Baku, Azerbaijan, March 15, 2014. Dinamo KAZAN will challenge the reigning champions of VakifBank ISTANBUL in Sunday’s final of the 2014 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League - Women in Azerbaijan. The home crowd at the sold-out Crystal Hall was disappointed to miss out on a dream first continental title for their favorites from Rabita BAKU as the Russian squad crushed their hopes in straight sets – 3:0 (25-15, 25-21, 25-19), in the second semifinal on Saturday evening.
Inspired by the full house of noisy spectators, the home team started off with an early 4-1 lead. After 6-3, however, Dinamo flexed muscles with 4 points in a row to take the lead. Some excellent spiking by Ekaterina Gamova and many unforced errors on Rabita’s side helped the Russian squad dominate through the rest of the set and win it by a landslide 25-15.
Rabita recovered from an early 0-3 lag in the second set and managed to maintain a lead through most of the middle of the set. The tight battle led to a 17-17 tie, which was the last on for this set. Dinamo’s better spiking and blocking provided for its breakaway in the conclusive moments. A kill block by Jordan Quinn Larson-Burbach closed it off at 25-21.
The great blocking efforts of the Russian squad continued through the third set. Gamova seemed to be unstoppable in leading her team to the final. After 4-4 Dinamo did not allow Rabita to even level the score anymore. Some hope returned to Azerbaijani souls when the home heroines still managed to climb up to only a point behind the opponent at 17-18, but not for long. The girls from Kazan made an impressive final push for the eventual 25-19 to celebrate victorious.
Ekaterina Gamova was the top scorer of the match with 20 points, followed by Jordan Quinn Larson-Burbach with 12. With 10 points each, Rachel Rourke and Aurea Cruz became Rabita’s most prolific players.
“Our girls did their best to win this game,” Maria Borodakova, captain of Dinamo, said. “We are really happy. We have never been afraid of Rabita and this is the proof that now we are the stronger team. We can achieve even better results with these players and now our only aim is to win that trophy.”
Her Rabita counterpart Sanja Starovic was really disappointed. “I am really embarrassed to talk to you, guys,” she addressed the local media. “I do not know what to say. I do not even have a reason for our loss. The only thing I can say is we could not put out everything for the victory. Maybe we have not trained enough, I do not know…, I cannot find the reason. I just want to say ‘sorry’…!”
Rabita head coach Eldar Yusubov was also hesitant to point out why his team lost: “I do not even know how this happened. Nothing went right - no passes, no blocks… We just screwed up this game. All we need is just to find out the mistakes of our players and to try to fix them as soon as possible. Maybe the third place will give our fans little encouragement, but anyway we are terribly sorry for today’s loss.”
“I always say that my players are really strong this year. And we showed that we are the ones who can take the Champions League gold medals this year," was Dinamo head coach Rishat Gilyazutdinov's comment. "We have to focus on tomorrow’s game. And our players have enough time to recover from today’s hard match. I cannot say this game was easy for us, because there was a big fan support for the home side. At the end I would like to thank the organizers and local federation for such a tremendous place and for the high-level organization. Thank you very much!”
Click here for more details of the match including statistics.
The final match on Sunday between Dinamo and VakifBank is set for 19:00 local time (16:00 CET). The bronze medal match between Rabita and Eczacibasi VitrA ISTANBUL will start three hours earlier – at 16:00 local time (13:00 CET).
All games will be streamed live online by LAOLA1.tv.
Live photogallery from the events in the Azerbaijani capital is available here.