2023 European champions VakifBank Istanbul (source: cev.eu)

2023 European champions VakifBank Istanbul (source: cev.eu)

VakifBank Istanbul will return to the FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship for the 2023 edition of the competition as Europe’s continental champions. The four-time club world champions and silver medallists of last year’s edition defended their CEV Champions League title, defeating city archrivals Eczacibasi Dynavit Istanbul in Saturday’s final in Turin, Italy. As continental runners-up, Eczacibasi also booked their ticket for yet another participation in the Club World Championships.

VakifBank will compete at the Club World Championships for the ninth time, having made the podium at all eight of their previous appearances, including all editions of the tournament since 2016. They triumphed a record-setting four times, in 2013, 2017, 2018 and 2021, took silver in 2011 and 2022, and bronze in 2016 and 2019.

Eczacibasi, on the other hand, claimed the world titles upon their first two participations in 2015 and 2016. They also medalled with silver in 2019 and with bronze in 2018 and 2022. In 2023, they will compete in the Club World Championships for the seventh time.

In Saturday’s all-Turkish Champions League final in Turin, VakifBank claimed their sixth European title after mastering a 3-1 (27-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-17) victory over Eczacibasi, with an amazing 40-point match high by their Italian opposite Paola Egonu. The Most Valuable Player of the 2019 Club World Championship spiked 37 points at a success rate of 65% and added two kill blocks and an ace to her tally. Her contribution to VakifBank’s title earned her yet another MVP award. Egonu’s Brazilian teammate, outside hitter Gabriela Guimaraes, chipped in with 15 points, while Turkish middle blocker Zehra Gunes impressed with five kill block towards a 10-point total in the match.

Serbian Generation O star Tijana Boskovic, MVP of the 2016 edition of the Club World Championship, led Eczacibasi’s scorers with 16 points. Outsides Hande Baladin of Türkiye and Irina Voronkova of Russia also reached the double digits, with 15 and 13 points, respectively.

The All-Star Team of the Champions League, voted by the fans, was made up of setter Cansu Ozbay (VakifBank), opposite Paola Egonu (VakifBank), outside hitters Gabriela Guimaraes (VakifBank) and Ann Kalandadze (Developres Rzeszow of Poland), middle blockers Zehra Gunes (VakifBank) and Eda Erdem (Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul of Türkiye), and libero Ayca Aykac (VakifBank).