By Adanoos

The Plusliga is back after a break due to EuroVolley 2019 qualifiers. Teams had some time to practice, heal any injuries and play some friendlies. But some important and interesting things happen during this break, so I will start with that.

First, we had our yearly voting for the best Polish athlete of 2018 and volleyball dominated. 2 volleyball players were nominated (Bartosz Kurek and Michał Kubiak) and for the first time in the award’s history, a volleyball player won. Bartosz Kurek was voted the best Polish athlete of the year, Michał Kubiak joined him on the podium and finished 3rd (Kamil Stoch was between them). To make it even more impressive, our men’s National team was voted team of the year and Vital Heynen won award for coach of the year.

Now, some more transfer news and rumours. Cuprum Lubin signed Australian Luke Smith, as the 12th position in the standings is not satisfying the club. Luke is an OH, but he might play as OPP for his new club because that’s where they have a lot of problems. Brenden Sander is in Poland, he is trying out for Jastrzębski Węgiel. If the club decides to sign a contract with him, Oliva will probably leave. Finally, there is this rumour about coach Andrea Anastasi joining ONICO Warszawa next season. It might help with convincing Kurek to stay in Warszawa, maybe with signing Piotr Nowakowski too. Stephane Antiga has some offers and according to rumours they come from Italy, Paris and Bełchatów.

This matchweek started in Sosnowiec (because that’s where MKS plays their matches). MKS had to play without Lukas Tichacek. Skra Bełchatów travelled without Mariusz Wlazły and Artur Szalpuk, who were injured (nothing serious), so they started with Teppan and Orczyk in their places. Besides some fight in 1st set, mostly due to Lincoln Williams scoring 9 points with 75% spiking efficiency, the guests had no problem with beating the last team in the league table. Grzegorz Łomacz abused the fact that Kochanowski (MVP, 14 points, 3 blocks, 1 ace, 77% kills) and Kłos (15 points, 4 blocks, 2 aces, 53% kills) outclass Ratajczak and Grzechnik and sent 30 passes to his middles. Rene Teppan played his second good game for Skra (13 points, 4 blocks, 50% kills), so maybe he will finally perform at his expected level. Besides Lincoln Williams (18 points, 1 ace, 53% kills), who was clearly the best player of his team (as usual), only Jakub Peszko was okay (10 points, 1 ace, 45% kills), the others were very poor.

Second game took place in Katowice. GKS with full lineup (even though Gonzalo Quiroga cannot give his 100% in offense), while Trefl came without Piotr Nowakowski (celiac disease). Only the 2nd set was really interesting, after guests won 29:27 it looked like the match might get interesting, but it was not the case. GKS was better in every element, even though Karol Butryn was not playing at his normal level. 17 points scored, 1 block, 2 aces, but only 44% kills and just 16% efficiency. Emmanuel Kohut (6 points, 1 ace, 38% kills) didn’t impress either. Luckily for them, Bartłomiej Krulicki was very solid (10 points, 2 blocks, 3 aces, 56% kills) and Tomas Rousseaux (22 points, 1 ace, 64% kills) made up for weak offensive performance from Quiroga (5 points, 1 block, 40% kills, but 52% positive reception). Another solid performance by Mariański, who has quietly become a good libero. The MVP went to Marcin Komenda, who played really well, practicing effective distribution while completely losing the opponent’s block for his teammates (GKS players were blocked only 3 times). Andrea Anastasi tried a lot of different combinations of players, every set started with different lineup. But it didn’t work. Only Maciej Muzaj (18 points, 50% kills), Ruben Schott (13 points, 43% kills) and Patryk Niemiec (9 points, 2 blocks, 78% kills), performed decently, but their solid performances were not enough to score at least one ranking point in this game.

The following day ONICO Warszawa was playing against Resovia in front of over 5500 people. Both teams had to play without 1 important player. Bartosz Kwolek for Warszawa and Thibault Rossard for Ressovia weren’t available, although they should be fit pretty soon. The French player even showed up and subbed in to serve 3 times, but he is not fully ready yet. Whoever hoped to see good, competitive match was disappointed. Whenever it looked like Rzeszów might come back into the game, we saw block or ace (or both) from Onico and the gap increased to a safe size again. The home team outclassed their opponents in every element. 8 blocks, 8 aces and 64% kills are fantastic statistics that shows how well they played. The MVP award went to Niko Penchev (8 points, 1 ace, 70% kills, 70% positive reception), who turned every ball he touched into gold during this match. But there was no bad choice when it came to MVP, because every Onico player was good. Kurek scored 16 points (2 blocks, 4 aces, 50% kills) and destroyed Resovia’s reception with his powerful service, Łukasik (13 points, 4 blocks, 64% kills) was making up for average reception with great hitting and blocking, while Wrona (5 points, 1 block, 67% kills) and Vigrass (6 points, 1 ace, 83% kills) were doing their job. Antoine Brizard had an easy job, because every player finished with 50% kills or more and their reception was 50% positive and 29% perfect. It’s hard to say something bad about Łukasz Kozub, when his team has no offensive power on the left wing (24% kills and -8% efficiency all OHs combined) and very poor reception (43% positive and 23% perfect + 8 errors). The same with Damian Schulz, 11 points with 42% kills is not great, but whenever setter couldn’t play with middles (it wasn’t rare), Onico was just waiting for him. David Smith (7 points, 78% kills) did his job, when it came to spiking, but 0 blocks and 4 service errors (out of 8 attempts) are disappointing. Bartłomiej Lemański was probably the best player of his team with just 8 points, but 1 ace and 88% kills are looking good. Buszek (3 points, 25% kills, 0% efficiency, -6 point ratio), Mika (2 points, 29% kills, 0% efficiency, -5 point ratio) and Szerszeń (1 point, 17% kills, -33% efficiency and -3 point ratio) were all terrible.

In Radom we finally saw a match that wasn’t onesided. Cerrad didn’t look great in recent games, so Indykpol came there with a real chance to pull off an upset. First set was fairly even, until the score board showed 17:15. After Norbert Huber served out, Paweł Pietraszko went to serve and demolished home team. 5 points in a row, 3 aces for Pietraszko and the score was 23:15. Guests easily finished the set and won 25:16. When AZS led 6:1 after Hadrava’s double ace it didn’t look good for Czarni. Everything changed after Michał Filip replaced Maxim Zhigalov. After his spikes and blocks, the home team equalized and moments later took the lead (15:14). This opposite was on fire, Indykpol couldn’t find a way to stop him and lost 2nd set 25:20. Michał Filip scored 8 points (1 block, 1 ace, 86% kills) after replacing the Russian player. Less said about next set, the better. In the following set guests reached their normal level again, but Żaliński and Filip suddenly stopped playing (14% kills between 2 of them) and the Olsztyn didn’t waste the opportunity. Whatever was wrong in the 4th set with Filip and Żaliński, was not a problem in the tie-break (8 points and 100% kills combined) and AZS was destroyed. The MVP went to Michał Filip (it had to), who scored 18 points (3 blocks, 2 aces, and 59% kills), but was insane in the 3 sets his team won (15 points, 2 blocks, 2 aces and 85% kills ignoring 4th set). Finally, Tomasz Fornal finally played a full good game (16 points, 3 blocks, 59% kills), even though his reception was unusually poor. Also, Alen Pajenk (9 points, 4 blocks, 1 ace, 67% kills) was a bit better. Only Paweł Pietraszko (14 points, 2 blocks, 5 aces and 58% kills) performed well for Indykpol. Jan Hadrava (15 points, 2 blocks, 3 aces, but 29% kills with 0% efficiency) had a tragic game and probably the worst set of his life (9 spikes, 4 errors, 2 blocked, 0% kills in 3rd set), I don’t think Kańczok (2nd OPP) would have played worse than the Czech.

In Bydgoszcz we saw another interesting game. Chemik easily beat Cuprum in 1st set, then turned the 2nd set around. After falling behind 20:17, they came back with 7:1 break and won the set 25:22. After Cuprum won the 3rd set, Chemik Bydgoszcz started the following set really well and went up 12:8. Then the score was 15:10 and 21:17. That’s when Yanagida replaced Grobelny and the home team suddenly decided that they didn’t want to win. missed spikes by Lipiński and Filipiak, 4 hits and 4 points from Yanagida and this time guests turned the set around. The tie-break was one-sided with Cuprum still motivated by the comeback from the previous set, while Chemik didn’t recover and lost the match. The MVP went to Maciej Gorzkiewicz, the setter who replaced Toobal during 4th set and played a huge role in their comeback. But a fantastic debut from Luke Smith (21 points, 1 block, 65% kills) has to be mentioned. Also, Masahiro Yanagida was subbed out after two poor sets (just 2 points and 29% kills) but came back in style for last part of the game (5 points and 83% kills in last 2 sets). Chemik definitely needs to work on their service (just 4 aces and 22 errors at home). Szalacha (14 points, 4 blocks, 56% kills) and Morozau (12 points, 1 block, 2 aces, 75% kills) were really good, Filipiak (19 points, 2 blocks, 1 ace, 50% kills) and Lipiński (20 points, 5 blocks, 1 ace, 42% kills) were allright, but failed when team needed them the most.

The last game took place in Jastrzębie-Zdrój, where Jastrzębski Węgiel was playing against Aluron Virtu Warta Zawiercie. The first set started fantastically for the home team. Lyneel and Kosok caused problems with their services and their team went up 7:2. Jastrzębski kept this lead and didn’t let the guests decrease the gap below 2 points. All 3 wings were effective (68% kills between 3 of them) and Zawiercie couldn’t do a thing to stop them and threaten their opponents. 2nd set was a demolition. Jastrzębski scored 8 points with their block, while Zawiercie ended with just 21% kills. It explains a 25:15 score.

In 3rd set Aluron finally found their rhythm, and Malinowski started to score some points. Later, Waliński and Ferreira joined too. When guests were leading 22:21 Lyneel made a spiking error, Ferreira followed with an ace and the Portuguese player finished the set 25:22 moments later.

But that was all they won in that match. Jastrzębski once again stopped Malinowski and Waliński, increased their own spiking effectiveness and the final set was as one-sided as the second one. Finally, Jastrzębski was not just Julien Lyneel and friends. The MVP went to Christian Fromm (15 points, 1 block, 61% kills and efficiency), who finally looked like a star he is supposed to be. Lukas Kampa has been a lot better since Roberto Santili joined, another good performance by German setter. Piotr Hain (13 points, 2 blocks, 1 ace, 71% kills) finally showed up too. Of course Julien Lyneel (17 points, 2 blocks, 4 aces, 48% kills) was once again really good. About Warta Zawiercie, their best player was definitely Alexandre Ferreira (14 points, 1 block, 3 aces, 43% kills), but everyone else struggled in this game. It’s possible that they practiced hard during the break, because they are going to play 2 games this week, followed by Polish Cup quarterfinals next Wednesday and a potential Polish Cup Final Four next weekend.

MKS Będzin 0:3 PGE Skra Bełchatów

22:25, 14:25, 20:25

MKS: Kowalski T. (1), Ratajczak (3), Grzechnik (5), Peszko (10), Williams (19), Buchowski (3), Potera (libero) and Gregorowicz (libero), Fornal (1), Langlois (1)

Skra: Teppan (11), Kłos (16), Kochanowski (15), Ebadipour (12), Łomacz (1), Orczyk (6), Piechocki (libero) and Katić, Droszyński

MVP: Jakub Kochanowski

GKS Katowice 3:1 Trefl Gdańsk

25:20, 27:29, 25:19, 25:18

GKS: Krulicki (10), Butryn (16), Komenda (2), Rousseaux (23), Quiroga (5), Kohut (8), Mariański (libero) and Ogórek (libero), Sobański (1), Sobala, Woch, Depowski (2)

Trefl: Grzyb (1), Janusz (2), Niemiec (10), Mijailović (8), Muzaj (17), Schott (13), Olenderek (libero) and Kozłowski, Mordyl (2), Majcherski (libero), Hebda (5), Jakubiszak

MVP: Marcin Komenda

ONICO Warszawa 3:0 Asseco Resovia Rzeszów

25:18, 25:21, 25:14

Onico: Brizard (2), Łukasik (14), Wrona (5), Vigrass (6), Kurek (16), Penczew (8), Wojtaszek (libero) and Kowalczyk (2), Buczek, Janikowski, Nowakowski (1)

Resovia: Kozub (1), Lemański (8), Schulz (11), Buszek (3), Mika (2), Smith (7), Perry (libero) and Rossard, Szerszeń (1)

MVP: Nikolay Penchev

Cerrad Czarni Radom 3:2 Indykpol AZS Olsztyn

16:25, 25:20, 25:14, 18:25, 15:7

Czarni: Pajenk (9), Żaliński (15), Vincic (5), Huber (7), Zhigalov (4), Fornal (16), Ruciak (libero) and Giger, Filip (18), Rybicki, Kwasowski (2)

AZS: Hadrava (15), Andringa (10), Pietraszko (13), Woicki (1), Warda (5), Urbanowicz (13), Żurek (libero) and Kańczok (3), Zniszczoł (4), Kapelus (5), Gil (1), Zabłocki (libero)

MVP: Michał Filip

Chemik Bydgoszcz 2:3 Cuprum Lubin

25:19, 25:22, 17:25, 23:25, 10:15

Chemik: Lipiński (20), Vinhedo, Kovacević (11), Szalacha (14), Filipiak (19), Morozau (13), Kowalski (libero) and Gryc (1), Sieńko, Lesiuk, Bobrowski (libero)

Cuprum: Marcyniak (6), Toobal (1), Patucha (8), Grobelny (7), Yanagida (7), Smoliński (8), Gruszczyński (libero) and Boruch (6), Gorzkiewicz (3), Wachnik (1), Biegun (2), Smith (21)

MVP: Maciej Gorzkiewicz

Jastrzębski Węgiel 3:1 Aluron Virtu Warta Zawiercie

25:21, 25:15, 22:25, 25:14

JW: Fromm (15), Kosok (10), Konarski (17), Lyneel (17), Kampa, Hain (13), Popiwczak (libero) and Bucki, Wolański

Warta: Waliński (12), Rejno (3), Gawryszewski (1), Bociek (4), Semeniuk (4), Masny (1), Koga (libero) and Dosanjh (1), Swodczyk (3), Żuk (1), Malinowski (7), Ferreira (14), Kania (1), Andrzejewski (libero)

MVP: Christian Fromm

Next games:

GKS Katowice vs Aluron Virtu Warta Zawiercie *

Cerrad Czarni Radom vs Cuprum Lubin

Aluron Virtu Warta Zawiercie vs ONICO Warszawa

Chemik Bydgoszcz vs Zaksa Kędzierzyn-Koźle

Trefl Gdańsk vs PGE Skra Bełchatów

GKS Katowice vs Asseco Resovia Rzeszów

MKS Będzin vs Indykpol AZS Olsztyn

* – match moved from matchweek 19

Very important games for GKS Katowice. First, a game against 6th place Aluron. A win here gives them a chance to fight for a spot in the playoffs, but Zawiercie has a chance to increase the gap between them and the 7th team (whoever would that be) to fairly safe number. Then Onico travels to Zawiercie for very, very difficult game there. A lot of strong teams have lost there already. Finally, another very interesting game in Katowice. This time Resovia is coming for revenge. Pressure on team from Rzeszów will be huge, because losing this match would complicate their situation massively and decrease their play-off chances by a lot.

League table:

  1. Zaksa Kędzinerzyn-Koźle 13-0, 38p
  2. ONICO Warszawa 11-3, 32p
  3. Jastrzębski Węgiel 11-3, 31p
  4. Cerrad Czarni Radom 9-5, 26p
  5. PGE Skra Bełchatów 8-6, 24p
  6. Aluron Virtu Warta Zawiercie 8-5, 21p
  7. GKS Katowice 6-8, 18p
  8. Chemik Bydgoszcz 5-9, 16p
  9. Trefl Gdańsk 5-8, 15p
  10. Indykpol AZS Olsztyn 4-10, 15p
  11. Asseco Resovia Rzeszów 4-9, 14p
  12. Cuprum Lubin 4-10, 11p
  13. MKS Będzin 1-13, 6p

Top scorers:

  1. Maciej Muzaj – 282
  2. Karol Butryn – 265
  3. Jan Hadrava – 259
  4. Lincoln Williams – 241
  5. Tomas Rousseaux – 226

Most aces:

  1. Bartosz Kwolek – 33
  2. Jan Hadrava – 32
  3. Karol Butryn – 28

Most blocks:

  1. Grzegorz Kosok – 39
  2. Andrzej Wrona – 39
  3. Maxim Morozau – 38

Polish Cup Quaterfinals were drawn, they will be played on 23rd January, Final Four will take place in Wrocław on 26-27 January. Here are the results of the draw:

Zaksa Kędzierzyn-Koźle vs PGE Skra Bełchatów

Cerrad Czarni Radom vs Aluron Virtu Warta Zawiercie

Jastrzębski Węgiel vs MKS Ślepsk Suwałki/BBTS Bielsko-Biała

ONICO Warszawa vs Stal Nysa/KS Lechia Tomaszów Mazowiecki

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