BIENIEK LEADS POLAND TO WIN OVER AUSTRALIA AND PLACE IN FINALS
Melbourne, Australia, June 24, 2018 – An inspired performance by Mateusz Bieniek saw Poland book the last available spot into the finals of the men’s FIVB Volleyball Nations League after a nerve-wracking 3-0 (25-16, 26-24, 25-23) win over Australia on Sunday.
Leaving nothing to chance, Bieniek unleashed his full power and precision on the Aussies to finish with a team-best 11 points, featuring nine spikes as well as an ace and a block.
The big-serving Lukasz Kaczmarek was also highly instrumental in Poland’s victory, finishing with 10 points, while Jakub Kochanowski chipped in with eight points at Melbourne’s Hisense Arena.
Paul Carroll was a constant threat at the net for the Pool 17 hosts, and ended with a game-high 15 points, including 14 kills from 35 swings, as the Australians completed the round-robin phase with a 5-10 record.
Trent O’dea had two blocks in his eight-point contribution while Paul Sanderson chalked up seven after being introduced in the second set.
Having failed to secure their spot in the playoffs after losing to Olympic champions Brazil on Saturday, the odds were still good for Poland to make the finals, needing to either beat Australia or rely on Italy losing to the United States in Modena.
Determined to remain in control of their own destiny, the reigning world champions made sure of their place by beating the Australians with a strong all-round performance, although there were plenty of moments that tested their nerves.
“We are so happy that we achieved our goal, which was to qualify for the final six in Lille,” said Bartosz Kurek,who finished with four points for Poland.
Kaczmarek made his intentions clear in the first set, hitting a thunderous 106 km/h ace to give the visitors a commanding 19-12 lead then making the decisive kill to clinch the set.
The Australians had a set point in the second but were unable to capitalize as the Eastern Europeans reeled off the last three points in a row to grab a vital 2-0 lead
The Australians rallied from behind to draw level at 23-23 in the third set but again were unable to prevent Poland from winning the vital points when it mattered as the world champions secured the win to finish the tournament with a 10-5 record and a spot in what promises to be a thrilling final series.
Poland coach Vital Heynen: “We played an OK match, but not super. We had to adapt to Australia’s change in players. Australia did a good job by really pushing us in the second set. My guys were playing for qualification today, so there was some stress in the team. It’s OK because it’s match 15 in four weeks. I’m just glad it’s over and we will now go to the finals.”
Australia coach Mark Lebedew: “The result was disappointing but the performance was pretty good. It was our best of the weekend and that was important. It shows how much we still have to do before the World Championship, but I’m pleased we played somewhere close to our best at home in front of our fans.
“It’s great to be here. The guys were pumped up to come to Melbourne. Maybe they were a bit too pumped up in the end. It was too great to be here and I hope the volleyball fans really enjoyed the weekend. We hope we can do it again soon.
“There are lots of things to look forward with the team. They’re a great group of guys. It’s important to them how they represent the country, family and friends. They’ve done a great job over the course of five weeks, but we haven’t gotten to where we want to go. We still have more left in us.”
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