Minas Tenis Clube, VakifBank Istanbul Headed For Gold Medal Match

With clutch semifinal victories, Minas Tenis Clube and VakifBank Istanbul are heading to the gold-medal match of the 2018 FIVB Women’s Club World Championships. 

In Saturday’s first semifinal, Minas Tenis Clube rallied back after losing the opening set to achieve victory over Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul in five (22-25, 26-24, 25-13, 23-25, 15-12).

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Three players from the Turkish Eczacibasi squad had 20 or more points, including Team USA captain Jordan Larson, but it wasn’t enough to counteract 31 points from Minas Tenis Clube’s Natalia Pereira, an outside hitter who also stars on the Brazilian national team. 

“At the beginning they were better than us in passing and attacking tactically,” Minas Tenis Clube head coach Stefano Lavarini said. “In the first two sets we were worried because we could not find the kind of plays that they used to show, and at the same time we were losing. But then we were lucky and then we played better.”

In the second semifinal reigning world champ VakifBank squashed a comeback from Praia Clube to secure its spot in the semifinal with a victory in four sets. Praia wracked up 14 blocks in the match but still couldn’t do enough to slow down the multifaceted VakifBank offense. 

If it wasn’t the match’s top scorer Zhu Ting smashing balls from the left pin and back row, it was Dutch opposite Lonneke Sloetjes, who finished the four-setter with 18 points, getting it done from the right. Kelsey Robinson also had 13 points, and Serbian middle Milena Rasic led the match with seven blocks and totaled 15 points.

Backed by the skillful blocking of Ana Carolina Da Silva and aggressive offense of Fernanda Rodrigues, aka Fe Garay, Praia Clube won the third set after going down 0-2 to its Turkish opponent, but the Brazilian squad, which includes Americans Nicole Fawcett and Carli Lloyd, couldn’t hold onto its moment in the fourth. 

VakifBank won with a final scoreline of 25-21, 25-21, 22-25, 25-18.

“VakifBank deserved to win,” Praia Clube captain Fe Garay said. “We had a chance to go to the fifth set but we couldn’t.”

Eczacibasi and Praia Clube will play each other in the third-place match tomorrow. In the fifth-place match, Altay Volleyball and Volero Le Cannet face off after winning their respective classification matches on Saturday. Zhejiang and Supreme Chonburi will compete in the seventh-place match.

2018 FIVB Women’s Club World Championships Schedule

Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018

Zhejiang vs. Supreme Chonburi, 8 p.m. CT

Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018

Altay Volleyball vs. Volero Le Cannet, 12 a.m. CT

Eczacibasi vs. Praia Clube, 3 a.m. CT

Minas Tenis Clube vs. VakifBank Istanbul, 6 a.m. CT

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