Lausanne, Switzerland, November 1, 2019 – For the team of Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul the new club season started with a bang on October 9. The Turkish powerhouse defeated archrivals VakifBank Istanbul in a super cup duel to defend the Spor Toto Champions Cup, their first trophy for the 2019-2020 season, and are now looking forward to claiming the second in the most important competition of the year, the 2019 FIVB Club World Championship from December 3 through 8 in Shaoxing, China.
For Eczacibasi VitrA this will be the fifth consecutive participation in the Club World Championships. At their first two appearances, in 2015 and 2016, they triumphed with the title. In 2017 they finished fourth, and come into this year’s edition as bronze medallists of the 2018 event, also held in Shaoxing.
In fact, the Turkish super cup match was a five-set battle between the two teams that have been wearing the club world crown over the past four years. Led by Tijana Boskovic (27 points) and Yeon Koung Kim (16 points), Eczacibasi snatched a 3-2 victory in a spectacular encounter in front of 4,500 in Izmir.
The arch-rivalry between the two Istanbul standouts continues into the Turkish domestic league. Five legs into the new season, Eczacibasi top the table undefeated, while VakifBank stand third on a 4-1 win-loss record. They are set to meet face to face in the 11th leg, just before the Club World Championship in China, but the fixture’s date and time have not been scheduled yet.
The two top-level international stars of Eczacibasi told fivb.com they expect a very strong tournament in Shaoxing and are keen to give their best to help the team claim their third Club World Championship gold.
“I think it is going be a very strong competition with great teams,” said Serbia’s Tijana Boskovic, who was named MVP of the 2016 Club World Championship and Dream Team opposite of the last three editions. “We are excited about this challenge. We have time until the start and we are trying to get better every day, so we can show our best performance there in China.”
At the early age of 22, Boskovic is already considered one of the best volleyball players in the world. With the national team of Serbia, she claimed gold and the MVP honours at the 2018 World Championship and the last two editions of the European Championship, as well as Olympic silver at Rio 2016. A week ago, she was awarded by the CEV as Europe’s Female Player of the Year for the third time in a row.
While Boskovic is into her fifth season with the Eczacibasi jersey, her 31-year-old Korean teammate Kim plays her second. The MVP of the 2012 London Olympics and the 2012 CEV Champions League joined the Istanbul team about a year ago and made a solid contribution to the team’s third place finish at Shaoxing 2018. This was her second Club World Championship bronze, after the 2012 podium with another Turkish giant, Fenerbahce Istanbul.
“It will be one of the strongest tournaments of the year with the participation of good and strong teams,” Kim reconfirmed Boskovic’s opinion about the upcoming edition of the Club World Championship. “But we know we have time to prepare. We will make every effort over the upcoming month in order to be at our best in China.”
The other foreign player from last year’s roster, who stayed on with Eczacibasi, is 31-year-old American international middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer. She aims at her first Club World Championship gold, after last year’s bronze with her current team and the 2016 silver with Italy’s Pomi Casalmaggiore.
Two more foreign players are among the new additions to Eczacibasi’s stellar line-up. One of them is 30-year-old outside hitter Natalia Zilio Pereira, 2012 Olympic champion with Brazil and two-time Club World Championship silver medallist – in 2010 with Sollys Osasco and last year with Minas Tenis Clube Belo Horizonte. The other one is 30-year-old playmaker Carli Lloyd, 2016 Olympic bronze medallist with USA and silver medallist and Best Setter of the 2016 Club World Championship, when she played alongside Gibbemeyer with Pomi Casalmaggiore.
28-year-old Turkish international Simge Sebnem Akoz, the Best Libero of this year’s European Championship, is one of the domestic players who stayed with Eczacibasi for the current season. She was part of the squad that won Club World Championship gold in 2016 and bronze in 2018. Coach Marco Motta will continue to rely on the services of setter Gamze Alikaya Kilic and middle blocker Beyza Arici as well.
Hande Baladin, the 22-year-old Turkish international middle blocker, who was on Eczacibasi’s world champion squad in 2016, returned to the club after playing with Galatasaray Istanbul for one season. So did 26-year-old opposite Melis Durul, who spent the last six seasons with other Turkish clubs and won the 2017 Club World Championship title with VakifBank. 2010 club world champion with Fenerbahce, middle blocker Ergul Eroglu, as well as talented young hopefuls Saliha Sahin, Buse Melis Kara and Yasemin Guveli, are the remaining new additions to Eczacibasi VitrA’s roster.
To go with their two gold and one bronze medals from the Club World Championships, Eczacibasi’s sparkling showcase includes a full set of medals from Europe’s Champions League, as many as 28 national championship titles, nine national cup titles and four national super cup trophies.
In their next Turkish League game, they face Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul on Saturday. They will meet the same prominent opponent once more later this month, in their first 2020 Champions League game on November 19.
At Shaoxing 2019, Eczacibasi share Pool A with Italy’s Imoco Volley Conegliano, whom they play on December 3, Brazil’s Itambe Minas Belo Horizonte (December 4) and hosts Guangdong Evergrande Guangzhou (December 6). The pool winners and pool runners-up will advance to the Club World Championship semifinals.
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