VakifBank’s coach Guidetti and his squad on top of the podium at Shaoxing 2018
Lausanne, Switzerland, January 1, 2019 – VakifBank Istanbul retained their crown of club world champions as they marched to the top of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship in China dropping only one set along the way. After a 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-19) sweep over Brazil’s Minas Tenis Clube Belo Horizonte in the final match in Shaoxing, the Turkish powerhouse became the first club in the history of the competition to triumph with the trophy three times.
Having already won gold at the 2013 and the 2017 Club World Championships, VakifBank were in a race with their city rivals Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul, 2015 and 2016 champions, for the honour to be the first three-time winners. In addition to the three gold medals, VakifBank’s showcase also boasts silver from 2011 and bronze from 2015.
A total of eight teams from six different countries participated in the 2018 Club World Championship from December 4 through December 9 in eastern China. They were divided into two pools of four, with the two pool winners and the two pool runners-up advancing to the semifinals and the medal matches, and the remaining squads playing for the distribution of the places from fifth to eighth.
VakifBank were merciless in Pool A, delivering convincing shutouts of all three of their opponents, with well more than seven thousand watching from the stands during their opening game against hosts Zhejiang. The battles in the pool also featured two dramatic five-setters, with France’s Volero Le Cannet failing to capitalize on a 2-1 advantage in sets and losing the tie-breaker by 16-14 on both occasions, thus falling out of contention for the medals. Defeating Volero by 3-2 and Zhejiang by 3-1, Minas Tenis Clube finished runners-up to progress to the semis.
Star-studded Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul of Turkey and Praia Clube Uberlandia of Brazil both claimed straight-set victories over Altay Oskemen of Kazakhstan and Supreme Chonburi of Thailand on the first two competition days in Pool B to secure advancement among the best four. In the direct duel for the first place, Praia won the first set in overtime, but Eczacibasi came back to claim the next three.
The semifinal clash between Minas and Eczacibasi was the jewel of the tournament. The roller-coaster drama lasted 210 rallies or 131 minutes to become the longest running match of Shaoxing 2018 before the South American club champions emerged with the victory. In the other semifinal, VakifBank lost their only set at the Club World Championship, but still went past Praia in four sets to secure their spot in the final.
Eczacibasi took the bronze with an emphatic straight-setter against Praia in the third place match. The battles for the lower spots in the final standings delivered some surprising results and a lot of excitement, with Altay, Volero, Zhejiang and Supreme lining up in the places from fifth to eighth, in that order.
Almost eight thousand fans flocked to the Shaoxing Olympic Sports Center for the gold medal match between VakifBank and Minas. Led by their Chinese star Zhu Ting with 21 points, coach Giovanni Guidetti's squad cruised to another shutout of this Brazilian opponent and claimed their third world title.
"We are so happy to win the championship again! I want to thank the Chinese people for supporting our team," VakifBank’s captain Ayse Melis Gurkaynak said after the final.