Thrilling stuff across Europe produces Champions League finalists


Kubra Akman of VakifBank Istanbul reaches high above Dobriana Rabadzhieva of Volero Zurich as the Turkish side advance to the Final Four of the European Champions League.

Lausanne, Switzerland, April 5, 2017 - Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul, VakifBank Istanbul and Dinamo Moscow all qualified to the Final Four of the European Champions League after some thrilling midweek action across the continent and join hosts Imoco Volley Conegliano in the semifinals on 22 April in Treviso.

Champions League semifinals:
- Dinamo Moscow (RUS) v Imoco Volley Conegliano (ITA)
- VakifBank Istanbul (TUR) v Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul (TUR)

Despite losing their Brazilian star middle blocker Thaisa Menezes to ankle injury in the third set, reigning world champions Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul overturned their first-leg five-set defeat to beat crosstown rivals Fenerbahce 3-1 (29-31, 25-14, 27-25, 25-23) before 2,600 at the Burhan Felek and advance to the Final Four.

After spending the night in hospital, where the whole team turned up to wish her well, Thaisa was diagnosed with an injury in the ligaments of her ankle and a very small lesion in her cartilage. Her ankle will remain in a splint for three weeks, after which the 29-year-old will begin physiotherapy without the need for surgery, the club reported.

Tijana Boskovic of Serbia, MVP of the 2016 FIVB Volleyball Women's Club World Championship in Manila, rose to the occasion and scored 27 points (including four aces), with USA's Rachel Adams adding 16. Despite leaving the match early, Thaisa was best blocker in the game with four stuffs and a total of 10 points. Fenerbahce's Natalia Pereira of Brazil with 22 points and Kim Yeon-Koung of Korea with 20 did their best, but the home side was overwhelmed by Eczacibasi both on the net and from the service line.

It took VakifBank a little time to get into the game at home in Istanbul and by then Volero Zurich were a set up and leading 9-5 in the second in a plucky attempt to reverse their four-set defeat at home a fortnight ago. But before things got too complicated VakifBank picked up, came level for the first time at 10-10 and went on to demolish the Swiss champions and seal the deal by taking both the the second and the third.

With qualification already decided, the remainder of the match was procedural and VakifBank coach Giovanni Guidetti took the opportunity to bring on a few of his subs, but still VakifBank proved too strong for Volero and came away with the outright win 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 25-16, 25-22).

Rio 2016 Olympic Games MVP Zhu Ting of China led VakifBank with 21 points and Lonneke Sloetjes of the Netherlands was close behind with 18, as the Turkish side completely dominated the match after the first set.

Dinamo Moscow had little trouble in disposing of Liu Jo Nordmeccanica Modena 3-0 (25-20, 25-19, 25-21) at home in the Russian capital and return to a Champions League Final Four for the first time since 2009. It was all over by the second set in Moscow, as Dinamo had also won the first leg in Italy in straight sets.

Nataliya Goncharova and the Dominican Republic's Bethania de la Cruz shared top scoring honours with 14 points each and Yana Shcherban contributed another 12 as Dinamo dominated the net and sailed to victory.

The winner of the Champions League qualifies to the 2017 FIVB Club World Championship in Kobe, 9-14 May. They join the hosts Hisamitsu Springs, Asian champions NEC Red Rockets of Kawasaki, South American champions Rexona Sesc Rio de Janeiro and wild card recipients Volei Nestle Osasco and Volero Zurich. Eczacibasi and VakifBank have also been granted wild cards, should they not win the European title.

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