It was not an easy decision for Polish head coach Waldemar Wspanialy: surprisingly Pawel Papke and Rafal Musielak, players he would like to rely on, were not included in his final selection for 2003 World League. These key players have been constantly troubled by some minor injuries and the only reasonable solution was to give them a recuperation break after the Polish league’s season and ahead of the European Championship finals in Germany in September.
But even without Papke, who is currently one of the Europe’s best attackers, and very universal Musielak, the 2003 World League selection looks solid. There are only two absolute debutants: opposite attacker Radoslaw Rybak and middle blocker Wojciech Jurkiewicz. Those Morze Szczecin players have to struggle hard for their place in the lineup, which features a strong lineup from the 1997 Junior World Champions. Pawel Zagumny, Dawid Murek, Piotr Gruszka, Sebastian Swiderski, Robert Szczerbaniuk and Krzysztof Ignaczak are already the recognizable stars of Polish volleyball - just like Marcin Nowak, who at 215 cm, is again the tallest World League participant. After a year of absence, an experienced Andrzej Stelmach is back. He missed last season, but now is ready to support first-choice setter Zagumny, who may be replaced by Piotr Lipinski or Lukasz Zygadlo. The younger players like Michal Bakiewicz, Arkadiusz Golas, Pawel Siezieniewski and Lukasz Kadziewicz will try to find their way to the starting six. It is very likely that Wspanialy will give them a chance in the Intercontinental Round, in which his team faces well-known opponents – Russia, Spain and Venezuela. The Poles have already played 12 matches against Russia in the World League and although the odds are firmly in the hands of Russia with just two victories to Poland, they will be out to improve those numbers. Indeed, Spain and Venezuela seem to be much more “comfortable” rivals. The Spaniards were beaten in all four encounters in 2000; as well as in last year’s World Championships in Argentina. Venezuela surprisingly managed to prevail over Poland once in 2001 but three other matches belonged to the Poles.
Poland is ready to make another step up on the World League ladder. Two years ago, when Poland hosted one of the best ever World League finals at Katowice, the white-and-red team finished seventh. Last season the Poles improved again, climbing to fifth spot in Brazil. And although it was Poland’s best achievement in this, the FIVB’s most prestigious competition, it still failed to completely meet expectations back home. Polish fans, who themselves could claim a gold medal for loyalty and enthusiasm, are still demanding more from their team.