|It is the first time an English team has entered the competition, which is a sort of “”mini Champions League”” for the best club teams from northern Europe (NEVZA is the Northern European Volleyball Zonal Association). Polonia Ladies earned their place by winning the inaugural Super 8 championship last season, and the National Cup.
Day 1 Polonia vs. Holte 0-3 (22-25, 12-25, 14-25)
Polonia started well and at 6-8 were still competing point for point. In the pass Maria Kikira and Ioanna Lapa were performing consistently and the team executed its service tactics very well, thus preventing the opposition from getting into a rhythm of attack especially through the middle. Ildiko Dobos (‘Dobi’) was setting well from the start and, although it took some time to bring opposite player Cinzia Pezzolesi effectively into the attack, by the end of the first set Cinzia was hitting confidently and making good use of the Holte block by wiping off and scoring efficiently.
Holte called a timeout with Polonia leading 18-17. This had a positive effect on the team, as they won 3 consecutive points to take the lead at 18-20, when Polonia coach Mark Kontopoulos called a timeout and introduced Laura Plonka who made an immediate impression both in back court defence and attacking from the outside. The opposition took time to adjust to the change, however, inconsistencies at the end of the set cost Polonia the set 25-22.
In set 2 Holte started effectively and made the most of some indecision and poor communication in the Polonia defence to take a lead at 6-4. Holte started to serve more strategically not allowing Polonia to apply its attacking tactics and make the most of its main hitting options. Hitting errors then began to take their toll and, although the team started to find some attacking solutions again late in the set, this was not enough to counter a very strong and finely tuned Holte team who were now in their stride and took the second set 25-12.
In the 3rd set Polonia started better after the introduction of new personnel, in particular Kelly Monteiro who was brought in to strengthen the team’s block. Holte responded well by adjusting their attack and tipping on a more regular basis, however Polonia dealt with this very well, displaying some determination and gritty defence . Maria Kikira continued to attack effectively from the outside by hitting deep into the back court and Gabi Medricka came up with a huge single block against Holte’s dominant and towering opposite player, giving Polonia some important momentum despite trailing at 8-10. This was followed by some more good blocking, strong defence and offence by both teams and several long exciting rallies, but Holte’s block and counterattack proved more consistent and they began to pull away as Polonia struggled to side out.
Coach Mark Kontopoulos made a double substitution at 9-18 bringing on Petra Jurikova as setter and reintroducing Maria Kikira in the place of Laura Plonka, thus enabling Polonia to pick up some momentum. Ivana Placko was then reintroduced to strengthen the middle attack, but despite some spirited and brave play by Polonia, Holte’s superior attacking ability gave them the set and match at 14-25.