Montreux, Switzerland, September 05, 2018 - Opposite Malwina Smarzek hit a remarkable individual tally of 31 points to inspire Poland to a stunning 3-2 tie-break victory (20-25, 25-21, 25-22, 22-25, 12-15) against defending Montreux Masters champions Brazil, announcing their presence back amongst Volleyball’s elite on the Swiss Riviera in scintillating fashion with a notable scalp in their first match at the 33rd edition of the competition.
Whilst the Poles were looking to start their campaign strongly in this opening encounter, Brazil were fresh from an opening day win against Russia, where they were forced to come from behind to win. The South Americans started slowly once again here, Poland- as Russia did before them- causing numerous problems with their energy, intensity, height and presence. The mercurial Smarzek, buoyed by teammates Julia Twardowska (who notched 17 points throughout the tie) & Martyna Lukasik, exerted her influence to hand Jacek Nawrocki’s side a 20-25 first set win, despite Fe Garay’s six points in reply.
But as champions do, the Brazilians responded. Having deliberated with coach José Roberto Guimaraes, Brazil bolstered their defence in the second set as they sought to gain a foothold in the game. A series of reflexive blocks by Adenizia Da Silva (top blocker of the game with a total count of 6), and spikes from Fe Garay and Rosamaria Montibeller began to carve a way through the Polish defence; a deft touch over the net clinching the second set 25-21 in Brazil’s favour to restore parity overall.
With the loss of momentum and the assault from Fe Garay and Rosamaria continuing with increasing intensity, the Poles struggled to snatch a breakout advantage during the third set. Staunch defence of the Brazilian half of the court by Ana Carolina da Silva and Danielle Lins made for a weakly contested third set, despite intelligent play from Smarzek, making use of her longer reach (boasting a maximum spike height of 318cm) to plant the ball in the rear corners. Rosamaria and Drussyla Costa were at the heart of Poland’s torment as they picked their way through their defensive line, set-point claimed by Drussyla at 25-22 to turn the game in favour of Brazil at 2-1.
Poland’s sudden desperation to chase the game began to force more erratic periods of play early in the fourth set, the impressive Smarzek continuing to accumulate points with a series of strong spikes. Having been taken to a fourth set twice in two days, the Brazilians seemed to tire as the match wore on, as the Poles forced more and more errors from the South Americans, before levelling the match with a 22-25 fourth set triumph to set up a tie-break.
With the tie deadlocked and going the distance, there would only be one winner as fatigue set into the Brazilian ranks. Poland’s travelling band of fans raised the volume which visibly lifted their team over the fifth set, and despite a lengthy stoppage at 12-13 to Poland in the tie-break after referees Jacobus Nederhoed and Onur Hosnut refused Brazil coach Guimaraes permission to make a brace of substitutes prompting protests from the bench, Polish focus remained unmoved. And it was star player Smarzek who fittingly delivered the victory, hammering home match-point with a trademark spike to take the final set 12-15 and crown a hard-fought 3-2 victory.
Poland, buoyed by their remarkable win, will look to take a step closer to a semi-final spot as they face Cameroon on Thursday (06.09.18. 21:15 CET), whilst Brazil are next in action on Friday (07.09.18. 21:15 CET) against the same opposition as they look to provide the perfect riposte to take their own place in the last four of the competition.