Path to the Super Finals: Jastrzębski dominate and seal their chance for a maiden European trophy


Article Tue, Apr 23 2024
Author: Adrian Costeiu

Poland have won the last three editions of the CEV Champions League Men, as Grupa Azoty Kędzierzyn-Koźle dominated the competition and secured a historic three-peat. This time around, the reigning champions were eliminated early, in the play-offs, with a new winner being crowned in the Super Finals, on 5 May, in Antalya.

Still, Poland’s streak can continue this season, with Jastrzębski Węgiel, last season’s runners-up, still in the hunt for their maiden title in the European premium competition, as they are due to face Trentino Itas. The Polish side has lost both European finals they played so far, the CEV Champions League Men last season and the CEV Challenge Cup Men in the 2008/09 season, but now they hope to turn the tide.

Yet how did Węgiel reach back-to-back Super Finals, in a stacked CEV Champions League Men, with plenty of talent on display from all sides?

Only one side, Ziraat Bank Ankara, which Jastrzębski Węgiel eliminated in the semi-finals, had a six-match winning streak in the 4th round, while the Polish side conceded a single loss, but still managed to win Pool D, with five wins, two more than any of the other three rivals.

Jastrzębski secured wins in the first four matches and dropped only two sets, one each against SVG Lüneburg and Jihostroj České Budějovice, while their opponents shared wins, creating a big path for the Polish side to clinch the first place in the pool and subsequently a quarter-finals spot.

Their bid for a return to the Super Finals has been somewhat derailed by a surprising loss, 1:3, against Guaguas Las Palmas, arguably their worst match of the season, where their top players, Tomasz Fornal and Jean Patry combined for only 14 points, but a clear 3:0 win against SVG Lüneburg in the last match, 25:17, 25:16 and 25:19, proved that the Polish side was back in form.

The hardest task came in the quarter-finals, when the runners-up of the last season faced a true powerhouse in Gas Sales Dalko Piacenza, the reigning Italian champions and a side which was looking for their first piece of European silverware.

The first leg proved to be one of the most exciting matches of the season in the CEV Champions League Men, where Jastrzębski Węgiel took a 25:19 win in the first set, only to concede the next two sets and the fifth one, with Piacenza coming out on top, after Ricardo Santos de Souza scored 24 points and help his side take a 3:2 win.

With no room for mistake, Jastrzębski Węgiel bounced back in the second leg, as Patry and Fornal each scored 15 points, with the only set in question being the second one, after the Polish side clinched the first set, 25:22. While Piacenza led 16:14 and 21:19, Jastrzębski bounced back and took a 26:24 win, tripling down in the third, 25:21, to secure a semi-finals spot.

There was no question about the winner of the first leg against Ziraat Bank Ankara, when Jastrzębski Węgiel took a 3:0 win (25:13, 25:18 and 30:28), as the Polish side made it to the finish line after taking the first two sets in the away leg, 34:32 and 27:25, with four players scoring at least 10 points on their way to a 15:7 win in the fifth set.

With eight wins and two losses this season, and only eight sets dropped, Jastrzębski Węgiel were not flawless, but clinched their Super Finals spot in style, dominating strong opponents. Now, only one match separates them from their maiden European trophy, with a huge motivation in Antalya for Marcelo Méndez’s side.