History

Polonia ‘s roots stretch back to 1973 when Maciek Behnke and Henio Paulinski, members of the Polish YMCA, founded a volleyball club. The club resourced players from the Association and the Polish scouting movement, and under the name of ‘Polish YMCA ‘, entered the English National League ‘s Division 3. The team, initially led by Boleslaw Lesiecki (General Secretary for the Polish YMCA), gradually developed and progressed through the divisions recruiting new players from the youth nurtured from scouting.

During this time, a second Polish volleyball team, ‘Gryf ‘, was playing in the National League Division 1. Andy Mackiewicz, a player from Gryf, was invited to coach Polish YMCA, beginning a link between the two clubs. In 1976, Andy Lowczynowski became the new coach for the YMCA and coached the team for the next 5 years. Through his influence the club was to become one of the most long-lived and successful sides in English volleyball.

1 In 1978 Gryf lost many of its players through age and retirement and decided to merge with Polish YMCA forming two teams; Polonia Gryf, who continued to play in Division 1, and Polonia II who played in Division 3 South East. From 1979 to 1982, sponsorship from the YMCA prompted the teams to change their names once again to Polish YMCA, but in 1982/83, the club reverted back to Polonia and has remained so ever since.

2Throughout the 80 ‘s, Polonia had a variety of coaches starting with Andy Lokiec, ex- Polish International junior setter at the Montreal Olympics. From 1982-87, James Tytko took over the coaching mantle in what was to be one of Polonia ‘s most successful periods in English volleyball. He led the team to two consecutive English League titles in 1984/85 and 1985/86, and second place in 1986/87. Edek Len and then Olek Juszkiewicz replaced Tytko from 1987 to 1990, but as many older players retired, Polonia slipped gradually to 10th in the League.

3The team ‘s resurgance was swift however, and under the leadership of Slawek Mituniewicz, surged back in 1990/91 to clinch the KO Cup (3-2 winners over Liverpool), televised live for the first time on BBC ‘s Grandstand. Two more finals followed in 1991/92, but the team narrowly missed out to Malory 3-2 in the KO Cup and Liverpool in the Super Cup. Tytko returned to coach the team from 1992-94 before Jurek Jankowski took on the role of player/coach for the following 5 years. Former Polonia member Simon Golding came back to lead the side in 1999/00 with Jankowski taking over once again after Golding ‘s departure.

2001 to 2004 saw Polonia team up with Paul Westhead, former coach of Britannia Ladies, England Ladies, Ohio University and the Japanese team, Odakyu. The team however never gelled as a unit and were left once again without any much coveted silverware.

Ian Towers stepped in as coach in 2004/5 when the team were coachless and at a point of folding through lack of players. An influx of new blood and old however kept the Polonia spirit alive and after a hard fought season in the bottom half of the League, Polonia lived to fight another day.

 

4Over the last 14 years Polonia has remained one of the top teams in English volleyball, consistantly finishing within the top four places in the League. The club reached several KO Cup semi-finals but never managed to rekindle their past glories. In the 2005/6 season ex-Polonia player and National Cup winner Julian Mazgon-Ballard took on the role of club coach for a short spell.

5 Jurek Jankowski returned for two more seasons to take over from where Julian left off. The 2006/7 was the best result for the men’s team for many years. They finished in 3rd place behind local rivals Malory and first time champions Docklands. Some mixed results including a first match of the season 3-0 win against Docklands and a loss against lower ranked teams was the story of the season. Personal circumstances have prevented Jurek from carrying on with the role and so the 2007/87 season sees Polonia player Krzys Hykiel took over the top job for the men’s team, his words were: “I am really excited about this new challenge in my life. It will be really tough to adjust to spending all of my time off the court, but you can expect me to be just as encouraging to my team from there! I anticipate the best ever squad Polonia has had, and hope that we can support each other throughout the coming year. Look out for some interesting new signings over the summer.”

Krzys coached for three seasons: the squad continued to go from strength to strength, but the result continued to elude the team when it really mattered. The highlight of the coaching tenure, was Polonia beating Sheffield at the semi finals in Kettering in 2010. The season was given a boost by the appointment to Assistant Coach of Vangelis Koutouleas: a professional coach from Greece and a person who had played at the highest level there representing his country on numerous occasions. This gave Polonia the chance to exact revenge on Malory in the Cup Final played at Crystal Palace for the first time since their last appearance in the early 1990s. Sadly the result that had been hoped for never materialized and Malory were the victors.

The 2010-2011 season looks to be the most promising yet, with squad numbers increasing to 17, Vangelis and Krzys swapping roles as the coaching staff. So far so good: Malory defeated 3-0 for the first time in almost two decades. With even more new players being recruited and some potential match winners on their way, the London League team has been relaunched under the leadership of ex-player Rafal Wlodarski.

In October 2010 two ex-players were inducted into the English Volleyball’s hall of Fame: Alex Bialokoz and Jurek Jankowski. The club and committee anticipate that 2010-2011 will be a rewarding year for both the club and Tyskie Beer (Polonia Official sponsors).

In the spring of 2011 Polonia reached the finals of the most prestigious competition in British volleyball and beat Leeds Carnegie Volleyball Club to win the very first edition of the newly launched Volleyball England Super 8 competition. The successes attracted the attentions of a major sponsor Tyskie Beer, and new shirts were ordered with the beer logo emblazoned across the chest.

At the start of the 2011/12 season Babis Mamas was announced as Head Coach of Polonia Volleyball Club; a Cypriot with high level experience of coaching men’s volleyball. Once again, new players were attracted with a good pedigree and the highlight of the season was another visit to Kettering National Volleyball Centre for the final of the National Cup; this time Leeds Carnegie proved too good and Polonia were the runners up in the competition. Shortly after the competition, Mamas announced that his professional work career was changing and he would not be able to head the team in the coming season. The same result in the finals of the Super 8 competition saw Polonia VC with two silver medals.

The committee turned to Krzys Hykiel once again to take the job of running the team and at the start of the 2012/2013 season new faces bolstered the squad as usual. There were some enormous victories during the season with “the double” over old foes Malory Volleyball club in the league. The highlight of the season was the progression to the Super 8 finals once again at Kettering. It was in preparation for the weekend that TV Polonia heard about the successes of the team and a camera crew with Bartek Luszcz walked into the training venue in Ealing. Interviews were done, film was recorded and 48 hours later Polonia VC, along with the film crew reconvened at Kettering to play Team Northumbria: the hot favourites and undefeated during the regular season over a two match series. Team Northumbria won the first match convincingly on the Saturday. Not to be outdone, the game plan was adjusted and on Sunday Polonia won the second match to take the event into the first ever Golden set to be played in Great Britain. As in all good fairy stories, a happy ending ensued and Polonia won the Golden set and the title of “Super 8 Champions”. The event was beamed around the world, thanks to TV Polonia and the new chapter in the life of Polonia VC began.

The other huge development was the signing of a lucrative contract with CBL, a Polish accounting company based close to Polonia’s home venue in West London. The name change was incorporated within the year’s contract between CBL abd Polonia VC.

During a “bonding” trip with Bartek Luszcz and Krzys Hykiel, many new ideas were discussed: amongst them an idea to visit the top team in Poland PGE SKRA Belchatow to learn how they operate. The plan was agreed between the two clubs and the visit took place. One player Bartek Kisielewicz was asked to take part in two PGE SKRA Belchatow training sessions and was then offered a short spell at the club due to the absence of their main setter at the World Championships.

In addition, a match between PGE SKRA Belchatow and CBL Polonia was arranged between the clubs. The match was played in front of several thousand fervent fans and aired on Polish TV. The match was epic, with players such as Mariusz Wlazly, Stefan Antiga, Karol Klos, Nicolas Uriarte, Daniel Plinski, Facundo Conte under the newly appointed coach Miguel Falasca. The outcome of the game was a 3-1 victory for the team from Poland, but coach Hykiel said “it was the best loss of my career”. In the same year the official “Polonia fanclub” was formed, and the numbers of the faithful grew to several hundred. These numbers were regularly seen at home matches and soon the team outgrew the home venue of St Benedicts School. An old, but functional sports centre: The Fountain Brentford was able to accommodate up to 800 spectators and this soon became the regular home match venue and quite a fortress!

During the season 2013/2014, the squad retained stability, but the results didn’t materialize. It was decided to make some changes and look for new direction so ex-player Patrik Selep was given the mantle of coaching the team. With Hykiel in support, the team continued until the end of the season, but there were no titles to be won. This was despite the addition of two young potentially excellent players from PGE SKRA Belchatow who joined Polonia on loan from January until April 2014.

2014/2015 saw the return of the Greek magician Vangelis Koutouleas and once again, he became a player magnet and the squad looked to be strong. The Super 8 league was dominated by two northern powerhouses in the shape of Sheffield and Team Northumbria who between them made both finals. The portfolio of sponsors increases with IBB warehouse signing another year of contract. Polish Tourism and Maja shops were logos that were also seen on the Polonia shirts. IBB took over as head sponsors and the club name changed once again to IBB Polonia London.

Pre-season training began in earnest with the news that IBB Polonia London with the assistance of Volleyball England were hosting the first edition of the London Legacy Volleyball Cup: on the invited list were two mighty teams from Europe: PGE SKRA Belchatow and VFB Volleyball Friedrishshafen who had won the Super 8 title. In the end the German team won the event with SKRA in second place; it was interesting to see the presentation of a beautiful bronze Spitfire to the winning captain!

2015/2016 witnessed another resurgence with Koutouleas remaining in charge with Patrik Selep assisting him. An ex junior World Champion Luciano oro joined the team along with another player marius Ciortea who had Champions’ League experience in Romania. With the new name and portfolio of sponsors, the publicity took off and social media became the avenue that most people learned about the club. Invitations to Poland and to VIP functions followed and IBB Polonia became a club that everybody wanted to join and play for. This year was historic in terms of IBB Polonia London becoming a Limited company in its own rights with Bartek Luszcz elected as chairman; Grzegorz Niski as Deputy Chairman and Krzys Hykiel voted in as Director of Sport. The club now had the status that would attract bigger sponsors and IBB pledged their support for another five years as they could see the potential of the Club and the direction that it was heading. Results went very well during the season and the Super 8 title and Cup went the way of IBB Polonia London…the double had been achieved. Koutouleas soon after, announced his departure to Cyprus as Head Coach of the national beach volleyball program and a replacement was sought.

The pre-season was looming and in the summer of 2016 a number of CVs were sifted through and in the end the job was given to Piotr Graban; a Polish coach who had just won the domestic title in Poland with his ladies team as Assistant Coach.

Not one to rest on their laurels, the Directors decided the next stage in the development of IBB Polonia London would be to enter a European Competition. The CEV Challenge Cup was chosen and the various entry fees and financial bonds were paid. The sponsors were very excited to be part of the journey. The first round was a “bye” and before long a team from Hungary had won their place against IBB Polonia London. The first leg against Kaposvar in Hungary was lost 3-0 following a horrendous journey. The return leg was played in Poland at the home venue of PGE SKRA Belchatow in front of several hundred fans and on live TV. The Hungarians had an equally long journey, and perhaps took this for granted, but were soon beaten 3-1! So the Golden set specialists had to perform once again, but at a much higher level and managed to pull out the victory. The details have been lost, but celebrations were had and toasts made during the evening.

The next round was against one of the top Dutch teams Dynamo Draisma: once again an exhausting journey after work didn’t help and IBB Polonia London lost 3-0.

Once again IBB Polonia London had made history by winning a match in a European tournament. The home leg was organized at the spiritual home of English Volleyball: Crystal Palace. 1200 tickets sold very quickly and in a hotly contested match, IBB Polonia Londonwon 3-2! The fans were delirious, as were the players and staff of IBB Polonia London. The victory was spectacular, but the 3-2 result was not sufficient to take the home team through. Draisma went on to play a mighty team from Turkey and were demolished: so perhaps the best result had been the 3-2 victory.

The domestic league went well and as usual Bartek Luszcz returned from a volleyball trip in Poland to inform the Directors that Krzysztof Ignaczak would join IBB Polonia London for the final phase of the season. Having recently retired from volleyball as a reigning World Champion, “Igła”, wanted to play abroad and loved the passion that he knew existed at IBB Polonia London. Igła was met, with his family, at the airport and chauffeured to his apartment overlooking the Thames a short stroll from the training venue. The first two competitive matches that he played since retirement as libero for the Polish National Team were a semi-final double header against Wessex. He helped IBB Polonia London sweep the visitors aside 3-0 and 3-1 to win a place in the Super 8 finals against Sheffield in May 2017.