2021 Women

Don’t irritate VakifBank!

Recap

Article Fri, Mar 26 2021
Author: Nikolay Markov

Maybe the girls from Busto Arsizio should not have done it. That amazing comeback they achieved in Istanbul last week only made things worse for them. It annoyed the beast in its own den so much that it had to chase them down to their own house and swallow them in one piece.

Zehra Gunes of VakifBank

That is the metaphoric summary of the semifinal clash between Turkey’s VakifBank Istanbul and Italy’s Unet e-work Busto Arsizio in the CEV Champions League Volley 2021 - Women. After allowing the opponents to get away with a complete turnaround from two sets down and win by 3-2 in Istanbul, coach Giovanni Guidetti’s squad reacted like an irritated beast indeed. In the return game played on Wednesday in Busto Arsizio, VakifBank showed absolutely no mercy and, without messing around with any substitutions along the way, took just 71 minutes to hammer out an emphatic 3-0 (25-13, 25-15, 25-15) shutout and advance to their ninth Champions League final.

VakifBank’s Swedish opposite Isabelle Haak was on fire and, averaging almost nine points per set, she dominated the net with 23 spiking putaways (56% success rate) and three kill blocks towards the match high of 26 points.

One can speculate that if the Butterflies had not pulled the beast’s tail by messing with the logical course of the first match, they would have probably had a better chance at surprising the formidable opponents at home at a moment possibly too late for the beast to bite back.

Striving for their fifth Champions League title in the May 1 Super Final in Verona, VakifBank will no longer have Butterflies to deal with, however. This time, they will have to face another beast of their own size.

Imoco’s Polish playmaker Joanna Wolosz

The Panthers, as reigning club world champions A. Carraro Imoco Conegliano are nicknamed, did not waste any time in the other semifinal series. Without any glitches in the logical turn of events, they powered through the second leg towards a second straight-set victory over Italian compatriots Igor Gorgonzola Novara and on to a Super Final encounter with VakifBank.

As if keen to take revenge for the defeat they suffered in the last Champions League Super Final in 2019, Imoco did not stop even after the second set of the home game in Villorba when they had already secured a spot in the gold medal match. While many coaches have the tendency to make substantial substitutions in moments like that, Danielle Santarelli went into the third set with the exact same starting seven and bulldozed through to a convincing 3-0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-20) victory.

In a rare case of Paola Egonu not checking out as the best scorer of the match, it was Imoco’s American outside McKenzie Adams who delivered the match high of 16 points, one clear of opposite Egonu.

The club from Conegliano are now on a 17-game winning streak in the Champions League. The clash with VakifBank in Verona will be their third final in the competition and second between these two teams. Should Imoco extend their streak to 18, they will celebrate a historic first continental title.

Visit the semifinals’ match centres.

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