Bydgoszcz, Poland, June 7, 2018 – Poland finished their FIVB Volleyball Nations League home tournament in Bydgoszcz with three in three and once again Malwina Smarzek led the way to the victory. On Thursday, coach Jacek Nawrocki claimed a hard-fought 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 27-25, 25-14) win over Belgium.
Smarzek paced Poland throughout the match, but she really erupted in the fourth set, when she delivered nine of her 23 points overall to help seal her team’s fourth victory since the start of the VNL, and once again to become the top scorer of the match.
Team captain Agnieszka Kakolewska also proved to be a true leader for the squad. With obvious confidence in her presence on the court, the middle blocker contributed another 13 points, which included three aces and three stuff blocks.
Belgium put on quite a fight, especially in the first three sets, and kept the match too close to call. They had four players into the double digits in the scoring charts, with Celine Van Gestel and Kaja Grobelna leading the pack with 14 points each.
Stunning the home favourites in the first set, Belgium kept Poland on their toes for most of the remainder of the match and started to lose momentum only midway through the fourth set, when the White-and-Reds made their final push towards the victory. This was their second win over this opponent out of four matches in major world level competitions.
Smarzek was really instrumental to Poland’s success in the fourth set, when she started hammering way from the early rallies to give her team a solid 7-4 lead, scoring four of the seven points, including one at 96.3 km/h. To make sure Belgium would forget about any possibility of a comeback, Smarzek continued to bombard the opposite half of the court. She nailed four consecutive Polish points for a 17-11 breakaway and added three more on the way to a 23-14 advantage before letting Julia Twardowska and Kakolewska share some glory with the next two spikes that finished the match.
Earlier, Twardowska was particularly helpful in winning the most competitive third set. Coming in as a substitution, she scored several times to put Poland back in the lead just before the nail-biting conclusive moments of the set. Finally, she was part of a double block together with Zuzanna Efimienko to close set in the overtime – 27-25, eventually becoming her side’s third best scorer of the match.
For the last week of round robin play in the VNL, June 12 through 14, Poland will stay at home, entertaining the Dominican Republic, Japan and Russia in Walbrzych. Belgium will travel to Eboli to meet Brazil, Thailand and hosts Italy.