These two teams have been dominant in European club play in recent years and it is hardly surprising that they have split the women’s world championships since the competition was reintroduced in Doha three years ago.
Fenerbahce is one of the most established volleyball brands in Europe, with roots going back to 1928. Their record in recent years is unmatched: second in the 2010 CEV Champion’s League – the year they went on to win the Club World Championship – third in 2011 and first in 2012. Their mostly-Turkish roster is supplemented by two key Brazilian stars, Paula Pequeno and and Mari Steinbrecher. Making the best use of these outstanding individuals is the job of Kamil Soz, Fenerbahce’s new coach.
Rabita Baku, in comparison, is a new power on the European scene. The team has come of age after a few years of building following their establishment in 2001. Baku started branching out into international competition in 2008. They quickly established a strong reputation, reaching third in the 2010 CEV Champions League and second in 2011. They surprised many observers by sweeping aside all opposition to take the world club title in Doha in 2011.
Rabita Baku’s all-international roster is led by USA star and 2011 FIVB World Grand Prix MVP Foluke Akinradewo, along with German attacking powerhouse Angelina Hubner-Grun. Together, these two players give Baku offensive power any rival will be hard-pressed to contain. Baku’s new coach, Marcello Abbondanza, is a veteran of the Italian league as well as international volleyball.
Rabita Baku will begin their title defence with a clash of the titans against Sollys/Nestlé. On paper, Sollys may well have the strongest lineup in Doha, with no fewer than five players from this summer’s Olympic-gold-winning Brazilian squad – including Jaqueline Carvalho, Thaisa Menezes and Sheilla Castro. Sollys won a silver in 2010 and a bronze in 2011 at the Club World Championships, and will be aiming to complete their medal set.
This year’s potential surprise package, Bohai Bank, get their first court time on October 14 against the powerhouse Sollys/Nestlé squad. With China national team players such as Yin Na, Chen Liyi, and Olympians Zhang Xian and Mi Yang suiting up for Bohai, they could be a strong contender. Bohai’s coach, Wang Baoquan, certainly knows what it takes to win at the highest level – he coached China’s senior team before his health forced him to give up coaching for a time.
Lancheras are a bit of a mystery coming into the tournament, as the other women’s squad making their debut this year. The club was only formed three years ago, but have already won a national championship in Puerto Rico. With a number of internationally-experienced players on the roster – including national team players Debora Seilhamer, Tatiana Encarnación, Yarimar Rosa, Shanon Torregrosa, Jetzabel Del Valle and Natalia Valentin – Lancheras have high expectations for the Club World Championships. Their first match sets them against Kenya Prisons on Saturday.
This is Prisons’ third appearance in the Club World Championship. The perennial African champions have finished bottom of their pool in both of their previous attempts, and are looking to make a significant improvement on that performance this year. Coach David Lung’aho has shaken up the squad for 2012. Veteran libero Judy Tarus and up-and-comer Florence Bosire are not with the team this year, leaving Kenyan national team players Jane Wacu, Khisa, Agala, Lydia Maiyo, Everline Makutu and Mercy Moim to carry the club’s hopes.
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