A line-up of international stars is set to engage in the final battle for the Turkish crown, led by two of the most successful coaches in the world of women’s volleyball. Istanbul powerhouses VakifBank and Fenerbahce Opet will go head to head in the best-of-five Misli.com Sultanlar Ligi championship series, which will get underway with the first match on Saturday.
VakifBank and Fenerbahce in stellar clash for Sultan’s crown
The Turkish championship series begins on Saturday
Published 07:47, 29 Apr 2022
Fenerbahce will welcome VakifBank to the magnificent Burhan Felek volleyball hall near the Bosporus at 19:00 local time. As regular season winners, VakifBank will have the home-court advantage in the next two games to be played at 20:00 local time on May 3 and 6 at the VakifBank Spor Sarayi.
When the two finalists meet on Saturday, it will be their seventh encounter this season. VakifBank won four of the previous six, in addition to the golden set which decided their CEV Champions League semifinal series. They exchanged four-set victories in their Turkish league regular season meetings, with Fenerbahce winning at VakifBank in October and VakifBank claiming the away win in January.
In December, the two clubs also met in an FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship semifinal in Ankara, when VakifBank celebrated a clean-slate victory before going on to win the title. At the continental level, VakifBank shut out Fenerbahce at home in the first match of their Champions League encounter in March, then lost the away match in four sets in April before progressing to next month’s European Champions League final on a 15-11 win in the golden set. Less than two weeks ago, the two teams also engaged in a five-set Turkey Cup final duel resolved only at 17-15 VakifBank’s way in the tie-breaker, with Isabelle Haak smashing an amazing 44 points in the match.
The Swedish opposite is VakifBank’s big point machine, but just one of many high-calibre stars on coach Giovanni Guidetti’s squad. The team have already claimed three major trophies this season – the Club World Championship, the Turkish national cup and the national super cup. They have two more in their target plan, the Turkish league and the Champions League. In their ongoing quest, Italian coach Guidetti will also continue to rely on outside hitters Gabriela Guimaraes of Brazil and Michelle Bartsch-Hackley of USA, Turkish international middle blockers Zehra Gunes and Kubra Akman, setter Cansu Ozbay and libero Ayca Aykac, to name a few of his key players.
Fenerbahce’s line-up is no less dazzling. Serbian head coach Zoran Terzic can count on Turkish standouts like experienced middle blocker Eda Erdem, playmaker Naz Aydemir and outside Meliha Ismailoglu. Fenerbahce’s foreign stars include Russian prodigy Arina Fedorovtseva, her compatriot Anna Lazareva, Serbian middle Mina Popovic and Cuban-born Melissa Vargas, who recently received Turkish citizenship.
After winning the regular season on a 24-2 win-loss record, VakifBank progressed to the semifinals where they went eliminated fourth-placed Turk Hava Yollari Istanbul with a 3-2 away win and a 3-0 at home. Fenerbahce fell one set short of finishing regular season runners-up, but got back at Eczacibasi Dynavit Istanbul for beating them on set ratio with two wins in their semifinal, 3-1 at home and 3-0 away.
VakifBank have claimed six of the 12 national titles in the history of the club since 2013. Fenerbahce are the only team to have interrupted their domination during that period, celebrating as champions in 2015 and 2017. They have won the league a total of five times, starting with three back-to-back triumphs between 2009 and 2011.