Star spiker Zhu Ting of China took a rest, but Vakifbank Istanbul still came up with a mighty performance to clobber Bangkok Glass, 25-19, 25-23, 25-18, in the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship presented by PLDT on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Zhu, the Most Valuable Player in the Rio Olympics, suited up only in the first set, but it doesn’t matter as the star-studded Turkish club had enough firepower to demolish the Thais in the final day of pool play of this prestigious tourney organized by 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.
With the win, VakifBank booked a duel with Turkish League rival Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul while unbeaten Volero Zurich locks horns with Pomi Casalmaggiore in the semifinals of this world tourney that is also bankrolled by Philippine Sports Commission, Rexona, Mall of Asia Arena, Foton and Price Waterhouse Cooper with Mikasa, Jinling and Gerflor as technical sponsors.
Eczacibasi, however, is still clashing with PSL-F2 Logistics as of press time.
Dutch Lonneke Sloetjes carried the fight, delivering 15 kills and two blocks for 17 points while Turkish veteran Kirdar Gozde tallied eight kills, two aces and a block for 11 points for VakifBank, which succumbed to Pomi Casalmaggiore in the European championship last year.
Kim Hill of the United States nailed nine points while the high-scoring Zhu, who erupted for 31 points against Volero Zurich late Thursday, finished with eight markers despite seeing action only in the first set in preparation for their crucial semifinal clash with their bitter crosstown rivals.
“It will be an amazing game tomorrow because Eczacibasi is a very phenomenal team,” said VakifBank coach Giovanni Guidetti, referring to their rival squad powered by the star-studded crew of Jordan Larson-Burbach, Tijana Boskovic, Thaisa Daher Pallesi and Tatiana Kosheleva.
“But I think VakifBank is a very strong team. We are playing at a very high level right now. It’s all about the details.”
True enough, VakifBank displayed its prowess against the Thais, even without Zhu.
Despite Bangkok Glass stepping up its reception and fortifying its defense in the second set, the Turkish superpower didn’t have any problem as Sloetjes and Hill peppered the smaller blockers with hot smashes from all angles.
From a deadlock at 16 in the third set, the Sloetjes caught fire and turned it into a 23-17 lead. Gozde committed an attack error to make it 24-18 to the Turkish side’s favor, Bangkok Glass skipper Pleumjit Thinkaow committed an attack error of her own for the final count.
“Every time I play against a team from Thailand, I’m always fascinated with the way they play volleyball at this level without having much height,” Guidetti said.
“I really used all 14 players and everybody contributed. So I’m so very happy about it.”
Wilavan Apinyapong came up with 14 kills while Thinkaow had eight markers for the Asian champions, who will be stacked against Rexona-Ades Rio in the classification battle for 5th to 8th places.