of play and greatest strength? Did you have a star player?
That season we had more players than usual. We had to put more challenges into our training because we knew we were going to face some very good teams too.
I think our style was different for every game. Our service and block-defence system were good that season, but I think what was crucial was our teamwork. We had a very good bench, so we had confidence on the court that if things went wrong another player can come on to get these points back.
Of course, we also had the chance to play with the best volleyball player in the world: Giba. He showed us lots of different things in volleyball that we didn't know. He pointed out so many small details about our game, tactics, and mental things that we didn't know about. He is very professional in every aspect of volleyball and life.
Who was your toughest match against and what made them formidable opponents?
We had a few tough games, especially against Team Durham. We won two times 3-2, but these were very close games. I’m happy to play against Durham every time, because I know I have to perform to 100% for every point. They are very well prepared for us every time we meet.
The other team was Mladost Zagreb in the Champions League. Very solid, tough opponents who were unreachable for us that year. They taught us a very good lesson of volleyball. We put our best skills on the court, but that wasn’t enough.
Which club was your favourite to play against, and why?
I always liked to play against Team Northumbria as they are good competition for me, especially playing away. It’s a long journey up North and they were well prepared tactically and physically for us.
I remember I played Malory Eagles in my first game in the Super 8s in the 2012/2013 season. They are also a very good team, our teams compete for few decades now and you can feel it on the court.
If you could pick any player, past or present, to join your team, who would it be and why?
I was very lucky during my adventure with volleyball to meet lots of very good professionals. I would pick Polish player Bartosz Kurek, because of his strength and intelligence on the court. I had the pleasure of playing with him in one team in Poland for a few years at the beginning of my career. The way he developed his skills and body is amazing. I’m a big fan of him and I hope he will help our national team win a medal in the upcoming Olympics.
What are you most looking forward to about the NVL’s return?
I really miss NVL matches, especially our lovely and loud supporters. I hope when everything ets back to normal we will have an amazing atmosphere during our games. I’m looking forward to seeing IBB Polonia friends in the venue and enjoying volleyball like we did before.