Malwina Smarzek and her teammates during her most recent appearance with the national team in a January 2020 Olympic qualifier

Malwina Smarzek and her teammates during her most recent appearance with the national team in a January 2020 Olympic qualifier

The name Malwina Smarzek stands out on the list of 30 players coach Stefano Lavarini announced for the Polish women’s national team’s 2024 roster. The 27-year-old scoring machine is back on the squad that will start preparing for the upcoming Volleyball Nations League and Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

The opposite, who was by far the best scorer of both VNL 2018 and VNL 2019, was not selected for the team during the past two seasons, but her name is now back on Lavarini’s long list.

Smarzek is not the only star player, who returns to the Polish national team after an absence of at least one season. Setter Marlena Kowalewska, the best server of VNL 2018, and outside hitter Natalia Medrzyk are back after last playing for Poland in 2020. Lavarini’s list also features the likes of middle blocker Klaudia Alagierska and outside Zuzanna Gorecka from the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship squad, who have not been on the team since then.

Poland’s full line-up of 14 players, who earned the team’s right to participate at this year’s Olympic Games during last year’s FIVB Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifier at home in Lodz, are on the roster again, which means Lavarini can rely on the services of all his star players, including the likes of setter Joanna Wolosz, middle Agnieszka Korneluk or opposite Magdalena Stysiak.

“The ability to select 30 names allows us to use players who have been part of the national team for years, as well as those we want to test,” Lavarini said. “We have the opportunity to consider some players as future prospects. I think that the group I will work with during the training camps will consist of about 20 athletes. Some will start preparations from the beginning, while others will join after fulfilling their club obligations. Only then will we decide who will take part in this year's VNL. Everyone will have a role. All announced players deserved a place in the team thanks to their league performances and character.”

Poland, who claimed a historic bronze in VNL 2023, will start VNL 2024 on May 14 with a game against Italy in Antalya. They will also meet France, the Netherlands and Japan during the first competition week in Türkiye. They will travel to Arlington for the second competition week, where they will face reigning world champions Serbia, Korea, Germany and the hosts of the tournament, reigning Olympic champions USA. For the last week of the Preliminary Phase, Poland will be in Hong Kong for games against Brazil, Dominican Republic, Thailand and hosts China, hoping to qualify for the VNL Finals in Bangkok. The Olympic Games in Paris is set to take place from July 26 to August 11.

“The VNL is the only big tournament before the Games. The only possible way to achieve our goals is the desire to win in every match, and this should be our goal every time we step onto the court,” commented the Italian coach further. “There is still a lot of work ahead of us before we decide who will be in the squad for the Olympic Games. Of course, over the last two seasons, some players have already shown what they can bring to the team and thus gave it some shape. Therefore, it is now especially important for them to confirm their good condition during this first part of the season. I guarantee that we will work to create the best team possible. This means that not the best individual players, but the combination of players that will be able to help the team the most will go to Paris.”

Poland are currently number seven in the FIVB Volleyball World Ranking.

Poland women’s national team full roster (subject to eligibility check to be conducted by the FIVB):

Setters: Joanna Wolosz, Julia Binczycka, Julia Nowicka, Katarzyna Wenerska, Marlena Kowalewska
Opposites: Aleksandra Rasinska, Magdalena Stysiak, Malwina Smarzek, Monika Galkowska
Оutside hitters: Aleksandra Dudek, Julita Piasecka, Martyna Czyrnianska, Martyna Lukasik, Monika Fedusio, Natalia Medrzyk, Paulina Damaske, Zuzanna Gorecka, Olivia Rozanski
Middle blockers: Agnieszka Korneluk, Aleksandra Gryka, Joanna Pacak, Klaudia Alagierska, Magdalena Jurczyk, Weronika Centka, Dominika Pierzchala, Kamila Witkowska
Liberos: Aleksandra Szczyglowska, Justyna Lysiak, Maria Stenzel, Paulina Maj-Erwardt

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