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24/03/2016 23:46
VakifBank overcome Volero to face arch-rivals Fenerbahce in CL semis
2016 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League - Women

Zurich, Switzerland, March 24, 2016. Giovanni Guidetti’s VakifBank ISTANBUL edged Volero ZÜRICH 3-1 (25-22, 32-34, 25-21, 25-22) to secure their qualification for the Final Four of the 2016 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League – Women and go for a much anticipated derby with arch-rivals Fenerbahce Grundig on April 9 in Montichiari, Italy. 27 points by Volero’s team captain Natalya Mammadova were not enough to stop the run of the 2011 and 2013 CL gold medal winners who can celebrate their fifth Final Four appearance – and the fourth consecutive – hoping to improve on the silver and bronze medals they had to be content with in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

“Clash of epic proportions”, “Duel of Volleyball Titans”, or “Battle of Giants”. These are just some of the attributes the second leg matchup between Volero ZÜRICH and VakifBank ISTANBUL deserved even before actions went underway on Thursday night.   

Volleyball fans around the world were looking forward to this breath-taking duel in the Playoffs 6 of the 2016 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League. The multiple Swiss champs had to react after having lost 3-2 to VakifBank ISTANBUL in a thrilling five-setter two weeks ago. The “Ladies in Purple” knew that their fans were ready to support them in this crucial game: indeed, the Saalsporthalle was already sold out on Tuesday and the Swiss club had to build extra stands just to make sure that more fans could enjoy this epic match.

The two teams did not disappoint the high expectations of the audience. The Swiss hosts as well as the team from the Bosporus played an overwhelming offensive battle in the opening set. The over 2,750 spectators at the Saalsporthalle in Zurich could sit back and just enjoy Volleyball at its finest. The Turks, however, eventually prevailed 25-22 because of the variety of solutions they showed in their attacking game.

It looked like the Swiss needed some time to digest this setback in the second set. Volero ZÜRICH had a classical false start – and therefore were soon trailing by 5-12. Nevertheless, the “Ladies in Purple” were poised not to give in and inspired by the record-breaking crowd at the Saalsporthalle, Volero forced the turnaround. The set was not over yet, au contraire. The teams battled until 33-32 – and the tension continued to mount until Volero setter Bojana Zivkovic sent the crowd into heaven with a well-timed feint to make it 1-1.

In the third set, the teams kept the pace high and put on a humongous Volleyball show. The game remained very tight and neither side was able to take over the reins of the game. Every rally turned into a huge battle of monstrous length. The Turks, however, eventually proved their worth again and made the difference to close the set 25-21.

Volero ZÜRICH did not lose their hope of making the semis and attempted to bounce back in the fourth set. Once again, the game was a close affair. In the end, however, Volero were not cold-blooded enough to put a spoke in VakifBank’s heel to force the tie-break. Giovanni Guidetti's team just played their game and eventually won the fourth and last set of this clash 25-22 to face arch-rivals Fenerbahce Grundig in the semis.

Volero ZÜRICH coach Avital Selinger could not hide his disappointment: “Of course we are frustrated. We knew that small things would make the difference in such an important game like the one tonight – and they eventually did. We had the momentum on our side in the third set, but just committed too many unforced errors. Now we have to recover from this defeat and keep on working as team.”

Volero ZÜRICH middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo: “I do not want to look for excuses after the game. We are just disappointed. The crowd was amazing tonight – and we wanted to thank them with a victory. We even had the momentum on our side, but just committed too many unforced errors in the third set. Against such a strong side as VakifBank, you have to play your very best every second of the game.”

VakifBank ISTANBUL coach Giovanni Guidetti was relieved after the game: “It was an incredible game. The crowd inspired Volero ZÜRICH to perform an unbelievable comeback in the second set. However, I think that my team proved their fighting spirit and their mental strength. They fought well even against such a strong side as Volero ZÜRICH. Now we want to focus on the huge matchup against Fenerbahce Grundig ISTANBUL.”

VakifBank ISTANBUL middle blocker Robin de Kruijf could not stop smiling after the game: “It was such an important game for us. It was not an easy task because we knew that Volero ZÜRICH would be poised to bounce back in front of their supporters. However, we once again proved our fighting and team spirit. We do not want to rest on our laurels but to stay focussed and prepare for the big matches of the Final Four.”

Click here for more info including detailed stats of the match 

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