Some of you have probably heard, but there is another financial controversy in Polish volleyball, this time around the club Zaksa. What is known at the moment? Foreign players and coaches, who play or played for Zaksa in the last few seasons have lost money. What happened? Well, they made club’s ex-team manager their proxy (or gave him power of attorney according to a translator) to pay their taxes. Money disappeared from their accounts but didn’t go to the proper government offices. Of course, all of them reported the whole thing and the prosecutors office is handling things right now. Club paid their players all their money, so problem was putting too much trust in wrong person. Of course, a lot of things will be clarified (hopefully) soon. Right now the suspect didn’t even have a hearing, so in theory it can be a big misunderstanding, but it doesn’t look like that’s the case.

First semifinal (Zaksa vs Zawiercie):

Zaksa without Sam Deroo, Aluron in good form, so a lot of people were hoping for an upset during first game. But team from Kędzierzyn-Koźle started the match well, defending a lot of spikes and effectively countering. When Śliwka blocked Grzegorz Bociek, Zaksa was leading 11:7. Aluron reacted pretty well and after 2 aces (one by Bociek, one by Gawryszewski), they were only one point behind their opponents (12:11). But the favourites immediately switched gears and not only regained 4 points lead after Bieniek’s spike (17:13), but increased their lead to 6 points after Szymura’s ace (22:16) and a few minutes later they won the set 25:19.

The second set began well for Warta Zawiercie, good and strong services by Alexandre Ferreira caused some problems and after scoring 4 points in a row and forcing Andrea Gardini to call a timeout the score was 7:3. The reaction was very quick because the scoreboard showed 7:7 after good float services by Śliwka and just a few moments later Zaksa was ahead of Zawiercie. Even though Aluron won probably the longest rally of the match and was only 2 points behind Kędzierzyn (14:12), it didn’t help them that much. The current leader of Plusliga once again found Alexandre Ferreira, who had massive problems with reception and following blocks on Warta players forced Mark Lebedev to change the portugese player for Kamil Semeniuk, but the score was 18:12 and Zaksa won this set 25:20 without any problems. When the 3rd set began with 3 points for Kędzierzyn-Koźle, the situation wasn’t looking great for Aluron. But a 30-second break for Mark Lebedev worked wonders and Zawiercie went up 6:5. When it was 8:7, Kamil Semeniuk went to serve and caused havoc, not even 2 timeouts for Andrea Gardini stopped him. Finally, after 7 points scored by Warta (3 aces by Semeniuk) Kamil made a mistake, but this huge lead let his team control this set. Even a very solid sub from Canadian Brandon Koppers didn’t help,

Zaksa couldn’t catch up and lost this set 25:20. This small defeat irritated the current Plusliga leaders and the 4th set started with their 9:1 lead after a series of good services by Olek Śliwka. It was too much for Aluron and the rest of the match was controlled by the team from Kędzierzyn-Koźle. For the club from Zawiercie, qualifying for final four of Polish Cup was a huge achievement, so no one will blame players for losing this match. Very solid performance by Bociek (21 points, 1 ace, 49% kills), who was top scorer of this game, but made a bit too many errors (only +7 ratio). Same goes to Marcin Waliński (11 points, 1 block, 43% kills, but only +2) ratio. Alexandre Ferreira had too many problems with reception (8 points, 57% kills), but did pretty well in offense. Semeniuk has also disappointed a bit, besides great service, he didn’t do a whole lot (5 points, 3 aces, 1 block, 25% kills and +1 ratio).

How did Ben Toniutti react to Deroo’s absence? He just used the middles even more than he usually does. Bieniek and Wiśniewski completed 28 hits (Szymura and Śliwka had 29, with Koppers 34) and Mateusz had the 2nd highest number of spikes in his team (18). Very good performance by Kaczmarek (19 points, 1 block, 1 ace, 57% kills), solid Śliwka (12 points, 3 blocks, 3 aces, 35% kills, 61% positive reception) and the middles (21 points, 4 blocks, 1 ace, 57% kills) made up for pretty bad game for Szymura (7 points, 2 blocks, 1 ace, only 24% positive and 10% perfect reception). Worth mentioning that Brandon Koppers had a successful day (5 points, 100% kills).

Second semifinal (Jastrzębski Wegiel vs Warszawa):

This semifinal was supposed to be more interesting. The 2nd and 3rd team in a league table, probably the two biggest threats to Zaksa at the moment were facing each other. Jastrzębski was first team to take a solid lead. One counter after a great service, then 2 aces by Fromm and his team was leading 8:4. After Łukasik scored a kill block and Grzegorz Kosok followed it up with a missed spike, the score was 10:10. From that point we saw Jastrzębski gaining 3 point lead and Onico quickly getting back to only a 1 point deficit few times in a row. In the end 2 successful spikes by Julien Lyneel gave his team a victory in the first set 25:22.

The second set began way better for Warszawa. After some great blocks and a good display of spiking by Łukasik and Kurek, Onico was leading 7:4. But this is when Jastrzębski found Piotr Łukasik in reception and used his problems to first equalize and then take a lead 10:8, while Bartosz Kwolek had to leave the court due to an injury while blocking. This gap grew to 3 points, then to 4 after Łukasik’s missed spike. But Kurek’s block and his 2 spikes made this set interesting because the score was 20:19. Bartosz Kwolek’s comeback might have played a part too. When it was 22:20 Antoine Brizard made a stupid error (even though some people would disagree with the ref here) and gave his opponents a 3 point advantage back. The French setter was almost knocked out by his teammates moments later and the referee was forced to stop the rally. Luckily, Brizard quickly recovered and after this break, both teams could continue to play. Once again, Onico defended well and Kwolek’s spike brought them closer to their opponents (23:22). But Jastrzębski didn’t make a mistake from that point and spikes by Lyneel and Kosok gave them a second set victory of 25:23.

The third set was pretty even until teams reached an 8:6 score. Ace by Kosok, followed up by more good floats and huge reception problems gave Jastrzębski easier time with setting up their block. First one on Kurek, second on Kwolek and their lead grew to 12:6. Even Nikolay Penchev, who replaced Łukasik, didn’t help much, because Konarski added 2 more points (1 block, 1 spike) and the score was 14:6. Onico didn’t get up after this run by Jastrzębski and Kosok and the set ended 25:14 in favor of players in black and orange. On paper it looked like this should be a more exciting semifinal, but this match didn’t deliver.

Onico Warszawa definitely has some problems right now, it might be caused by official information about Stephane Antiga leaving after this season, it might be delayed reaction to the addition of Kurek and Penchev or something completely different. But the team from Warszawa didn’t play well. Only 1 ace and 13 service errors, just 42% kills (with 19% efficiency), even 8 points scored with block can’t help. An average performance by Kwolek (7 points, 1 ace, 42% kills, but 31% positive and 0% perfect reception) and Kurek (16 points, 3 blocks, 48% kills, but only +6 ratio). Łukasik did his job when it came to hitting or blocking (50% kills and 3 blocks), but struggled massively with defense (32% positive reception + 1 error). A tragic match for Wrona and Vigrass (only 3 points, 1 block, and 20% kills combined).

When it comes to Jastrzębski Węgiel, Christian Fromm surprised with first good performance in quite some time (13 points, 1 block, 4 aces, 38% kills) and finally didn’t screw up in defense (48% positive and 22% perfect reception, 0 errors). Hain and Kosok were alright (11 points, 1 block, 1 ace, 64% kills combined) and definitely did a lot better than Wrona and Vigrass. Julien Lyneel (13 points, 1 block, 63% kills) was as good as usual, but Dawid Konarski had a great game (16 points, 4 blocks, 50% kills, 10 breakpoints) just like Lukas Kampa, who played an almost perfect match.

Final (Zaksa vs
Jastrzębski Wegiel):

The next day, the final was between Zaksa Kędzierzyn-Koźle and Jastrzębski Węgiel, just like 5 years ago. The match began well for Jastrzębski, after good services by Konarski they were leading 7:4. After Śliwka made a spiking error and score was 10:6, Andrea Gardini called a timeout and his strong words worked wonders. A block on Konarski by Śliwka, an ace by Bieniek meant the score was 10:9. But Kampa’s ace gave Jastrzębski 3 point lead once again. This lead decreased to 2 points, but stayed for few minutes. Then Mateusz Bieniek went to serve, Zaksa worked wonders with their defensive system and took the lead after Śliwka’s hit (18:17). Grzegorz Kosok equalized, but Zaksa continued to defend well and 3 successful spikes by Aleksander Śliwka with one missed spike by Konarski between them and the score was 22:18. Moments later Tomasz Kalembka, who subbed in for Wiśniewski just to serve, ended the set with an ace. I will just mention here that Śliwka from 17:16 (in favor of Jastrzębski) to 23:19 went on rampage and scored 6 points.

In second set old demons found Fromm, who had huge defensive problems and was replaced by Ferens. But it didn’t really matter, because Jastrzębski still couldn’t score a point, struggled with reception, and had problems avoiding their opponent’s block. When Śliwka tried to look like Toniutti (it wasn’t a complete success) and set the ball to Kaczmarek losing almost all blockers and Łukasz Kaczmarek followed it up with left-handed hit and scored a point, you can guess how the set was going. After Toniutti’s services, the score was 17:5 and Jastrzębski was more worried about getting to double digits than anything else. Set ended 25:13.

Roberto Santili took his 7 players, who started next set back to the changing room and whatever he told them worked. After good hits by Ferens and a block on Szymura, Jastrzębski was leading 5:3. But Zaksa equalized after Bieniek’s block. This scenario (Jastrzębski getting 2 points ahead and Zaksa equalizing) repeated few times. It changed when Mateusz Bieniek went to service and his team went up 17:15. But Kosok’s block on Śliwka changed the score to 18:18. Julien Lyneel wasn’t too happy when Roberto Santili replaced him with Fromm (just for service) but quickly changed his mind after German player scored an ace. After Konarski finished a break point and gave his team 22:20 lead, it looked like the 4th set was coming. Even though more problems caused by Bieniek and his service gave Zaksa a counter finished by Kaczmarek and another draw (24:24), Jastrzębski won this set after Konarski successful hit.

The 4th set began fantastically for the Plusliga leaders. Kaczmarek caused havoc with his service, Zaksa defended well, Toniutti did what he does best and his team was leading 10:4. Konarski and Ferens were keeping their team in the game with good spikes, but Kędzierzyn-Koźle was still controlling the game. When the score reached 16:13, it looked like Jastrzębski was still fighting, but after a timeout, Zaksa regained composure and didn’t give their opponents a chance and won the Polish Cup.

Individually, it was a good game for Konarski (20 points, 1 block, 1 ace, 44% kills) and Ferens (16 points, 2 blocks, 1 ace, 59% kills), but Fromm was disappointing again, Hain and Kosok were outclassed (11 points, 3 blocks, 42% kills combined) and Julien Lyneel struggled in offense (only 29% kills, 5 service errors and 0 aces) and even great defense (35 receptions, 54% positive and 34% perfect, 0 errors) didn’t make up for that. Ignoring the 2nd set Kampa and Popiwczak were okay, but both can play better. This time Toniutti didn’t play as much through the middle, but Bieniek (9 points, 3 blocks, 2 aces, 50% kills) and Wiśniewski (15 points, 6 blocks, 75% kills) were demolishing opponents with their hitting (Wiśnia), service (Bieniu) and block (both). Rafał Szymura stepped up offensively (15 points, 3 blocks, 1 ace, 52% kills, 10 breakpoints) and defensively (28 receptions, 54% positive, 36% perfect, 1 error). Łukasz Kaczmarek (17 points, 3 blocks, 1 ace, 46% kills) wasn’t as good as he was in the semifinal, but still did his job. Of course, Paweł Zatorski (65% positive and 41% perfect reception) and Ben Toniutti were amazing as usual.

Like I mentioned earlier, it was a chance for Kaczmarek and Śliwka to show their skills and both used it. Aleksander Śliwka was the best player of final match (16 points, 1 block, 1 ace, 56% kills and 9 breakpoints), not only he took his team on his back and carried them to victory in a very important first set, but caused problems with his service, worked a lot in defense and performed at a high-level the whole match, which is why he was later awarded with MVP of final four tournament.

Zaksa Kędzierzyn-Koźle 3:1 Aluron Virtu Warta Zawiercie

25:19, 25:20, 20:25, 25:17

Zaksa: Kaczmarek (19), Toniutti (2), Wiśniewski (9), Bieniek (12), Śliwka (12), Szymura (7), Zatorski (libero) and Stępień, Koppers (5), Kalembka, Sacharewicz, Walczak

Warta: Waliński (11), Rejno (6), Ferreira (8), Gawryszewski (4), Bociek (21), Masny, Koga (libero) and Dosanjh, Swodczyk (1), Żuk (2), Malinowski, Kania, Semeniuk (5)

MVP: Benjamin Toniutti

Jastrzębski Węgiel 3:0 Onico Warszawa

25:22, 25:23, 25:14

JW: Fromm (13), Kosok (6), Konarski (16), Lyneel (13), Kampa (1), Hain (5), Popiwczak (libero) and Bucki

Onico: Kwolek (7), Brizard (1), Łukasik (10), Wrona (1), Vigrass (2), Kurek (16), Wojtaszek (libero) and Janikowski, Nowakowski (1), Penchev (2)

MVP: Lukas Kampa

Zaksa Kędzierzyn-Koźle 3:1 Jastrzębski Węgiel

25:20, 25:13, 25:27, 25:17

Zaksa: Kaczmarek (17), Toniutti (2), Wiśniewski (15), Bieniek (9), Śliwka (16), Szymura (15), Zatorski (libero) and Stępień, Koppers, Kalembka (1)

JW: Fromm (4), Kosok (7), Konarski (20), Lyneel (9), Kampa (2), Hain (4), Popiwczak (libero) and Bucki, Gunia (2), Wolański (1), Ferens (16)

Individual awards:

Best service – Dawid Konarski

Best reception – Rafał Szymura

Best defender – Paweł Zatorski

Best spiker – Łukasz Kaczmarek

Best block – Łukasz Wiśniewski

Best setter – Benjamin Toniutti

MVP – Aleksander Śliwka

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