Chinese star Zhu Ting tallied a record-setting performance as VakifBank Istanbul crashed old numbers to smother Hisamitsu Springs Kobe, 25-25, 25-15, 29-31, 15-18, in Tuesday’s opening salvo of the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship presented by PLDT at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Zhu, Most Valuable Player in the Rio Olympics, tallied nine of the Turkish side’s 27 blocks to clobber the Japanese for their first victory in this prestigious tournament organized by the Philippine Superliga and Eventcourt with TV5, Petron, Asics, BMW, and F2 Logistics as sponsors, Diamond Hotel as official residence and Turkish Airlines as official airlines.
Zhu’s performance on the defensive end surpassed the previous record of eight blocks notched by Adenizia of Sollys Nestle of Osasco against Foppapdretti Bergamo in 2010.
On the same note, VakifBank Istanbul’s total rejections eclipsed the previous record of 25 blocks tallied by Sollys Nestle of Osasco against Chang Bangkok in 2011.
Also opening this spectacle on a sizzling note was Volero Zurich, which clobbered Bangkok Glass, 25-21, 25-19, 25-23, in the second match of this spectacle that is also backed by the Philippine Sports Commission, Rexona, Mall of Asia Arena, Foton and Price Waterhouse Cooper with Mikasa, Gerflor and Jinling as technical sponsors.
Olesia Rykhliuk delivered 16 kills and three aces for a total of 20 points while Dobriana Rabadzhieva chipped in 17 markers for the Swiss powerhouse, which is looking to barge into the medal podium after a bronze medal finish last year in Zurich.
But the day belonged to Zhu and VakifBank Istanbul, one of the teams to beat in this tourney that is billed as the toughest ever as it features an Olympic gold medalist in Zhu, five silver medalists from Serbia and six bronze medalists from the US among eight competing teams.
Ranged against the shorter, but very disciplined, Japanese side, Zhu starred in the first two sets before the Japanese launched a massive fight back in the crucial stretch of the third set.
With Kim Hill towing VakifBank at match point, 24-23, Rika Namoto forced a deuce to ignite a fiery exchange of points featuring long rallies, great defensive effort and razor-sharp smashes. Zhu gave VakifBank the match point anew, 28-27, but Hisamitsu Springs Kobe went on to steal the set, 31-29.
“You always have to be at your best whenever you’re facing a team like japan. This team is capable of mounting a comeback,” said VakifBank coach Giovanni Guidetti, noting their intimidating presence at the defensive end.
“I’m impressed with the 27 blocks we did, that’s first time in my life. I like the energy my players put in the court. They were at their best in this game,” he said.
Aside from the nine blocks, Zhu also registered 17 kills and two aces for 28 points while Lonneke Sloetjes and Kim Him finished with 18 and 17 points, respectively for VakifBank, which is looking to knock the crown off the head of crosstown rival Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul.
Olympian Miyu Nagaoka submitted 18 markers while Risa Shinnabe had 26 for Hisamitsu Springs Kobe.
“This is a very high level tournament. So, it’s good that some of our problems surfaced early on, and we were able to solve it.” said Guidetti, whose wards will be taking a break today before facing Volero Zurich on Thursday.