Reigning champion Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul booked a return ticket to the finals following a masterful conquest of crosstown rival VakifBank Istanbul, 25-23, 19-25, 25-17, 25-23, yesterday in the semifinals of the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship presented by PLDT on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Serbian star Tijana Boskovic had a stellar performance on the attack zone, but it was defense which towed Eczacibasi into the brink of registering a historic back-to-back title in this prestigious tourney organized by the Philippine Superliga and Eventcourt with TV5, Petron, Nature Spring, Asics, BMW and F2 Logistics as sponsors, Diamond Hotel as official residence and Turkish Airlines as official airlines.
Earlier, Rexona-Sesc Rio crushed Bangkok Glass, 25-19, 25-15, 25-15, in the classification battle for 5th to 8th places of this world event that is also bankrolled by the Philippine Sports Commission, Rexona, Mall of Asia Arena, Foton and Price Waterhouse Cooper with Mikasa, Jinling and Gerflor as technical sponsors.
The 11-time Brazilian champions will clash with the winner between PSL-F2 Logistics Manila and Hisamitsu Springs Kobe in the battle for 5th to 6th places at 10 am today. The home team and the Japanese powerhouse are still competing at press time.
A 19-year old wunderkind who tied the Olympic record for fastest serve in the recent Summer Games, Boskovic tallied 17 kills, two blocks and three aces for 22 points to spearhead the star-studded Eczacibasi back into the finals after copping the crown over Dinamo Krasnodar of Russia last year.
Her support crew of Russian Tatiana Kosheleva, Brazilian Thaisa Daher Pallesi, American Jordan Larson-Burbach and Serbian Maja Ognjenovic were also impressive as they all ended with a double-digit in scoring, finishing with a combined 45-point effort.
But still, Eczacibasi VitrA coach Massimo Barbolini credited their stunning win to their airtight defense.
“I’m very happy that we won, thanks to our defense,” said Barbolini, whose wards allowed Olympics Most Valuable Player Zhu Ting to do damage but stopped Lonneke Sloetjes, Kirdar Gozde, Milena Rasic and Kim Hill from asserting their presence.
“We have unbelievable plays in attacks, but if you want to win against an elite team like VakifBank, you have to play good defense. Attacks and blocks will not be enough.”
Despite the win, Barbolini said keeping the crown in Istanbul would never be easy.
After all, the winner in the other semifinal battle between Swiss champion Volero Zurich and European supremo Pomi Casalmaggiore will surely be a tough nut to crack.
“Every season is a new season. Being in the finals is a great result, but it will never be enough. One ball can change everything. I don’t know what can happen.”
Zhu, who tallied a tournament high 31 points in their pool play against Volero Zurich, was limited to only 23 points built on 20 kills and a couple of blocks while Sloetjes had only 10 markers for VakifBank, which made here via a wildcard slot after losing to the European title to Pomi Casalmaggiore last year.