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Looking back: Poland and Hungary earn Group 2 and 3 honours in 2017 World Grand Prix

Group 2 winners Poland celebrate victory against Korea
Lausanne, Switzerland, January 15, 2018 - In recent years, any talk about Polish volleyball has usually been about the men’s team. The FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship title won on home soil in 2014 fuelled an already intense passion for the sport in Poland.

In 2017, however, it was the women who finally re-emerged from the shadows to win the title in Group 2 of the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix. It was their biggest success since winning the European Championships in 2003 and 2005.

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“It is a very important victory for Polish women’s volleyball,” said Polish coach Jacek Nawrocki. Poland defeated favourites Korea 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-21) to win the final in Ostrava, Czech Republic, thanks to a tremendous performance by the blockers and a great overall team effort. Poland had lost to Korea 3-0 and 3-1 in the Preliminary Round.

"I am very happy we won, because the matches against Korea are always very difficult. I think we chose the best day to go for victory,” said Berenika Tomsia with a cheeky wink.

With twelve points to her name, Tomsia was the top scorer in a well-balanced Polish team, which held outstanding Korean hitter Yeon Koung Kim at bay
(15 points).

Korea and favourites Germany, who were relegated from Group 1 the previous year, dominated the Preliminary Round with eight wins from nine matches. However, Poland moved up a gear in the Final Four, first defeating hosts the Czech Republic 3-1 in the semifinals, then giving Korea no chance in the final.

The Korean women were clearly still tired after their spectacular semifinal comeback, when they battled back from two sets down to defeat Germany in five sets. Key to this remarkable turnaround was 29 points from Yeon Koung Kim. The Korean captain was disappointed after the defeat in the final, however.

"We were a little bit tired for sure. Poland’s team is very strong. We beat them twice in the last few weeks, but the final was a very different game.” Germany took some consolation from a 3-1 victory over the Czech Republic and the bronze medals. Louisa Lippmann was instrumental in their win, with 26 points. Crowd-favourite Lippmann was the top scorer in the final round, with 50 points to her name.

“We obviously wanted to win the FIVB World Grand Prix. However. We are now looking forward to the inaugural Nations League in 2018, and want to do as well as possible there,” said Lippmann.

World Grand Prix Group 2 - Results
World Grand Prix Group 2 - Best players

In Group 3, debutants Hungary and France gave their more experienced opponents a run for their money. The two European teams both won six matches and remained undefeated in the Preliminary Round before colliding in the semifinals in Canberra, in what could have been the final.

With 29 points to her name, Hungary’s star player Greta Szakmary led the Hungarians to a hard-fought 3-2 (24-26, 25-18, 21-25, 25-15, 15-11) win over France.

“We wanted the gold and got the gold,” said Szakmary the following day. The outstanding hitter contributed 21 points to a commanding 3-0 win against hosts Australia and gifted Hungary the biggest success in the association’s history.

Hungary’s coach Alberto Salamoni said: “Szakmary is one of my top players, but I don’t want to forget all of the other players who kept this team working together. Their teamwork gave all the possibilities for our top players to be at their best in this match.”

But Szakmary definitely stood out. With a success rate of 43.02 per cent, she finished top of the list of the best spikers in Group 3. And with 129 points, she finished in second place in the statistics for the top scorers, behind Australia’s Rachel Rourke (135).

Szakmary has been rewarded for her spectacular outings in the FIVB World Grand Prix. After being crowned Hungarian champion and cup winner in 2017 with her club team Linamar Békéscsabai RSE, she moved abroad for the first time at the start of the new season, to German champions Schweriner SC. Szakmary promptly won the Supercup with her new club at the start of the season. And she has also acquired many fans off the court.

The eight teams participating in Group 3 put on a great show in the Preliminary Round. As well as the three teams that ultimately qualified for the Final Four – Hungary, France and Venezuela – Cameroon and Trinidad and Tobago were also making their debut in the most prestigious competition for the top women’s teams in the world.

Cameroon won three matches and narrowly missed out on a place in the final round, while the Caribbean team from Trinidad and Tobago triumphed against the hosts of the final round, Australia. However, it was Hungary and Greta Szakmary who emerged as the top newcomers. Edina Dobi was another standout player in Hungary’s winning team, topping the best blocker ranking in Group 3 with an average of 1.04 per set.

World Grand Prix Group 3 - Results
World Grand Prix Group 3 - Best players

Related article:
2017 Review: Brazil win record 12th World Grand Prix title


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