Lausanne, Switzerland, December 27, 2018 – When it came to deciding who would be honoured as the Most Valuable Player of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship, Bartosz Kurek was the clear choice. The 30-year-old outside hitter led his teammates to their second world title in a row and certainly deserved the highest individual award of the tournament even in a competition featuring the planet’s most outstanding volleyballers.
Kurek had some catching up to do after he missed out on his national team’s previous World Championship gold from four years earlier when the event took place at home in Poland. But he absolutely made up for it at the 2018 edition in Bulgaria and Italy. The Polish star impressed with his overall performance on the way to the title, but his brilliant scoring skill is what drew the most attention. Kurek hammered out as many as 171 points (133 spikes, 22 blocks and 16 aces) to top the best scorers chart of the World Championship. He also came first in the final four best blockers ranking, third in the best servers ranking and seventh in the best spikers ranking.
Bartosz Kurek took responsibility when it counted most. The first time he top-scored for his team was in the last match of the first round, when he piled up 21 points for the win against co-hosts Bulgaria.Even more crucial was his role in Poland’s last match of the second round, when he top-scored again with 21 points (including five aces) for the 3-0 victory over Serbia. Against the same strong opponent, but in the third round, Kurek was the best scorer of the match again as he contributed 15 points to another shutout. And in the decisive match against co-hosts Italy, when Poland needed to win a set to advance to the semis, he took charge again to score five points in the 25-14 landslide in the opening set, after which he took some well-deserved rest ahead of the next matches in the competition.
And it was indeed during the semifinals and the final that Kurek shone the most. With an amazing record of 29 points (including five stuffs) he was the most prolific player on the court in the 3-2 victory over USA, which propelled Poland to the gold medal match. In the final against Brazil, the Polish star had only three sets to sparkle, but still managed to top the charts with 24 points before being crowned as world champion and MVP.
Of course, Kurek was most proud of his team's collective achievement. "I only care about our victory and about this medal around my neck,” he said after the awarding ceremony. “We played great. We played better than any other team. We are proud, as we know our victory was well deserved."
Three other Polish players featured in the World Championship Dream Team. Captain Michal Kubiak was one of the outside hitters nominated. He was the second best blocker, after Kurek, the fifth best receiver, the seventh best server, the seventh best spiker and the ninth best overall scorer of the tournament as well. A runner-up in both the diggers' and the receivers' individual charts, Pawel Zatorski was voted the world’s best libero. Completing the all-Polish trio on top of the best blockers list, middle player Piotr Nowakowski also saw his name on the Dream Team.
Silver medallists Brazil were represented by two of their players on the Dream Team. Douglas Souza was the other outside hitter, across from Kubiak. He finished first in the ranking of the best spikers on a 56.58% success rate in attack, narrowly edging USA’s opposite Matthew Anderson (56.56%), who rightfully became one of his “Dream Teammates”. Douglas Souza’s well-rounded performance at Italy-Bulgaria 2018 also resulted in a fifth place among the scorers, third place among the best receivers, sixth place among the best diggers and eighth place among the best servers. Middle blocker Lucas Saatkamp was the other Brazilian athlete on the Dream Team. Both he and Douglas Souza proved instrumental in what was arguably their side’s most important win of the tournament, as they top-scored 10 and 11 points, respectively, towards the straight-set victory over Serbia in their semifinal.
For USA’s Matt Anderson this was the second time in 2018 he made it on to the Dream Team of a major FIVB event, after being honoured as the best opposite of the inaugural Volleyball Nations League earlier in the year. In addition to being the second best spiker, Anderson took the runner-up position in the best scorer table, falling eight points short of Bartosz Kurek. On an average of 0.36 aces per set, the American player shared the top of the best servers' chart with Serbia’s Marko Ivovic. The opposite even found his way into best diggers' ranking, finishing ninth. His teammate on the US team Micah Christenson also turned out to be his teammate on the Dream Team. Christenson finished top of the best setters chart - he was also the fourth best digger and the ninth best server of the finals in Turin.
The MVP and the Dream Team of the 2018 Men's World Championship
Two more Americans topped the remaining individual rankings without making it into the Dream Team - Erik Shoji was best digger and Taylor Sander best receiver.