Grupa Azoty ZAKSA Kędzierzyn-Koźle wrote the new chapter, a historic one, of their volleyball history.
Polish volleyball fans have waited for such a success for 43 years: after an emotional clash, ZAKSA defeated Italy’s Itas Trentino by a 3-1 (25:22, 25:22, 20:25, 28:26) in the 2021 CEV Champions League Super Finals in Verona.
It was the most important match of any Polish club volleyball for decades. Prior to ZAKSA, only Płomień Milowice triumphed in the competition (when it was called CEV European Champions Cup) and they did it back in 1978!
On the way to the finals, Nikola Grbić’s players defeated two legendary Champions League clubs: Italy’s Cucine Lube Civitanova and Russia’s Zenit Kazan, and now, also Trentino in the gold medal match. These 3 sides have as many as 11 titles combined in the CL, which in the best way portrays how big of a success Poles made tonight.
By signing in their name in the all-time list of competition winners for the first time, ZAKSA became the 24th team to win the Champions League, and the first one from their country to do it in the new format that was introduced 21 years ago!
About the match itself, ZAKSA struggled on serve at the beginning of the match with 4 errors losing 4-7, but managed to recover quickly to draw level at 10-10. The middle part of the first set was a very balanced battle, with the lead going back and forth. However, after 21-21, the Polish side took control to win the opener set 25:22 with a powerful hit by Lukasz Kaczmarek.
Trentino started the second set on a 3-0 run, but their rivals quickly got back to level at 5-5. Kamil Semeniuk (7 points only in second partial!) went to the serving line and followed up with two aces in a row, while Aleksander Sliwka (5/5 in attack) added the next two at the net and the score was suddenly 17-13 ZAKSA’s way.
The second set ended with the same score.
With two consecutive hits by Nimir Abdel-Aziz, followed by two aces in a row by Ricardo Lucarelli (6 points, only one less than Abdel-Aziz, including a spike that closed the partial), Trentino took yet another early lead, 4-0 in the third set. And once again, the Polish team fought back to level the score at 9-9. But the set ended at 21-25, and keep Trentino in the game.
A fourth sets on fire (with Trentino who managed to deny three matchpoints) closed by an ace from Lukasz Kaczmarek (28-26) gives the CEV Champions League title to ZAKSA.
Previously, the club from Kedzierzyn-Kozle have been on the podium only once, with bronze in 2003.
Nimir Abdel Aziz topped the scorers’ chart with 21 points, while the best scorer of Zaksa was Aleksander Sliwka with 18 points and Lukasz Kaczmarek and Kamil Semeniuk added another 15 each.
Interestingly, both ZAKSA and Trentino have already lost competitive rhythm: the players of the Kędzierzyn-Koźle club played their last game on April 18, while the Italians played their last match even earlier than that – on April 7.
Aleksander Śliwka, MVP, outside hitter of Grupa Azoty Zaksa Kędzierzyn Koźle: “We bring the continental trophy to Poland for the first time since 1978, a really long time. It’s amazing! I am in a shock and it’s hard to say anything. We had our ups and downs, but we gave our best. We lost the championship final in Poland, which was tough for us, but we came here knowing that there is only one game and we have to give 100%. It was a tough journey, but we had confidence and it made us better players. We are surely going to celebrate tonight.”
After winning so many titles as one of the best-ever setters of the world volleyball, Nikola Grbić entered the history of this sport in his country as the first Serbian coach to become the club champion of Europe.
“I’m proud of these guys! Once more, they were the best that they could be when their best was needed. And that happened so many times this season, against many different difficult opponents. We eliminated three of the world’s top teams. We believed until the end we really deserve to be the champions of Europe,” he said, after the match for the gold medal against Itas Trentino.
| CEV Champions League Volley 2021 – Men – Super Finals
• Grupa Azoty KĘDZIERZYN KOŹLE – TRENTINO Itas 3-1 (25:22, 25:22, 20:25, 28:26)
Grupa Azoty Kedzierzyn Kozle: Zatorski (L), Kaczmarek 15, Kochanowski 7, Toniutti 0, Kluth 0, Sliwka 18, Semeniuk 15, Smith 9. N.E. Rejno, Lukasik, Staszewski, Depowski, Prokopczuk, Banach. Coach. Grbic.
Trentino Itas: Argenta 0, Michieletto 5, Sperotto 0, Rossini (L), Santos De Souza 13, Giannelli 2, Kooy 6, Pol (L), Abdel-Aziz 21, Sosa Sierra 0, Podrascanin 9, Lisinac 11, De Angelis 0 . N.E. Cortesia. Coach. Lorenzetti.
Source and photos: CEV