Club thrillers keep fans on edge across the world


The top two players of Rexona Sesc Rio de Janeiro, Drussyla Costa (facing) and Gabi Guimaraes, embrace after the win over Camponesa Minas Belo Horizonte that kept the defending champions alive in the Brazilian Superleague.

Lausanne, Switzerland, April 12, 2017 - More than 3,600 fans filled Minas Arena in Belo Horizonte to the rafters in the hope of seeing the home team of Camponesa Minas advance to their first Brazilian Superleague final since 2004.

But Drussyla Costa, who started the game in place of the Netherlands' Anne Buijs and by the end was MVP, and Gabi Guimaraes, who made 24 kills on 41 swings (for 59 per cent), clearly had other plans and saved the day (probably even the whole season) for defending champions Rexona Sesc Rio de Janeiro.

The Rio side shattered the dreams of Minas 3-1 (25-12, 25-18, 27-29, 25-23) to stay alive in the best-of-five semifinal series and force a fifth game on Friday, back in Rio.

Minas did react in the third set, but even then Rio came back from 23-20 to tie the score at 23-23 and then cancel five set points before the home side did eventually manage to pull one back.

Minas' swan song in the match was when they closed in from 24-20 down in the fourth to within a point at 24-23, before Gabi got a brilliant tip from behind the three-metre line onto the floor.

Gabi was top scorer of the game with 25 points and Drussyla added 20. USA's Destinee Hooker was best scorer of Minas with 22.

The winner of Friday's fifth game qualifies to meet Volei Nestle Osasco in the single final on 23 April. Osasco qualified last week after sweeping their semifinal series with back-to-back wins over Dentil Praia Clube Uberlandia.

Rio de Janeiro as reigning South American champions and Osasco as recipients of a wild card will play in the FIVB Volleyball Women's Club World Championship next month.

VakifBank, Eczacibasi crash out of Turkish League
Galatasaray Istanbul staged one of the biggest upsets of the season Wednesday evening, when they eliminated the 2016 Club World Championship bronze medallists and crosstown rivals VakifBank in the semifinals of the Turkish women's League.

Having won the first leg in straight sets, Galatasaray needed just two on Wednesday, which they promptly got after completely outplaying for as long as was needed an opposition that seemed in total disarray.

With the matter of qualification to the final settled, VakifBank coach Giovanni Guidetti immediately withdrew his regular starters to rest them ahead of the team's appearance in the Final Four of the European Champions League, 22-23 April in Treviso. Galatasaray coach Ataman Guneyligil also brought on a few of his reserves and VakifBank went on to win the match 3-2 (20-25, 19-25, 25-23, 25-21, 15-10) - but in the end the victory just counted for bragging rights.

Sinead Jack of Trinidad & Tobago (who played only two sets), Asli Kalac and Guldeniz Onal led the scoring for Galatasaray with 13 points each, though Lonneke Sloetjes of the Netherlands (one of the few VakifBank starters who remained on court after the second set) was top scorer of the game with 25.

Later in the day, reigning world champions Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul were stunned by Fenerbahce Istanbul. Despite having won the first leg in straight sets, needing just two more to advance to the final and leading 1-0, Eczacibasi somehow managed to drop the next three and then blow a 14-10 lead in the 'golden set' for a 4-1 (20-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-22, 16-14) final scoreline.

Led by Eda Erdem's 21 points, 18 by Korea's Kim Yeon-Koung and another 16 by Brazil's Natalia Pereira, Fenerbahce had the right solutions at the most critical points in the game and capitalised on opponent errors to score the huge upset. Neslihan Demir with 22 points for Eczacibasi was the best scorer of the match, but it was not quite enough. Eczacibasi coach Massimo Barbolini tried to shift things around after his side found themeselves 2-1 sets down when he brought on Serbia's Tijana Boskovic and Ceylan Arisan, but that was not enough either.

Regardless of the Turkish League results, both Eczacibasi and VakifBank will be taking part in the 2017 Club World Championship, 9-14 May in Kobe.

Dinamo Kazan, Olympiacos Piraeus set sights on Eurocups titles
In European Cups action midweek, Dinamo Kazan took the first step towards the title of the second-tier CEV Cup on Tuesday.

With Bulgaria's Elitsa Vassileva on fire scoring 26 points and Irina Voronkina adding another 19 as the Russian side defeated Italy's Unet Yamamay Busto Arsizio 3-1 (25-18, 25-22, 20-25, 25-22), they now need only two sets in the return leg on Saturday. Valentina Diouf got in 23 points for Busto Arsizio, but suffered from poor receiving and subsequently underperformed in attacking.

And Greek champions Olympiacos Piraeus were inspired by the incredible support of their 2,000-strong raucous home crowd to stage a remarkable comeback win over Bursa BBSK 3-2 (18-25, 15-25, 25-20, 25-19, 15-10) and keep the question of the third-tier CEV Cup title open ahead of Saturday's return leg in Turkey.

As Bursa piled on the pressure from the service line, Olympiacos struggled in reception, allowing the visitors to run away with a two-set lead and leaving the home side to play catch-up - which they did quite convincingly, led by Germany's Saskia Hippe who scored 20 points and a great contribution by Nadezya Malasai of Belarus (15) and Ana Lazarevic of Serbia (14).

Joycinha Silva of Brazil was Bursa's top scorer on 19 points, with Ivana Prokopic of Croatia and Ipek Soroglu adding another 15 each.

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