The best team in the history of the CEV Champions League Volley will take the court yet again at the SuperFinals Turin 2023, in less than ten days, with at least 50% chance of adding to their record trophy tally. With so much time spent in the spotlight, can VakifBank still surprise in the Final against Eczacibasi Dynavit or will it be the same outlandish consistency that will tip the scale in its favour?
For a team playing its ninth Champions League Final, extending its own record, nothing about VakifBank Istanbul can be considered an unknown. However, as any other team, the Turkish giant has regularly refreshed its roster, the only constant element across these nine Finals being coach Giovanni Guidetti.
The Italian has been at the helm of the team for fifteen years, molding VakifBank year after year into a title contender, both domestically and internationally. In reaching these heights, Guidetti has had help from top talent across the years, being involved in some of the biggest transfers on the market almost every transfer window.
Paola Egonu’s transfer from Conegliano to VakifBank and the reverse, Isabelle Haak’s transfer from VakifBank to Conegliano was by far the biggest transfer saga in recent years. With all eyes on her, yet again, Paola had to deliver, and that’s exactly what she has been doing this season. Top scorer of the competition (235), she has already surpassed the tally of last season’s top scorer, Isabelle Haak (214) wearing VakifBank’s jersey.
Even though she is one of the biggest volleyball stars on the planet, equally outstanding players surround Paola. Amongst them, American Chiaka Ogbogu has been having her own incredible season, dominating the net together with Zehra Gunes and leading the Champions League with most points from kill blocks this season (31).
A pleasant surprise for many this season has been another new addition to the squad, Kara Bajema. The American transferred from DevelopRes Rzesow has impressed immediately, fitting in perfectly into Guidetti’s system and delivering very good performances consistently, culminating with the MVP performance in the return leg of the semifinals against Fenerbahce Opet.
Going into this season, VakifBank had to do without its captain, Melis who decided to retire after last year’s Superfinals. Her replacement, Brazil’s Gabi stood up to the task becoming an absolute pillar of reliability for her teammates throughout the season.
Despite not having the best season by their standards, having had to go through the playoffs to secure their quarterfinals place and recently losing in the semifinals of the Turkish League against bitter rivals Fenerbahce, VakifBank remains the team to beat in the Champions League.