World League 2005 News
 
The who's who of Poland

May 25, 2005 - Poland, who finished seventh in last year’s World League, are preparing to host Argentina in the Pool C on the opening weekend of the 2005 World League starting on Friday night. With a new captain - Piotr Gruszka replacing Pawel Zagumny – a new coach with Raul Lozano and having just come off a 3-2 win in their final warm-up match before the World League against Slovakia, the world number seven is heading into a new era.
Pic: Poland finished fifth at the 2004 Olympic Games
Below are biographies of the Polish squad

1. Michal BAKIEWICZ
Although the 24 year-old wing spiker from the second best Volleyball team in Poland (PZU AZS Olsztyn) has been included in the squad, he is unlikely to play, having caught vein's thrombus at the end of the Polish Volleyball season where the 47-capped representative lost the perception in the fingers and he must undergo long therapy. However, coach Raul Lozano still hopes to use Bakiewicz during the final stages of the competition. Bakiewicz, who is a favourite with female spectators in particular, is famous for being temperamental with his impulsive reactions after each point won giving plenty for the Polish fans to cheer about.

2. Piotr GACEK
Having moved from AZS Nysa to Pamapol AZS Czestochowa (3rd place in Polish Volleyball League 2004/2005) last year Gacek never thought that in a few months he would receive a call-up to the Polish national team. Lozano noticed his good performances in the Polish Volleyball League and decided to give the 26-year-old libero a chance on the international stage. Only 185cm tall, Gacek started his career in the Polish second league as a receiver. Playing as a libero in Pamapol, he was in superb form nearly reaching the same level as regular national libero Krzysztof Ignaczak. As well as Jurkiewicz, Plinski and Woicki he made his debut in the national team on May 21, 2005 during the last warm-up match before the World League (Poland defeated Slovakia 3-2).

3. Arkadiusz GOLAS
At only 24, Golas has become the best Polish middle blocker following the withdrawal of Damian Dacewicz, who is sick, and Robert Szczerbaniuk, who decided to take a break from the international Volleyball. Golas, who made his WL debut in 2001, has already risen to some dizzy heights this season having joined the Italian Volleyball League for the first time with Edilbasso&Partners Padwa. The highest jumping Polish player (365 cm reach in attack) and Athens Olympian with 57 international caps is due to marry his fiancée Agnieszka in July.
Pic: Arkadiusz Golas
 
4. Piotr GRUSZKA
Having participated in 181 official matches for the Polish national team it is hard to imagine a Polish first team line up without the Polish Volleyball League MVP 2004/05. Two weeks ago coach Lozano named Gruszka as the new Polish captain replacing Pawel Zagumny. “Grucha” is one of the most universal players as a receiver, having played attacker during the Athens Olympics. After four years of playing in France and Italy, the Junior European Champion and Best Scorer from European Championships in 2003 came back to Poland this season and gained the first double crown – Polish Championship and Polish Cup.

5. Wojciech GRZYB
Despite receiving a call-up to the national team in 2003, Grzyb has only represented Poland in 32 friendly matches and is still longing for a “big tournament” start. This year however, the 23-year-old middle blocker has a great opportunity to make his WL debut with the first team lineup missing three “full-time” middle blockers – Damian Dacewicz, Robert Szczerbaniuk and Marcin Nowak.

6. Krzysztof IGNACZAK
With 93 internationals under his belt Ignaczak has become irreplaceable as libero in the national side. At the beginning of his career the Athens Olympian used to play as a receiver/wing spiker, but considering his short height (188) he had to abandon his career as a front-line player. An outstanding digger, Ignaczak is less confident in reception. Next to Gruszka, Murek, Swiderski, Szymanski and Zagumny, he is a member of the “gold squad”, which won gold at the Junior World and European Championships in 1997. 27-year old Ignaczak is the most cheerful member of the Polish team and sparkling with wit and always joking, he always has a voice on the field and beyond it, the same role he plays in the team of Skra Belchatow – the new Polish champion.
Pic: Ignaczak in celebration mode

7. Wojciech JURKIEWICZ
Jurkiewicz, 28, first played Volleyball at the age of 20. Having received his first call-up to the Polish squad during the 2003 WL, he made his debut for the national team in Poland’s 3-2 defeat of Slovakia on May 21st this year.
The career of Jurkiewicz hasn’t been a bed of roses. His Polish club – Morze Szczecin – was demoted to Division II and the players were forced to look for new clubs. After moving to Pamapol AZS Czestochowa he received an Achilles tendon injury but on his return last season, he was noticed by Lozano and received the call-up.

8. Lukasz KADZIEWICZ
Together with Arkadiusz Golas and Michal Bakiewicz, Kadziewicz made his debut for Poland in 2001. Even though he didn’t create any great sensation, he turned out to be a very valuable alternate. During the Olympic Games in Athens he replaced Dacewicz. The 24-year old middle blocker started his career in PZU AZS Olsztyn and although this season he played for Russian team Gazprom Surgut he is currently looking for new club. He has represented Poland 38 times.

9. Dawid MUREK
From a composed and reserved person off the court, Murek changes into a real fighter during matches. He is the kind of person who can lead the rest of the team by his own example to fight or even seal the fate of each game.
Next to Piotr Gruszka, he is the only player who has represented Poland in all seven editions of the WL (1998-2004) and he has missed only one match - in the first season.
The 27-year old wing receiver has represented Poland 164 times and just like Gruszka, Ignaczak, Swiderski, Szymanski and Zagumny, he was a member of the “gold squad” from the Junior World Championships in Bahrajn 1977. Having suffered an abdomen injury at the end of the Greek season playing for Panathinaikos, Murek will miss the first 2-4 matches of the WL.

10. Pawel PAPKE
After representing Poland in 87 official matches, the leading Polish spiker has recently suffered a spate of bad luck. Last year as a result of overstraining his knee, instead of going to the Olympic Games in Athens, Papke had to undergo surgery. After a long rehabilitation he started playing again at the end of the league season, once again proving that he is a talent of the highest order. Unfortunately just before the final series Papke suffered a slight Achilles tendon injury. Without their best player, PZU AZS Olsztyn gave the title of Polish Champion without any fight to Skra Belchatow. In April, Papke, 28, underwent more surgery which has ruled him out of the WL.

11. Daniel PLINSKI
The 26-year old middle blocker is, apart from Gacek and Jurkiewicz, the oldest debutante in the Polish national team having made his debut on May 21st this year in the win over Slovakia 3-2. Plinski has played for three Polish clubs, the most recent being Jastrzebski Wegiel (Polish Champion in season 2003/04) and was the best blocker during this year’s Polish season with a ratio of 0,83 blocks per set. Having pondered switching to Beach Volleyball he jokes: “Together with Zbigniew Zukowski we planed to take part in Swatch-FIVB World Tour tournaments. After receiving a call-up to our national team I must have changed our plans, but I can’t say I regret this”.

12. Andrzej STELMACH
Stelmach is the oldest (32 years) and the most experienced player (185 official matches) in the Poland team and is one of three members (together with Gruszka and Zagumny) of the Polish 2005 WL squad who have participated in the Olympic Games twice - in Athens 2004 and Atlanta 1996. The leader of that Polish team from nine years ago was Andrzej’s eldest brother Krzysztof, who still plays in Italy, where Andrzej used to play before returning to Poland in 2000. Having missed out on the 2002 World Championships in Argentina, because Polish coach Waldemar Wspanialy decided to chose Pawel Zagumny and Grzegorz Wagner instead, Stelmach was the first setter in Athens. Currently it is hard to see which of these players – Zagumny and Stelmach – will be the first setter in the WL 2005.

13. Sebastian SWIDERSKI
Having arrived for the last training session before the World League, after competing in Italy, Swiderski will not play during the first matches of tournament as doctors have advised him to take a break due to overstrained knees. After a impressive season In Italy, clubs from Italy, Russia and even Japan are rushing for the 27-year old’s signature. A member of the Junior Gold Squad from Bahrain 1997 Swiderski has represented the Poland senior team 134 times. Despite not being impressively tall, the as “Little Knight” is incredibly vivacious and always fights till his last breath.
Pic: Swiderski on attack against Greece

14. Grzegorz SZYMANSKI
After a four year absence Szymanski returns to the Polish national team. Member of the “Gold squad” from Junior World Championships in Bahrajn 1997, Szymanski made his debut in the seniorside in 1998 and since then has represented Poland 26 times. He was noticed by Lozano playing for Pamapol AZS Czestochowa this season in the Polish Volleyball League, where they were leading for almost the whole of the regular season. In Papke’s absence Szymanski has a great opportunity to play in the WL, but the role of first attacker will be probably reserved for Wlazly. One week before the beginning of the WL 2005 by signing a new contract with Jastrzebski Wegiel, Szymanski became one of the central figures in the Polish transfer window.

15. Michal WINIARSKI
Although all the top Volleyball clubs in Poland competed for his signature after his last contract with Pamapol AZS Czestochowa expired, the 21-year wing spiker signed for an enormous €100,000 per year with Polish champions Skra Belchatow recently. “Even though both Jastrzebski Wegiel and PZU AZS Olsztyn offered me more money, I decided to chose Skra, because I want to prove myself in the Champions League,” Winiarski said. Claimed to be the biggest talent in Polish Volleyball, “Winiar” has already represented Poland 11 times. But after the injuries to Murek and Bakiewicz, Poland’s youngest representative hopes this year will be a turning-point in his career.

16. Mariusz WLAZLY
Enormously vivacious, the 21-year old is the second youngest player in the national team (only Winiarski is a month and a half younger). Wlazly spikes the ball on high which is out of reach for other players – 362 cm. His incredible serve helped he win the ranking of the Best Server in the Polish League last year (with an average of 2 aces per match). However he still has to work on his block and digging. Not very experienced (only 10 matches in the national team) Wlazly is claimed to be the brightest hope in Polish Volleyball, especially concerning Polish medal aspirations at the 2008 Olympic Games. In Papke’s absence, the Junior World Champion from Iran 2003 will be the leading attacker for Poland in the World League.

17. Paweł WOICKI
Along with Winiarski and Wlazly, Wiocki is the third 21-year-old in Lozano’s team and after the experienced Stelmach and Zagumny, Woicki is also the third setter. The player of Pamapol AZS Czestochowa knows his place though and is glad to have the possibility of training with the national team. As he modestly claims, there are better setters in Poland. In the national team he distinguish himself with his height. Being only 182 cm tall, he is totally exceptional. “I know I am short, but centimetres are not all that matter” Woicki says. His greatest trump card is fast, unconventional setting. Together with Gacek, Jurkiewicz and Plinski, Woicki made his debut in the national team as Stelmach’s alternate during the last warm-up match before the WL on May 21 against Slovakia.

18. Paweł ZAGUMNY
One of the most experienced players in the Polish team (152 official matches), the first setter, and until recenty also the captain of the national side, Zagumny still remains a strong link in the team. Considering his tendency to speak out, Zagumny induces plenty of reaction among Polish fans. As a junior player, Zagumny won European and World Championship gold medals and was also the youngest representative in the Polish senior side during the Olympic Games in Atlanta 1996. Unfortunately, during the most recent big Volleyball events, he has had to watch from the stands. Playing in Argentina during the 2002 World Championships he got injured and was forced to return to Poland. In 2004 his spine was to be heard once again and “Guma” could only play the role of an alternate of Andrzej Stelmach. Now, ahead, of the WL, Lozano is concerned weather Zagumny’s frail construction will be able to bear the long and tiring training sessions.
Pic: Pawel Zagumny sets
 
 
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