In a thrilling and decisive match at the Olympic qualification tournament, the Polish women’s volleyball team secured their spot at the upcoming 2024 Olympics in Paris by defeating Italy 3-1 (15:25, 26:24, 25:23, 25:21). This victory marks their return to the Olympic stage after a 16-year hiatus.
The journey to Olympic qualification was long and grueling, with everything hinging on the final match. The equation was simple: the winner takes it all. This scenario unfolded after the United States triumphed over Germany, setting the stage for a do-or-die showdown between Poland and Italy.
The Polish team started the match a bit nervously, evident in their poor performance during the first set. They lost seven consecutive points, allowing Italy to lead 14-7. Poland’s attacks were lackluster compared to the strong blocking displayed by their opponents, resulting in a disheartening 25-15 victory for the Italians.
However, as the second set began, the host team’s game started to mesh together. Magdalena Stysiak, especially effective at the start of the set, showcased her skills. Poland’s blocking also finally clicked into place. While Italy held the lead for most of the set, the battle for victory continued until the very end.
The win was sealed by a member of the coaching staff, Stefano Lavarini, who called for a challenge in the last action of the set. He noticed that one of the Italian players touched the net. The referee agreed, and the set concluded with a score of 26-24 in favor of Poland.
Unfortunately, after the break, the Polish team fell back into the same mistakes from the first set. Italy quickly took a five-point lead (11-6) due to Poland’s poor reception. However, the red-and-white team managed to get back into the game, thanks in large part to Agnieszka Korneluk’s absence in the Italian attack.
The script repeated itself. Lavarini’s players had to chase their opponents and caught up with them towards the end. The set ended in a beautiful action where Italy defended twice after Polish blocks but couldn’t save themselves from a powerful attack by Martyna Czyrniańska. The 25-23 victory secured the home team’s spot at the gates of Paris.
Unlike the previous ones, Poland gained momentum in the fourth set, taking the lead from the beginning. This apparent control, previously held by Italy, suited the white-and-red team perfectly. Their attack, serve, and reception improved, especially under the leadership of Stysiak, with the other players contributing as well.
A pivotal moment occurred at 17-16 in favor of Poland. Until then, the competition had been neck-and-neck, but the Polish team managed to score three consecutive points and didn’t squander their advantage. The fourth set concluded with a 25-21 victory, sparking true euphoria in the Atlas Arena.
With this remarkable victory, Poland became the seventh nation guaranteed a spot in the 2024 Olympics. Joining them will be Turkey, Serbia, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, the United States, and France, the hosts of the event. The last time the white-and-red team participated in the Olympic tournament was in Beijing in 2008.