VakifBank Spor Kulubu (TUR) (VKF) vs. Bohai Bank Tianjin (CHN) (TBB) women - Semifinals #8693814

VakifBank’s Gabi on the block against Tianjin

The two Istanbul giants, Eczacibasi Dynavit and VakifBank Spor Kulubu, lived up to their status of 2023 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship favourites and both progressed to Sunday’s gold medal match in Hangzhou, starting at 19:30 local time (11:30 UTC). It will be the first time in history the two powerhouses go face to face in a Club World Championship final. In Saturday’s semifinals, they defeated Brazil’s Dentil Praia Clube of Uberlandia and Chinese hosts Tianjin Bohai Bank, respectively, who will lock horns at 14:00 (06:00) for the bronze, which would be the first medal in the history of the competition for either of them.

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In the first semifinal, Eczacibasi Dynavit Istanbul spoiled their impeccable run at the tournament by losing a set to Dentil Praia Clube, but stayed undefeated after celebrating a win, which propelled them to their fourth Club World Championship final. They have won two of the previous three, in 2015 and 2016, but lost the most recent one in 2019.

Eczacibasi Dynavit Istanbul (TUR) (ECZ) vs. Dentil Praia Clube (BRA) (DTI) women - Semifinals #8692978

Eczacibasi’s Voronkova trying to overcome Dentil Praia’s double block

After sweeping the first two sets by wide margins, Eczacibasi entered the fourth with three changes to their starting line-up. Dentil Praia took advantage and pushed the set to overtime and, saving an opponent match point, claimed their second set win against this opponent in four matches played in their head-to-head history. They stayed competitive in the fourth set as well, but in the money time, Eczacibasi broke away again to win the match.

The Turkish side outplayed their Brazilian opponents in all scoring elements – 58-48 in spike kills, 15-7 in kill blocks, 7-4 in serving aces and 18-20 in unforced errors. Serbian opposite and captain Tijana Boskovic was once again the best scorer of the match, leading the winners with 24 points, including three aces and a block. Her compatriot, middle blocker Jovana Stevanovic raised four kill blocks and fired two aces to finish with 13 points. Russian outside hitter Irina Voronkova also finished with 13 points, while her cross-court teammate Hande Baladin scored 11, including four blocks. Opposite Tandara Santos led Dentil Praia with 20 points. Middle Lorena Viezel also reached the double digits with 11.

VakifBank Spor Kulubu, on the other hand, managed to stay perfect in Hangzhou and hammered out their third consecutive straight-set win, over Tianjin Bohai Bank, on the way to their third back-to-back and seventh overall Club World Championship final. This matched the 3-0 result from the first time these two clubs met four years ago, but this time Tianjin were way more competitive, losing two of the sets by the narrowest of margins.

The four-time club world champions prevailed emphatically in the first set to win it by a wide gap, but in the second, they had to work their way back from a five-point deficit. VakifBank were in the lead throughout the third set and the gap reached five points. This time, Tianjin fought on to get back to within one, but the Turkish team managed to hold on to their advantage and close the match in three sets.

While committing more unforced errors than the opponents (18-15), coach Giovanni Guidetti’s squad outscored Tianjin in offence (47-37 in attack kills), in blocking (10-5 in stuffs) and from the serving line (3-2 in aces). VakifBank’s Brazilian outside and captain Gabriela Guimaraes delivered a match-high 17 points, including two blocks. Americans Jordan Thompson and Alexandra Frantti added 14 and 13 points, respectively, towards their team’s success. Tianjin were led by outsides Wand Yizhu with 13 points and Li Yingying with 11.