Montreux, Switzerland, June 9, 2017- Malwina Smarzek, Agnieszka Kakolewska, and Natalia Medrzyk were the catalysts for Poland as they came back from two-sets down to shock Germany in a 3:2 (25-21, 25-20, 19-25, 12-25, 8-15) tie-break victory. Germany progress to the semi-finals despite defeat, courtesy of their one point from reaching a tie-break, whilst Poland will join them in the semi-finals if Brazil fail to beat Thailand following their monumental comeback.
The first set began in even fashion with Germany’s Louisa Lippmann as dangerous as ever, scoring the opening point. But a Malwina Smarzek reply following a thunderous rally suggested this would be a close affair. Two blocks for either side further suggesting their inseparability. Lippmann was the danger player for the Germans, her teammates constantly looking for the Number 11 to execute the spike. But Smarzek was equally threatening for Poland, as the set opened into a slender 12-10 lead for Germany. Scholzl’s block then offered the Germans more of a cushion at 16-11. Germany maintained their lead at 20-18 going into the closing stages before being able to see out the set 25-21 for a 1-0 lead.
The Poles still hadn’t seemed to learn their lesson going into the second set, Lippmann’s threat still going unchecked as Germany opened a 5-1 lead. Poland knew they’d have to fight fire with fire, and Smarzek and Natalia Medrzyk replied with spikes of their own before Patrycja Polak hauled them to within two points of their adversaries at 16-14. Yet Germany still had the edge and the defensive organisation, and they pressed home their advantage with such class with a 20-25 second set win, guaranteeing at least a point and thus sealing their place in the semi-finals.
At that point the Germans seemed to have one eye on the last-four, and seemed to take their foot off the gas as the Poles scrambled for a route back into the tie. Medrzyk and Zuzanna Efimienko starred as Poland built something of a lead for the first time at 15-16, before a crucial block from Plesnierowicz opened up a 17-23 advantage, from where Poland consolidated and took the set at 19-25 to take the game back to 2-1.
Poland smelt blood, and out they came with all the impetus to take the lead again, roaring into a 1-5 lead. Germany remained defiant but Poland increased the lead to 6-12, Smarzek again instrumental with a wonderful point to extend the lead to 7-14. Poland had found their rhythm, and dispatched their German counterparts ruthlessly as they comfortably coasted to a 12-25 set victory to tie the game and guarantee a point themselves with the match heading for tie-break at 2-2. Yet, only the two points would do if they were to feel safer in the quest to qualify for the semi-finals.
Poland now sensed victory, and after jostling with the Germans in an early 4-4 stalemate in the tie-break, they motored into an 8-15, buoyed by the brilliance of Smarzek. At match-point with the score at 8-14, Polak hit the winning point with a world-class deft touch over the net to seal the win and cap off a memorable comeback. Only the result of Brazil’s clash with Thailand will tell if it proves enough to see them through to the final four.