Champions League Semi-Final #1
- VakifBank Istanbul def. Imoco Volley Conegliano 3-2 (25-22,
- VakifBank advances to Sunday’s Championship; Imoco will play for bronze
- Match Stats
- Match Summary
The Italian champions from Imoco Volley Conegliano showed fight in the middle of their Champions League semi-final against defending champions VakifBank Istanbul. As they’ve done all season, the injury-riddled Conegliano showed fight in this match, especially in the 3rd set which they won in a dominant 25-17.
But that set was won largely against a team playing without the best player in the world, Chinese outside hitter Zhu Ting, who sat out of the frame while receiving treatment on her right leg.
Zhu was able to return to the match in the 4th set, but Conegliano’s fight continued. They caught Zhu in the back-row for much of the middle of the set, which is not her strength, and were able to take advantage both in service, hitting, and blocking. In fact, Conegliano was targeting Zhu, who seemed to struggle in the 4th set, and Zhu was again removed from the match in the 4th set as Conegliano again roared their way to a 25-15 win in the 4th set.
Zhu returned in the 5th set to the front row and was fed 3 times in the first 4 points, only able to land one of those full-force swings. Aside from a smash on an overpass, Zhu was rendered ineffective by Conegliano’s block early in the set. She appeared to continue to be bothered throughout the set by the leg, favoring to her left side on several occasions.
As massive momentum swings came in the heated 5th set, VakifBank continued to rely on their superstar early until she again retreated to the back row, allowing Conegliano to withstand an early surge. Samantha Fabris grew hot as the match went on: she scored 8 points in the 4th set and 4 in the 5th for 12 of her total 24 points.
But at that point entered one more run of heroics from the captain who is almost synonymous with VakifBank, 19-year veteran Gozde Kirdar, playing her last tournament of professional volleyball, to keep VakifBank in contention. A lake Imoco service error rotated Zhu back to the front row, and the Chinese star had one last surge of brilliance in her.
On a crucial point, down 12-10, Zhu blasted the Conegliano libero, made a dig on a massive scramble play, and then finished the point with a block. Another kill on the next point for Zhu tied the match at 12-12. Another Zhu kill broke a tie from 13-13, and yet another Zhu kill broke a tie from 14-14.
With VakifBank one point from a title, Zhu went to the bench, and one final kill from Kirdar, only upheld on an official’s review of a block touch, carried the Turks into the gold medal match.
Zhu remains the top scorer in the competition, adding 24 to her total to sit with 214. She scored 7 in the final set with 15 of her team’s 26 total attacks in the final set.
As an indication of her value to the team, in the 1st and 2nd sets, VakifBank hit 50% and 45%, respectively. In the 3rd, without her, they hit just 34%. They finished with 46% hitting in the final set, with Zhu herself landing 59% of her shots in the match.
The match was a replay of last year’s Champions League final, which VakifBank won in an easy 3-0 sweep. VakifBank will await the winner of the second semi-final between CSM Volei Alba Blaj of Romania and Galatasaray in the championship game, while Conegliano will play the loser for bronze.