Jurecki's new role takes Azoty to second EHF Cup Group PhaseArticle
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MEN'S EHF CUP COUNTDOWN #3: KS Azoty-Pulawy are back for their second Men’s EHF Cup Group Phase under the leadership of captain-turned-coach Bartosz Jurecki
»2018-19 Men's News

Jurecki's new role takes Azoty to second EHF Cup Group Phase

Polish handball star Bartosz Jurecki built his name as a player and last year led KS Azoty-Pulawy to their first-ever Men’s EHF Cup Group Phase.

This season Jurecki has got a completely new challenge after taking over as Azoty-Pulawy’s coach from the legendary Daniel Waszkiewicz. But the transition has not been as easy as he might have hoped.  

“This is a totally different kind of job,” says Jurecki. “As a player I was preparing myself only for training sessions, resting in between, and now I think about handball all the time. I work a lot at home analysing video, but I really like this job and I would like to keep going.”

Jurecki admits that he still cannot fully switch into the new mode and lives the emotions like a player.

“I’m rather impulsive,” he says. “I’m trying to be calm, because I know that it’s easier to notice all important things then, but you know, I barely finished my first half-year in the role. At the beginning I was running alongside the line all the time. Now it’s a bit better.”

Current and former players praise Jurecki’s work so far. He says his coaching style has been influenced by his years on the court.

“First of all I speak with my players, I don’t want to introduce dictatorship as I remember from my own experience that it’s not good,” he comments. “Rigour yes, but on the court. Besides, we’re still friends and one does not exclude the other.”

“We want to get a medal this year”

Jurecki’s first year as coach has not been an easy one. In the Polish league Azoty had several slips and the winter break came just in time, giving the team a break from an away losing streak which had lasted since September. At the end of the year the club ran a deep analysis of the situation including talks and performance tests.

“We started the season really well but the problems started after losing miserably against Kielce,” explains Jurecki. “Physically we look pretty good, but there come moments when we stop fighting and believing in victory. We need to work on that. We want to get a medal this year.”

Despite the difficulties Pulawy is ranked fourth in the Polish league. At European level, fortunes were better. For the second time in the club’s history, and the second time in a row, they qualified for the EHF Cup Group Phase after beating Icelandic side Selfoss 60:54 on aggregate.

“That was our main goal. We’re very happy that we managed to achieve it as the teams taking part in the contest are getting better and better each year and it’s much harder to get there,” says Jurecki.

“The truth is, we are still learning. Last season showed huge difference between the levels and first of all we would like to show our best side in our home matches and try to win as many games as possible. We will also look for points away.”

Not disturbed by the ball

In Group D Azoty-Pulawy will face tough competition in the shape of Germany’s THW Kiel, Spain’s Fraikin BM. Granollers and Denmark’s GOG. It is the first time in 15 years that Kiel has not featured in the VELUX EHF Champions League, while Granollers twice turned out to be better than Pulawy in last year’s EHF Cup.

“Kiel definitely wants to win it all, especially as they will have the final tournament at home,” comments Jurecki. “Looking at the roster, they are the main favourites.

“We lost twice against Granollers, but the difference in the home game wasn’t big, so we will try to win this time. And in the case of Danish team, we don’t know too much, but you know, it’s a Scandinavian side, so the ball does not disturb them,” he laughs.

As the previous year, Azoty-Pulawy will need to play their matches at Hala Globus in Lublin, around 50km from their home town, as their arena does not meet EHF requirements. But Jurecki says the team feel at home in Lublin and are comfortable playing there.

“Last season we felt an amazing atmosphere there,” he says. “The arena is bigger than ours and all players were satisfied about playing there. I hope the fans will motivate and push us forward as much as they did before. We feel at home there,” Jurecki concludes.

KS Azoty-Pulawy (POL)

Qualification for the Men’s EHF Cup Group Phase 2018/19: Round 3: 60:54 aggregate win against Selfoss (ISL)

Newcomers: Ante Kaleb (TuS N-Luebbecke), Jerko Matulic (HBC Nantes), Lukasz Rogulski (Wybrzeze Gdańsk)

Left the club: Bartosz Kowalczyk (Stal Mielec), Patryk Kuchczynski (Orlęta Zwoleń), Vladislav Ostroushko (Selka Eskisehir Hentbol SK), Robert Orzechowski (MMTS Kwidzyn)

Coach: Bartosz Jurecki (since 2018)

Team captain: Pawel Grzelak

Opponents in the group phase: THW Kiel, Fraikin BM. Granollers, GOG in Group D

EHF Cup records:
Group phase (1): 2017/18
Round 3 (2): 2015/16, 2016/17

Other European Cup records:

Challenge Cup:
Semi-finals (1): 2013/14
Quarter-finals (2): 2010/11, 2014/15
Last 16 (1): 2012/13
Round 3 (1): 2011/12

Polish league: 0 titles

Polish cup: 0 titles

TEXT: Magda Pluszewska/jh