More historic milestones for IBB Polonia in Champions League
8th October 2021
IBB Polonia London put on a valiant effort against Belarusian side Shakhitor Soligorsk in the 2022 CEV Champions League Volley.
Two years on from their debut in Europe’s premier club competition, the English champions showed more signs of progress. In 2020 they became the first English team to win a set in the Champions League and against the champions of Belarus they took three sets across two legs. Another huge milestone in the history of English volleyball which was once more televised for fans and newcomers to the sport to watch.
Evangelos Koutouleas’ squad underwent a number of changes since last year’s campaign, and included two Chilean players – Matias Banda and Simon Guerra Uteau – who won bronze at this year’s South American Championship.
Due to pandemic restrictions and thanks to the support from CEV, the clubs agreed to host the games at in the Energia Hall in Bełchatów, Poland, the home of IBB Polonia’s partners PGE Skra Belchatow.
In the first leg on 5th October the Londoners came storming out to claim the first set (25-17), only to be knocked back in the second (15-25).
In the third set, both teams fought hard to take the lead, but in the end, Shakhtior handled the pressure well for a 25-23 win.
In the fourth set, after a short lead by the visiting team, IBB Polonia came back to the game and scored six points in a row to take the lead 17-15 when Matias Banda was on the service line, ending 25-20 in their favour.
The visitors took the lead at the beginning of the tiebreak. IBB Polonia fought but the opponents did not falter (13-15) and eventually celebrated a 3-2 win.
Afterwards, IBB Polonia outside hitter and captain Ramon Martinez Gion said: “The match was hard and the score is upsetting. Both teams are on a similar level and both wanted to win. We lost the game because we lost focus.
“We did not have good reception and our opponent put pressure on the block, which caused us some trouble. Still, everybody has a chance to advance to the next round so we will do our best in Thursday’s re-match.”
The second leg, played two days later and once more watched by hundreds in Poland and many more via live streams on BT Sport and EuroVolleyTV, would determine who would progress to the second round of the Champions League.
And it was the Belarusians who came out strongest, taking the first two sets (25-16, 25-20). Refusing to give up, IBB Polonia took the third (22-25) but Shakhitor Soligorsk sealed their victory in the fourth (25-23).
Ryan Poole, IBB Polonia outside hitter, said: “Today we started slowly and did not adjust very well to what they came out with! They started much stronger and it took us a little longer to get going. We showed a good fight to come back into the game, but just let ourselves down later on with small mistakes. We will regroup and come back stronger in the CEV cup. There is a lot we need to work on and we can get much better in the coming weeks."
Onto the CEV Cup
IBB Polonia’s Champions League campaign may be over, but their European dream is not. No doubt they will return stronger than before to once more prove themselves against Europe’s elite.
In the meanwhile, they will now begin their question for silverware in the 2022 CEV Cup.