Day 2 Polonia vs. Fortuna Odense: 1-3 (25-23, 22-25, 14-25, 26-28)
Today’s game saw Polonia take on Fortuna Odense. Coach Mark Kontopoulos had done his homework on the opposition and this paid dividends, with Polonia serving strategically on weaker passers and making good use of attacks down the line, especially from Cinzia Pezzolesi and Gabi Medricka. Maria Kikira caused Fortuna a lot of problems with her hits from zone 4 going deep into the opposition’s back court. All around pressure from Polonia forced Fortuna to make more risky plays and the teams traded points, with Anna Wachula excellent in defence and passing consistently to setter Ildiko (“Dobi”) Dobos who was distributing the ball effectively and making use of gaps in the opposition’s block and defence. Fortuna then stepped up on their serve with setter Brigitte Slack and middle blocker Mirela Doljancic putting together a run of points, taking Fortuna ahead at 8-12.
Coach Kontopoulos called a timeout at 8-12 and Polonia started to respond positively to the situation by speeding up their attack through zone 4 and the middle and Ivana Placko finding form and attacking and blocking strongly. The tide then turned in Polonia’s favour and the team took the set 25-23.
Set 2 started well for Polonia, who raced ahead with a 5-1 lead. Cinzia Pezzolesi was again effective attacking through zone 2 with wipes off the block, hits down the line and effective tips that unsettled the Fortuna defence. Fortuna slowly closed the gap and got to 14-14 before they strengthened their serve and unsettled Polonia’s attacking game. Several errors accumulated and the team missed opportunities to capitalise on all-important free balls on the rare occasions when Fortuna’s play got sloppy.
Laura Plonka was then substituted for Cinzia Pezzolesi and she contributed positively to the game enabling Polonia to get back in the game and control the pace of play. The tide had turned and the set seemed to be going in Polonia’s favour, but the team lost its focus on reception at the end of the set and Fortuna took the set 22-25.
The 3rd set saw Fortuna start the set dynamically but Polonia stayed in the game and competed point for point up to 6-7. Once again however, inconsistencies crept into Polonia’s game and the team was unable to execute the game plan as a combination of miscommunication and hesitant play took their toll. Three service errors in a row by Polonia gave Fortuna the momentum as they took the lead at 12-14. Coach Kontopoulos called a time out at 12-17 to try and settle nerves and calm heads. Dobi Dobos continued to make a passionate contribution on court, but defensive discipline was slipping and Fortuna were in their stride as they stormed to a 21-12 lead. Despite some strategic substitutions by Coach Kontopoulos, Fortuna prevailed and took the set 14-25.
The 4th set started competitively for both teams. Serving errors were quickly counteracted by some excellent rallies to keep Polonia in the game at 3-5. Anna Wachula then served well to take the score to 6-6. After a tenuous start, Maria Kikira hit an excellent pipe attack and, in combination with good defensive play from Anna Wachula, the set turned in Polonia’s favour at 16-13. Fortuna then slowly closed the gap to level the score at 18-18. Yet again, Polonia came back dynamically with good play from Gabi Medricka, Ivana Placko and Maria Kikira forcing an opposition time out at 23-19. At 24-21 to Polonia, the match seemed to be heading into a 5th set, but a combination of tiredness, nerves and anticipation of winning the game allowed Fortuna a window of opportunity and Polonia was unable to finish off the set despite some very spirited play and excellent support from the bench and spectators. Fortuna thus completed a very exciting end to the game and finished as winners at 26-28.