Turkey’s Vakıfbank women’s volleyball team clinched its third 2017 CEV Volleyball Champions League title after a straight sets victory against home side Imoco Volley Conegliano in the Italian city of Treviso on April 23.
The home team made a good start, but the Turkish visitors soon found their stride, going into the first technical with an 8-6 lead before seeing out the set 25-19.
The second set was even more comfortable (25-13) for Vakıfbank, but the Istanbul side was made to work to clinch its continental crown, ultimately sealing the championship with a 25-23 win in the third set.
CEV picked Vakıfbank’s Ting Zhu the most valuable player of the final four.
Vakıfbank won the CEV titles in 2011 and 2013, while Imoco, which was founded just five years ago, failed to score a maiden victory.
“I am lucky and happy to coach such a team,” said Vakfbank’s Italian manager, Giovanni Guidetti.
“We worked very hard every day and never gave up. We were very good as a team the whole season. I am so happy that we clinched the championship,” he said. “It feels like my first title.”
“We played very good team games in service, defense and offense. We played as if we were at home,” said setter Naz Aydemir Akyol.
“There was less pressure on us. We were more experienced when compared to the previous year. I congratulate all my friends and technical staff. This was my ninth final four in my career. It’s a big success but this third championship even makes me happier,” she said.
Captain Gözde Kırdar also believes that the team learned lessons from the previous year, when it lost the final in straight sets to another Italian team, Pomi Casalmaggiore.
“This is a beautiful title and we dedicate it to everyone. I think we have learned from your past and we deserve this year,” Kırdar said.
Club chairman Osman Demren dedicated the title to “all Muslims oppressed across the world,” adding that it was a pleasure to win on Mi’raj, a holy day for Muslims, and the anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish parliament in 1920.
Contradicting claims that the team would cut its budget, Demren said Vakıfbank, the Turkish lender behind the team, would invest more in the team.
“The Vakıfbank [team] is an investment in Turkish women and the country. The bank does not plan shrinkage [for the team] but will improve its support,” he said.
Antother Turkish team, Eczacıbaşı VitrA, finished the final four in third spot after beating Russia’s Dinamo Moskova 3-1.