IBB Polonia London, Britain’s premier volleyball club, continue their CEV Champions League adventure with the second-leg of their tie against Shakhtior Soligorsk tonight in Belchatow.
The match begins at 6pm UK time, and due to the seismic nature of the tie it will be broadcast live on BT Sport 1.
The Brentford based team qualified for Europe’s most illustrious volleyball competition by winning the National Volleyball Super League in 2020.
They are seeking to become the first UK-based club to win a match in the competition, but face an uphill task having narrowly lost the first leg of their first round match against the Belarusian champions.
IBB Polonia London started Tuesday night’s first leg strongly, comfortably winning the first set 25:17.
In the second set, Shakhtior Soligorsk fought back forcing the English side into multiple errors and going on to win the set 25:15, levelling the match.
The next set was more tightly contested, with the scores virtually even throughout.
In the end Shakhtior Soligorsk held their nerve and won the set 25-23.
Any fears that the seven-time English champions would struggle to recover quickly subsided when Polonia London roared back to win the fourth set 25:20, forcing the match into a decisive fifth set.
Shakhtior Soligorsk ultimately won the set 15:13, giving them the advantage going into the second leg.
The result means that Polonia London will have to win by two sets to guarantee their place in the second round.
Should the English club win 3-2, then the tie will be decided by a ‘golden set’.
Speaking to the club’s website, Polonia London captain Ramon Martinez Gion said: ‘’The match in Belchatow was hard and the score is upsetting.
‘‘Both teams are on the similar level and both wanted to win. We lost the game because we lost focus.
‘‘We didn’t have good reception and our opponent put the pressure on the block which caused some trouble.
‘‘Still everybody has a chance to advance to the next round, so we will do our best in the Thursday game.’’
Despite losing the first leg, London Polonia should feel very positive about their performance, as they have already won more sets in this campaign than they did in their previous two combined.
The fact that IBB Polonia London only scored one point fewer than their opponents in the first leg should also be a real cause for optimism.
Regardless of the result tonight, Polonia London are a club on the up.
Should they lose to Shakhtior Soligorsk their European journey won’t end there, as the club will drop into the CEV Cup, volleyball’s Europa League equivalent.