2016 Olympic volleyball MVP Zhu Ting is not shy about her team’s lofty goals for the 2017-2018 season. This year, her 2nd with VakifBank Istanbul in Turkey, the team is shooting to win “all the titles.”
“We were champions in the (CEV Champions League) last season, and our main goal this season is to win all of the titles,” Zhu said in an interview with SporX.
Last year, VakifBank were the winners of the the CEV Champions League, the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship,but came up short of their 10th Turkish League title when they failed to even qualify for the championship round (Fenerbahce won the leageu).
After finishing 21-1, and dropping only 8 sets, through the Turkish regular season, Vakifbank was upset by Galatasaray on a two-match aggregate of 4-2 in the semi-finals. In spite of winning 2 big international trophies, dropping the domestic league title (and not even qualifying) left a sour taste in their mouth – especially after signing the now-23-year-old Zhu to a rumored $1.2 million annual salary.
How will they get there? According to Italian coach Giovanni Giudetti, they will have to rely on their depth and younger players.
“We will now have a match every 3 days, which means I can’t use the same players in back-to-back games. I have the best 14 players now,” Giudetti said.
Among the team’s newest reinforcements for this season: Turkish National Team members Tugba Senoglu and Zehra Gunes, and American outside hitter Kelsey Robinson. Robinson joins the team from Imoco Volley Conegliano in Italy – the team that lost to VakifBank in the European final last year – where she was named Best Outside Hitter.
The new moves have already paid off for a season-opening Turkish Super Cup title.
The team played the season’s first game on Tuesday evening against Ankara, which they won easily 3-0 (25-20, 25-13, 25-20) to jump to the top of the very-early table