2022 Turkish national champions VakifBank Istanbul (source: tvf.org.tr)

2022 Turkish national champions VakifBank Istanbul (source: tvf.org.tr)

VakifBank Istanbul are the 2022 champions of Turkey. On Thursday, the squad guided by coach Giovanni Guidetti closed the best-of-five Misli.com Sultanlar Ligi championship series against Fenerbahce Opet Istanbul at three wins to two to celebrate their fourth back-to-back and 13th overall national title. Their middle blocker Zehra Gunes was named the Most Valuable Player of the series.

With the victory, VakifBank completed a golden treble consisting of the the three key Turkish trophies - the league, the Cup and the Super Cup. Along with the 2021 FIVB Volleyball Club World Championship gold they earned in December, they have already picked up four of the five possible crowns this season and are a win away from the last one as they are about to take on Italy’s Prosecco Doc Imoco Volley Conegliano in the CEV Champions League final on May 22.

Fenerbahce had the lead twice in the Sultanlar Ligi final playoff. They won games one and three and had a 2-0 lead in the fourth match, but still fell short.

In the first game of the series, 33 points by Swedish star Isabelle Haak and six kill blocks by Zehra Gunes were not enough for a VakifBank win and Fenerbahce achieved a 3-1 (25-22, 22-25, 25-17, 25-19) victory on a 30-point contribution by Melissa Vargas. Haak was again the best scorer in game two and this time her 27-point-tally and Gunes’s 80% spiking success rate and four stuff blocks were key to VakifBank’s 3-1 (25-16, 19-25, 25-21, 25-20) win.

Fenerbahce edged forward again with another 3-1 (20-25, 26-24, 25-17, 25-19) victory in match three, with Vargas delivering a 25-point match high and Russian prodigy Arina Fedorovtseva shining from the serving line with five aces. Vargas put away as many as 32 points in the fourth game, not enough to prevent VakifBank’s glorious comeback to a 3-2 (23-25, 19-25, 25-19, 25-14, 16-14) victory on another six stuffs by Gunes and 22 points by Haak.

In Thursday’s decider at the VakifBank Spor Sarayi, the home team left no doubts over their superiority and hammered out a 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-20) shutout. Swedish opposite Haak with 19 points and her Brazilian teammate, outside hitter Gabriela Guimaraes, with 18 were the leading scorers of the match.

“Our resilience and our ability to fight as a team were our keys. I am a very lucky coach because I have an incredible group of players who really know what it means to never give up. We were behind in the series, we were behind many times during the matches, we were behind in the tie-breaker of the previous match, but they always kept fighting. I am thankful to them and the staff. I'm a really lucky coach because I can work with incredible people every day.” Giovanni Guidetti, head coach of VakifBank Istanbul

The Sultanlar Ligi bronze went to Eczacibasi Dynavit Istanbul who produced two straight-set victories over Turk Hava Yollari Istanbul in the third place playoff, with Serbian star Tijana Boskovic contributing a total of 41 points over the six sets of the series.