|Dominika Owczarzak was unable to help Poland achieve their goals at the U18 European Championship Women, after picking up an injury in the first game, but is confident they will retain their Division A status|
By Paul Nilsen
Promising Polish playmaker Dominika Owczarzak arrived in Bucharest confident that retaining the core of the team from last summer's U18 European Championship Women would provide the foundation for more success this year.
Only that particular script has already been torn up after just two days of competition.
Poland impressed at the U18 European Championship Women in Oradea in 2011 by achieving a creditable sixth-place finish with a roster dominated by 1994-born players.
But, this time around and despite plenty of returnees, they have been left reeling after opening up with back to back defeats.
Worse still, a large chunk of Polish hopes were pinned squarely on the shoulders of Owczarzak but she had to make an early exit from their agonising 82-78 overtime loss against Sweden as Poland squandered a significant lead.
"It was just a bad cramp, but it hurt a lot," bemoaned Owczarzak.
"I'm still really disappointed with the Sweden game and I can't believe that we lost in that way.
"I'm angry and sad, but unfortunately it really did happen to us."
Her mood hardly improved on dya two when the excessive cramp she suffered caused her to miss out against a powerful Spain as her team was routed 90-51.
With a previously desired quarter-final place is now going to be exchanged for a dogfight to simply cling on to Division A status, that weight of expectation when the aeroplane wheels touched down in the Romanian capital seems like a lifetime ago.
"We were a really young team last year and I had hoped that our collective experience from last summer would make us even more confident this time," Owczarzak said of her initial expectations.
"After last year's tournament, I'm still sure that skills aren't the only important thing, but a great atmosphere in the team and having the heart to play are hugely important too.
"I still hope we will play as well as we can and we will finish this U18 European Championship Women in a place which we deserve," she added.
FUN IS GOOD, WINNING IS BETTER
One thing is absolutely certain, Owczarzak has a refreshingly and beautifully straightforward approach to tournament life.
"For me the best youth tournament memories are the moments after winning a game, when everybody is satisfied with what we did.
"The worst memories are every time after we lose a game when I think that we could have played better and it could have been our victory.
"A few of us are really crazy and the funniest moments we have is when we actually all have fun together.
"I just want to have fun playing basketball during my entire career."
Such an outlook also highlights the concept of being a team-player first and foremost - something which is always on the mind of Owczarzak.
"I'm a playmaker who really likes defending and giving assists but of course if my team needs my points, I can do that too.
"I'm a really young player so I have to work hard on every aspect of my play."
Born and raised in the city of Poznan, that winning mentality and a hatred of losing was always present once she decided to take up the sport at a very early age.
"It was my brother who got me into basketball," she explained.
"For real, I started my career in my grandparents' garden and my first memory related to basketball was when I lost a game and afterwards, I told my mum I wouldn't touch the ball anymore!"
ROOKIE SEASON IN THE TOP FLIGHT
Fortunately for Polish basketball fans, Owczarzak soon got over that particular disappointment and it wasn't long before she was back on court and starting a journey which recently witnessed a significant landmark.
She recently completed her rookie season with MUKS Poznan in the highly competitive Polish league, winning a number of plaudits for her leadership qualities and all-round development - something which still gives her immense satisfaction.
"For sure it was a great season for me," she says.
"Playing so many minutes in the top Polish league was a great opportunity to learn a lot from more experienced and much better players."
If she continues her development with the Polish youth teams and continues to mature and hone her skills at club level against some EuroLeague Women quality opposition, the future looks bright.
For now though, Owczarzak is just trying to get herself healthy and back onto the floor so she can help to limit the damage of a less than auspicious start.