Clubs gain momentum ahead of Women's Worlds


Praia’s Fernanda Garay spikes during the match against the team of Sao Cristovao Saude Sao Caetano

Lausanne, Switzerland, November 29, 2018 – The teams participating in the upcoming 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship in Shaoxing have had a very successful week of victories in the matches they have been playing in the run-up to the big event next week.

Both South American representatives at Shaoxing 2018 - Praia Clube Uberlandia and Minas Tenis Clube Belo Horizonte - continued their unbeaten run in the Brazilian league by winning their matches of the third and the fourth legs of the regular season to hold the top two positions in the current standings before travelling to China. On Saturday and Monday, defending Brazilian champions Praia added two away straight-set victories to their tally and upped their win-loss record to 5-0 with a 15-2 set ratio on top of the table. They delivered a 3-0 (25-17, 25-13, 25-18) shutout of BRB/Brasilia Volei and followed up with a 3-0 (25-14, 28-26, 25-23) straight-setter at Sao Cristovao Saude Sao Caetano. Nicole Fawcett, who top-scored 17 points including five aces for Praia’s latest victory, climbed to the Superliga’s individual server ranking with a total of eight aces so far. On the way to China, Praia will have a stopover in Italy for a friendly game with Reale Mutua Fenera Chieri on Friday.

South American club champions Minas also added six points to their record, but somewhat less emphatically as they lost a set in their away win at SESI Volei Bauru. On Saturday, Minas beat SESI 3-1 (25-15, 25-18, 15-25, 25-22) before traveling to Sao Paulo for a 3-0 (25-17, 25-17, 25-19) shutout of Esporte Clube Pinheiros on Tuesday. Gabriela Guimaraes of Minas is in the lead of the individual receivers chart of the league, while two of her teammates, Lana Conceicao and Caroline Gattaz, are in the top two positions for the best spikers.

Kazakhstan’s Altay Oskemen, one of Asia’s three representatives at Shaoxing 2018, also added two victories to their national league record, finishing the first round-robin tournament they hosted in Oskemen in the runner-up position, right below undefeated Zhetysu Taldyqorgan. Last Thursday Altay mastered a 3-0 (25-16, 25-12, 25-13) victory over Astana. The following day, the reigning champions of Kazakhstan delivered an even more convincing 3-0 (25-14, 25-9, 25-11) sweep of their last game, against Kuanysh Petropavl, to stay well in contention for another title on a 6-1 current win-loss record and an 18-3 set ratio. Sana Anarkulova was named Altay’s best player of the tournament. The team have already left for China to become their country’s first ever participant in the Club World Championships.

Volero Le Cannet also continued their winning streak in the French national league. With an 18-point contribution from Ana Bjelica, Volero managed a 3-1 (25-19, 28-26, 23-25, 25-20) away victory at MO Mougins. They kept their grip on the top spot in the current standings with six wins in seven matches played and a 19-8 set ratio. Before focusing completely on the Club World Championship, Volero have one more domestic game to play. On Friday they will entertain Vandeuvre Nancy at home in Le Cannet.

The French team were successful on the continental level as well, as they managed to push through to the 8th finals of the CEV Challenge Cup. Having shut out Olympiacos Piraeus in the home leg of their 16th final series, Volero suffered a 3-1 (25-20, 16-25, 25-23, 25-21) defeat in the return match in Greece on Tuesday. A deciding golden set followed and the squad from Le Cannet emerged victorious with a 15-10 win, which propelled the team forward to the next round. Heidy Casanova was Volero’s best scorer of the night with 22 points over the five sets played, while Angelina Lazarenko and Olena Hasanova impressed with their blocking skills tallying six stuffs apiece.

In Europe’s top-tier club competition, the CEV Champions League, defending champions VakifBank Istanbul also started off the new season with a win. Last Thursday, they managed a 3-1 (25-13, 20-25, 25-19, 25-17) home victory over Germany’s Allianz MTV Stuttgart in Pool A with Lonneke Sloetjes and Zhu Ting hammering away 43 points combined, while Kelsey Robinson claimed the MVP award.

VakifBank have been really busy in their domestic league, adding three more straight-set wins to their tally over a period of six days. On Saturday, they cruised to a 3-0 (25-14, 25-20, 25-20) close over visiting Nilufer Belediyesi Bursa. On Tuesday, they entertained Kameroglu Beylikduzu Istanbul for another 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-20) landslide, and then followed up with a speedy 3-0 (25-18, 25-12, 25-21) away victory at Halkbank Ankara this Thursday, right on their Chinese star Zhu Ting’s 24th birthday.

The other star-studded Turkish representative in the Champions League and the upcoming Club World Championship, Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul, managed “only” two three-set victories over the same period of time. On Saturday, they travelled to Canakkale Belediyespor for a 3-0 (26-24, 25-11, 25-21) win. Then, on Wednesday, they delivered in front of the home fans for a 3-0 (25-23, 25-17, 25-23) shutout of Karayollari Ankara, and now they are counting the days to the start of Shaoxing 2018.

Both Istanbul powerhouses are still unbeaten in the lead of the current standings. VakifBank have taken over the top on an 8-0 win-loss record and a 24-4 set ratio, while Eczacibasi are trailing on a 7-0 record, but with an impeccable 21-0 set ratio. Players of these two teams are occupying the top five positions in the individual outside hitters ranking of the Turkish league – VakifBank’s Tugba Senoglu and Zhu Ting and Eczacibasi’s Meliha Ismailoglu, Guldeniz Onal and Jordan Larson, in that order. Milena Rasic of VakifBank leads the blockers, while Eczacibasi’s Ezgi Dilik tops the setters.

Asian club champions Supreme Chonburi had the weekend off from Thailand’s national league, and despite the fact they still have one match to play before taking off for China, a fifth-leg encounter with Thai-Denmark Khonkaen Star in Bangkok next Saturday, they have been focusing their attention on their upcoming participation in the Club World Championship.

So have Shaoxing 2018 hosts Zhejiang. The second stage of the Chinese Super League got under way without their participation, as they will be competing in the lower-tier pool for the ninth place after they are done with their organizer duties at the Club World Championship, scheduled from December 4 through 9.


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