Even while conserving energy ahead of the tough matches going forward, three-time world champions VakifBank Istanbul of Turkey scored an emphatic 3-0 (25-13, 25-10, 25-17) win over reigning Asian champions Altay Volleyball Club of Kazakhstan in their first match at the 2021 FIVB Women's Club World Championship in Ankara.
VakifBank emphatically shout: "We're here"
Three-time world champions take off in bid for fourth Club Worlds title
Published 05:55, 16 Dec 2021
Meanwhile, the other home team of Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul rebounded from their opening day defeat to take down South American champions Dentil Praia Clube of Uberlandia 3-1 (22-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-21) and take a huge leap towards the semifinals (though there remains a very slight chance that this set they dropped may come back to bite them in case of a three-way tie in the pool).
VakifBank's win means they're through to the semifinals (and the only thing remaining is to decide who's first and who's second in their pool when they clash with Brazil's Itambe Minas Tenis Clube on Friday).
It also means that Altay bow out of the tournament, after suffering two defeats in as many pool play matches to finish bottom of their group.
It took VakifBank just a couple of minutes over an hour to dispatch Altay with a thundering performance that allowed coach Giovanni Guidetti to bring on all of his reserves in the third set and left absolutely no doubt that the 2013, 2017 and 2018 champions are determined and well-positioned to bring the trophy back to Turkey.
A top-scoring performance of 15 points by Sweden's Isabelle Haak (with 11/18 for 61% in attack) and a whopping 83% (10/12) attacking efficiency by USA's Chiaka Ogbogu in the middle was all that VakifBank needed to please their thousands of fans at Ankara Sports Hall, as they also pressed hard from the service line to produce seven aces (two each from Haak and Zehra Gunes) to Altay's none.
"I'm very happy with what I've seen today," said Guidetti after the match. "Though we have more difficult matches ahead, we're not afraid of anybody."
Russian duo Arine Fedorovtseva and Anna Lazereva, who shared the match high of 28 points each, carried Fenerbahce as the side fought back from a set down with some efficient blocking that yielded 12 points (four from Serbia's Mina Popovic, three by Eda Erdem).
"We are so happy and full of emotion," said teenager Fedorovtseva as Fenerbahce aplauded and celebrated together with the more than 8,000-strong ecstatic crowd at Ankara Sports Hall.
Competition continues on Friday, as pool play wraps up with defending champions Prosecco Doc Imoco Volley Conegliano of Italy taking on Brazil's Dentil Praia Clube of Uberlandia in a clash of the European versus the South American champions at 15:00 local time (12:00 GMT), followed by VakifBank's meeting with Minas at 18:30 (15:30 GMT).