VakifBank come back from a set down to claim crucial early win

Zürich, Switzerland, March 23, 2017.  VakifBank ISTANBUL fight their way back after a bad start to eventually prevail 3-1 (13-25, 25-20, 25-17, 25-21) over multiple time Swiss champions Volero ZÜRICH. This puts the Turkish side in pole position to back up their victory when the 2nd leg returns at their home in a fortnights time.

VakifBank come back from a set down to claim crucial early win

Volero ZÜRICH versus VakifBank ISTANBUL. If there is one matchup in European women’s club Volleyball that needs no introduction, it’s this battle between the team from the shores of Lake Zurich and the team from the Turkish metropole Istanbul.

The team from the shores of Lake Zürich did not disappoint the high expectations of their home crowd. ZÜRICH started strongly with an aggressive serving game as well as a cold-blooded offense, the reigning Swiss champs outclassed the Turkish top team at the very start of the game. VakifBank Istanbul, on the other hand, were with their backs to the wall in the opening set a home lead of 18-9 was testament to that. One of the main reasons for the result was Volero setter Bojana Zivkovic. The Olympic silver medallist had to replace Fabíola since the Brazilian national player suffered a knee injury in a training session before the game. Zivkovic played a huge game and led her team to the win in the first set. Foluke Akinradewo’s ace to 25-13 was the perfect conclusion.

VakifBank had to step up now. But Giovanni Guidetti wouldn’t be Giovanni Guidetti if he didn’t know how to manage such difficult stages. The star coach found the right words to bring his team back on track during the first set interval. The leading power on the court, on the other hand, was without doubt was opposite Lonneke Slöetjes. The Dutch international overpowered the Swiss defence and booked eight points in the second set alone. VakifBank ISTANBUL eventually prevailed 25-20 and were back in the game.

In the third set, the two teams spoiled the 2,300 spectators in the stands with Volleyball at its finest. Big saves, incredible blocks, and thrilling spikes; this set had a little bit of everything. But it was once again Lonneke Slöetjes and Olympic champ Zhu Ting who made the difference with their cold-bloodedness in the offense. Volero ZÜRICH was not able to find an answer to VakifBank’s offensive power and consequently, ISTANBUL won the set again, this time 25-17.

Volero ZÜRICH were now under pressure and had to fight their way back into the game if they wanted to avoid to start with a handicap in the away game. But Lonneke Slöetjes and VakifBank just proved too strong in the offense. Therefore, the team from the Turkish metropole eventually prevailed 25-21 in the fourth set to claim the crucial away win.

Volero ZÜRICH coach Zoran Terzic. “In the first set, we played with a free head. We had a strong serve and attack. Unfortunately, we then started to be afraid of our own mistakes. It is impossible to win over VakifBank ISTANBUL like this; because VakifBank is one of the best - if not the best – team in the world. Nonetheless, I told my players that it takes two good games to win such a series. Now we have to start as well into the game in Istanbul, like we did today, then everything is possible. I believe in my team and in our chance.”

Volero ZÜRICH setter Bojana Zivkovic could not hide her disappointment. “We played a really good opening set, but then all the sudden it looked like we stopped playing. Nevertheless, I am very confident for the away match.”

VakifBank ISTANBUL coach Giovanni Guidetti did not want to overestimate this win saying. “Volero started really strong into this game. I would not say we played bad, but we were just to slow in our offense. I think the pressure was possibly a reason why because when you are VakifBank Istanbul you have to win every game. Nevertheless, we stayed calm as a team and fought our way back into the game. But honestly, this win does not enough. It’s like leading 2:0 in a game. It’s a first step, but we have to win the game in Istanbul too.”

VakifBank ISTANBUL setter Naz Aydemir Akyol “I think it’s normal to struggle a little bit in the first set when you play abroad in another gym. But we did a great job afterwards. We committed too many errors and could not take advantage of our service in the opening set. It is always better to face a team you know. And it’s like Volero ZÜRICH played in the Turkish league because we are going to face them now for the sixth time in two years.”

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    Treviso, Italy, April 23, 2017. The best was surely yet to come, as we entered the Gold Medal match. The home team of Imoco Volley CONEGLIANO were in the final and up against the powerhouse of VakifBank ISTANBUL. The Palaverde in Treviso was packed to the rafters. The home team started the brightest, but the first set went the way of VakifBank 25-19. While the second set was fairly comfortable (25-13), the third set was a real thriller with it going right to the wire, before VakifBank eventually took it 25-23.

    For more regular updates go to Twitter @CEVolleyballCL or search for the official event hashtag: #CLF4Treviso

    Set 1
    After an entrance to remember, both teams took to the court determined to make their own history. VakifBank were looking for their 3rd Champions League title (after 2011, 2013), while the home team of Imoco Volley were after their maiden win. VakifBank had already guaranteed one thing, having never before failed to win a medal once qualified for a Final Four. The score at the first technical was 8-6 to the Turkish team, who despite losing the first couple of points came back strong in the first third of the set. From here the away team kicked (16-13) on for what was in the end a fairly comfortable set victory.

    Their only real scares came at 20-18 when some confusion over a Challenge call ended up with the point going to the home team. However from here the home team could only get one more point, while VakifBank accelerated to the set victory 25-19.

    With Imoco struggling in the blocking department, thoughts could not help but turn to their injured middle blocker, Robin de Kruijf who is out with an ankle injury.

    Set 2
    With the crowd a little quieter, VakifBank started the second slightly more confident and this told as they strode to an 8-3 lead. From here the points went at around a rate of 2 for VakifBank and only 1 for Imoco as the Turkish team continued to dominate. It was 16-8 at the second technical time-out and before the home crowd of 4,831 spectators knew what had happened it was 2-0 with a final set score of 25-13.

    Set 3
    So this was it, and it started with everyone in the room knowing it. VakifBank were one set from a triple Champions League crown, while the home team had nothing to lose and they went out with everything they had. After some great action, it was closer at the first technical than it had been for the whole match at 8-7.

    The score stayed close, but with the Turkish team constantly having a slight edge. With the crowd really wanting more an Imoco error ended up granting VakifBank the title with a third set score of 25-23.

    Nicole Fawcett, opposite of Imoco Volley CONEGLIANO: "VakifBank ISTANBUL really stepped up their game from yesterday. We played the team who seems to be making every perfect play and it was tough for us. They did a great job and I think in the third set we came back really well and fought hard but it wasn’t enough. It’s hard to say how we could have stopped them. They had an effect on how we play which was not by any means our best, but I think if we were to bring our best, it would not be a three sets match."

    Raphaela Folie, middle blocker of Imoco Volley CONEGLIANO: "The semi-final was amazing and we didn’t expect to reach the final in such a way. Today we started a little bit slow and we only found our rhythm in the third set, but it was too late to do anything. Vakifbank ISTANBUL was the stronger team today, but I feel we could have done more. It was our first Champions League final, so we will try do better next year."

    Kimberly Hill, outside hitter of VakifBank ISTANBUL: "It’s an incredible feeling! You don’t have any kind of expectations when you come in to this kind of match. You just go in and try to play good. It’s easy with this kind of teammates. Everyone is supporting one another and makes it really fun."

    Giovanni Guidetti, head coach of VakifBank ISTANBUL: "I don’t think about this match. I just think about this team. This year we were really down so many times, we got a lot of punches on the way, but they never gave up. We lost in the Turkish League semi-final and we came here after 10 days of great work, so I am really proud of these players."

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