2017 REVIEW: ZHU TING LEADS VAKIFBANK ISTANBUL TO VICTORY AT WOMEN’S CLUB WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Lausanne, Switzerland, January 8, 2018 - Unquestionably one of the hotspots in women's club volleyball, clubs from Istanbul have dominated the FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championships in recent years. And the tournament held in the Japanese city of Kobe in May 2017 demonstrated their strength once again. After claiming the title in 2013, VakifBank Istanbul were crowned the top club team in the world for a second time, replacing Istanbul rivals Eczacibasi, who had triumphed in 2015 and 2016.
A 3-1 victory for VakifBank ended Eczacibasi Istanbul's hopes of a hat-trick of titles. Zhu Ting, who was an Olympic gold medal winner in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, led her team to victory with 18 points in the all-Istanbul semifinal. She was also the top scorer for VakifBank with 19 points in the 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-21) victory over Brazilian team Rexona-SESC in the final. The Chinese player was deservedly named the competition's MVP.
“This is my first time playing club volleyball outside of China,” Zhu said. “As an Olympic champion, I want my level to go up more. I have a big heart to try and become someone better.” Not only was she honoured as the MVP following the event in Kobe, but her performances also received recognition from her fellow players. Foluke Akinradewo from Volero Zurich said: “Zhu Ting is just on a whole other level. She’s an incredible volleyball player and is able to play the whole game. It is always fun playing against her and watching her play.”
Dutch star Anne Buijs, who came up against Zhu Ting in the gold medal match playing for Rexona-SESC Rio, also believes the Chinese is the best player in the world. “When I look at technique, there is only one volleyball player that I look up to and that is Zhu Ting from China. She does some really, really incredible things and I wish one day I can play like her.”
Even if VakifBank Istanbul's international roster also includes global stars like American Kimberly Hill and Dutch attacker Lonneke Slotjes, the team is not unbeatable. Head coach Giovanni Guidetti explained that their victory in Kobe in 2017 was a reaction to a defeat in the incredibly strong Turkish national league: “We had a defeat in our domestic league in Turkey in the semifinals,” said Italian Guidetti. “The team came back from that frustrating loss and achieved this great success.” Captain Gozde Kirdar was full of praise for the whole team’s exceptional performance: “I am incredibly proud of my team, because we played consistently in this competition. We only lost two sets in this entire tournament.”
In the bronze medal match, Volero Zurich prevailed in a thrilling five-set clash with Eczacibasi Istanbul 3-2 (25-22, 25-15, 22-25, 23-25, 15-12). As a result, the winners of the previous two editions of the Women’s Club World Championships missed out on a spot on the podium. In the end, even the attacking power of Tijana Boskovic and Tatiana Kosheleva could not help the defending champions.