Baku, Azerbaijan, March 15, 2014. The reigning champions of VakifBank ISTANBUL secured an opportunity to defend their title in tomorrow’s final of the 2014 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League - Women in Baku. The team of head coach Giovanni Guidetti won the all-Turkish semifinal against city rivals of Ecsacibasi VitrA ISTANBUL by 3:1 (19-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-17) cheered on by 6000 volleyball spectators at the magnificent Crystal Hall in the Azerbaijani capital.
The two teams approached the beginning of the match very carefully, looking for each other’s weak spots. The score remained tight through 13-13, after which Ecsacibasi took more permanent control of the scoreboard. It was the more successful spiking, especially by captain Esra Gumus Kirici, that helped the team break away, but it was Andressa Picussa’s kill block that finished it off at 25-19 in favor of Ecsacibasi.
Lorenzo Micelli’s squad kept the momentum to take a 3-point lead at 4-1 and then at 8-5 in the second set. Despite the great spiking efforts by Neslihan Demir and Esra Gumus Kirici, Ecsacibasi started committing too many unforced errors to allow VakifBank to turn things around. Prolific attacking by Christiane Furst and better blocking and serving performance helped the incumbent champions take the lead and maintain it through the end. The final 25-19 was shaped up by a hit from VakifBank’s captain Gozde Sonsirma. During this set VakifBank’s setter Naz Aydemir Akyol sustained an injury and was forced to leave the game.
The third set was a rollercoaster affair. First, VakifBank gained advantage, then Ecsacibasi went ahead only to let the opponent take a 1-point lead at the first technical time-out. Giovanni Guidetti’s players opened the gap as far wide as 13-9, but not for long. With substitute Helena Havelkova behind the serving line, Ecsacibasi scored 4 points in a row to regain the lead at 15-14 and later extended it to 22-19, when an easy mistake in defense marked another turn of fortunes. It was time for Vakifbank’s substitute Guldeniz Onal Pasaoglu to take her turn in serving. The great defensive efforts by her team provided for some exciting long rallies and an even more exciting U-turn for the eventual 25-22 VakifBank’s way.
This gave VakifBank the needed psychological advantage to completely dominate the fourth set. After a 1-3 lag at the beginning, the champions scored four points in a row to take a 5-3 lead and never trailed again. Substitute player Polen Uslupehlivan displayed her scoring abilities with an 8-point contribution to the final 25-17 that sent VakifBank celebrating.
Ecsacibasi captain Esra Gumus Kirici became the top scorer of the match with 22 points. Neslihan Demir added another 17 to the team’s tally, as many as the winning team’s most prolific player Carolina Costagrande.
“We played with really high motivation and put all our strength to win this game,” VakifBank captain Gozde Sonsirma said. “I do not know how we lost the first set, but it is good that we made up for it in the second to eventually win the game. We played aggressively and resolutely. We are now happy and trying to focus on tomorrow’s game.”
“We made a real good start with a successful spike attacks, but unfortunately we made some mistakes when we tried to play some the balls,” Ecsacibasi player Busra Cansu stated. “We were motivated, but somehow we could not make it. We are really sorry about that.”
“We start well and we even won the first set,” her coach Lorenzo Micelli agreed. “I was thinking that we would win the game as well, but our tactics did not work well. Unfortunately, after losing the second set, we kind of gave up.”
“I always believe in my team. Even if they are at behind in the score they still show high performance,” VakifBank head coach Giovanni Guidetti commented. “It was not an easy glory. We struggled to win the game. Now my team is ready to play in the final game. I may choose any starting lineup for this next match since all my players are ready to play some really good volleyball.”
Click here for more details of the match including statistics.
All games are streamed live online by LAOLA1.tv.
Live photogallery from the events in the Azerbaijani capital is available here.