Zhu Ting against Tijana Boskovic in 2017 Club World Championship semifinal action
Lausanne, Switzerland, November 20, 2018 – Turkish giants VakifBank Istanbul and Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul will be among the favourites when the FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship takes place in China in two weeks' time. Both teams enter the competition with stellar line-ups and aiming to claim a third title.
VakifBank are the defending club world champions after winning the 2017 edition in Japan. From December 4 to 9 they will again be led by their Chinese superstar Zhu Ting, who was voted Most Valuable Player at last year's Club World Championship in Kobe. Rightfully considered one of the best players in the world, VakifBank's outside hitter, who will turn 24 just days before the start of Shaoxing 2018, has won a long line of individual honours in her career, alongside numerous medals from the highest national team and club levels.
Zhu Ting’s career hit a new high at the 2016 Olympic Games where she claimed the Olympic title with China, the MVP title and a spot on the Dream Team of the tournament. Among other MVP honours this world-class Chinese athlete has received, those from the 2015 FIVB World Cup, the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix and the 2017 CEV Champions League are perhaps most prominent. At the 2014 FIVB World Championship, she was also the Best Scorer and the Best Outside Spiker. Most recently, in 2018, she received the Best Outside Hitter award at the FIVB World Championships, the FIVB Volleyball Nations League and in the CEV Champions League.
Eczacibasi VitrA’s answer to VakifBank’s Zhu Ting comes in the form of Tijana Boskovic. The Serbian opposite is just 21 years old but already has an impressive collection of achievements to her name.
Just less than a month ago, after winning gold with her national team at the FIVB Volleyball Women's World Championship in Japan, Boskovic was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament. This was followed by recognition from the CEV who honoured the young Serbian as Female Volleyball Player of the Year at the European Volleyball Gala on November 3.
The last time Eczacibasi won Club World Championship gold in 2016, Boskovic won the MVP award and a spot on the Dream Team as the Best Opposite at the age of 19. In the 2017 edition she repeated her Best Opposite achievement at the event in Kobe and followed up with the same honour at the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix. When Serbia won the continental title at the 2017 CEV European Championship, it was again Boskovic who earned the individual MVP title.
Another Serbian star plays for VakifBank. Experienced Milena Rasic, who currently enjoys the status of a world champion in both the national team and club categories, rarely misses out on making the Dream Team of an international competition she participates in. She will travel to Shaoxing with an impressive showcase of Best Middle Blocker awards to her name – from the 2016 Olympic Games, the 2018 FIVB World Championship, the 2016 FIVB Club World Championship, the 2013 and the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix, the 2015, the 2017 and the 2018 CEV Champions League, etc.
Alongside one of the world’s best middle blockers, the fans at Shaoxing 2018 will be able to enjoy the performances of one of the world’s best opposites - Lonneke Sloetjes, also part of VakifBank’s fascinating squad. The experienced Dutch player is also a regular Dream Teamer at top international events. She claimed the Best Opposite awards at the Rio Olympics, the 2016 FIVB World Grand Prix, the 2015 and the 2017 CEV European Championships and the 2017 CEV Champions League, to mention a few.
Many of the Turkish players on coach Giovanni Guidetti’s VakifBank roster have also managed to leave great individual impressions in recent international competitions. Kubra Caliskan was a middle blocker on the Dream Teams of the last Club World Championship in 2017 and the 2015 FIVB U23 World Championship. Hatice Gizem Orge was the Best Libero of the 2015 FIVB U23 World Championship and of the 2016 and the 2018 CEV Champions League. And VakifBank’s younger generation of players are already following close behind. Cansu Ozbay was only 21 when she became the Best Setter of the inaugural 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League. Outside hitter Tugba Senoglu and middle blocker Zehra Gunes were also both on the Dream Team of the 2017 FIVB U20 World Championship, while Ebrar Karakurt was honoured as one of the best two outside hitters of the 2017 FIVB U18 World Championship.
At Shaoxing 2018, Eczacibasi VitrA will continue to rely on the services of experienced American spiker Jordan Larson, the Most Valuable Player of the 2015 editions of both the FIVB Club World Championship and the CEV Champions League, when her club won their historic first titles in both competitions. The list of individual awards of the 32-year-old American also includes Best Outside Hitter of the 2017 FIVB World Grand Champions Cup, Best Blocker of the 2014 CEV Champions League, Best Receiver of the 2012 CEV Champions League and Best Server of the 2013 NORCECA Championship.
Korea’s super star Kim Yeon-Koung is also on Eczacibasi’s roster for the 2018 Club World Championship next month. Known as one of the top point-makers in the world, Kim joined coach Marco Aurelio Motta’s squad at the beginning of this season. The titles of MVP and Best Scorer of the 2012 Olympic Games highlight her individual achievements, but she has many more to be proud of, including the awards for MVP at the 2012 CEV Champions League, Best Scorer at the 2009 FIVB World Grand Champions Cup and numerous individual honours in continental AVC competitions.
27-year-old setter Gozde Yilmaz is arguably the most prominent Turkish player in Eczacibasi’s line-up, while a Dream Teamer at the 2017 FIVB U23 World Championship, Best Middle Blocker Beyza Arici, is one of a younger generation of players to look out for.
However, before the two Istanbul powerhouses can play each other in a face-to-face duel at the Club World Championship, they have to overcome their first challenge in China – the pool stage – where their opponents also boast some top-level players.
VakifBank share Pool A with Brazil’s Minas Tenis Clube Belo Horizonte, France’s Volero Le Cannet and hosts Zhejiang.
Long-time Brazilian international Natalia Pereira stars on the current line-up of the South American club champions. The 2012 Olympic gold medallist was the MVP of the 2016 and 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix, as well as the Dream Team outside hitter at the 2015 and the 2017 editions of that competition. Pereira was also honoured as the Best Outside Hitter at the 2017 CSV South American Championship. Her teammate Gabriela Guimaraes, on the other hand, was the Best Outside Hitter of the 2017 edition of the Club World Championship, following a number of other individual awards, including MVP of the 2017 CSV South American Club Championship and of the 2015 CSV South American Championship.
China’s Zhejiang are likely to feature 18-year-old Yang Hanyu on their roster. Last year she was MVP and Best Middle Blocker of the 2017 FIVB U20 World Championship. Volero’s squad features former Serbian international and Best Scorer of the 2010 CEV European Junior Championship Ana Bjelica.
The other Brazilian club, Praia Clube Uberlandia, as well as Thailand’s Supreme Chonburi and Kazakhstan’s Altay Oskemen, will play in Pool B alongside Eczacibasi VitrA.
Praia’s impressive roster includes the Best Setter of the 2016 FIVB Club World Championship and of the 2016 CEV Champions League, Carli Lloyd. The American athlete, gold medallist from the inaugural 2018 VNL, was also the MVP of the 2015 Pan American Games. Her compatriot Nicole Fawcett, 2014 world champion with USA and MVP of the 2015 NORCECA Championship and of the 2013 Pan American Cup, is on the Brazilian team as well.
The side from Uberlandia also features several key Brazilian players including their captain Fabiana Claudino – two-time Olympic champion, MVP of the 2013 FIVB World Grand Champions Cup and the 2014 CSV South American Club Championship and Best Blocker of the 2012 Olympics and a number of other top competitions, Fernanda Garay Rodrigues – gold medallist and Best Receiver of the London Olympics and Best Outside Hitter of the 2015 FIVB Club World Championship, Ana Carolina da Silva – Best Middle Blocker of the Club World Championships in 2013 and 2015 and of the 2017 FIVB World Grand Champions Cup, Suelen Pinto - Best Libero of the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League, and Rosamaria Montibeller – Best Opposite of the 2015 FIVB U23 World Championship.
Serbia’s Silvija Popovic and Azerbaijan’s Natalya Mammadova are probably the best known names on Altay’s squad. A 2018 world champion and 2016 Olympic silver medallist, Popovic was the Best Libero of the Club World Championship at both the 2015 and the 2017 editions, as well as the Best Libero of the 2005 FIVB U20 World Championship. 2011 club world champion Mammadova claimed the Best Server award in the 2011 CEV Champions League.
Supreme enjoy the services of several players from Thailand’s national team, including their captain Pleumjit Thinkaow – MVP of the 2015 AVC Asian Club Championship and middle blocker on the Dream Team of the 2013 FIVB World Grand Champions Cup. The MVP of the 2013 AVC Asian Championship and of the 2011 AVC Asian Club Championship, Wilavan Apinyapong, is also likely to help Supreme at Shaoxing 2018, alongside Ajcharaporn Kongyot, MVP and Best Outside Spiker of the 2018 AVC Asian Club Championship, and Piyanut Pannoy, Best Digger of the 2013 Summer Universiade and Best Libero of several continental-level tournaments in Asia.