[Murat Colokoglu from Turkey]Last year when Fenerbahçe Acıbadem lost to Foppapedretti Bergamo in the Champions League final, Mehmet Ali Aydınlar, the Executive Board President of Acıbadem hospitals, which is the sponsor of Fenerbahçe Women’s Volleyball Team, promised to form a team that would sweep all the trophies whatever is at stake with a perfect win record never dropping a match and even, if possible, never dropping a set along the road. The sensational transfers Fenerbahçe added to their arsenal turned the attention of the international volleyball community to the team in yellow-blue. The Super Cup win against Vakıfbank Güneş Sigorta Türk Telekom just after the World Championship supposedly ensured a wide group of people that the two losses that came last year in the first leg of the Turkish Cup final and Champions League final would not happen this season. The perfect record is more than a dream; it is within reach, believed a certain group. The story was not so, however.

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The vestiges of the Dinamo Moscow defeat were quickly wept away with a glamorous play of the five musketeers of Fenerbahçe Acıbadem in the return game. Then it was the World Club Championships Fenerbahçe was getting ready to chase. The type of game the “Yellow Angels” put in play with their quintet on court can only be described as flawless. The defense walls they build begin with their unsurpassable block and continue with the perfect digging abilities of Sokolova and Osmokrovic duo. Then the turn comes to one of the best setters of the world and the kill naturally comes by itself with the perfect set. This was the dominant routine we witnessed in Doha. Things could have been much more different if Leo Bianco was not suffering from an unfortunate illness or Picci was fitter and healthier. The games with Sollys Osasco would have ended with an upside score if Natalia Pereira was not the victim of her own over-ambition or Jaqueline Carvalho was anywhere close to her general performance. However, like we said, these are more like “could” or “would” have beens – mere possibilities. Fenerbahçe truly deserved to win the title and take all the credit that comes along with it. Nonetheless, this game was highly critical in the sense that it would enable one to see the difference between the 5-foreigner vs. 3-foreigner Fenerbahçe, which would be disclosed in a week.

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Next week was the time for Fenerbahçe to go back to Turkish League and Turkish Cup. Consecutively, they would go up against Vakıfbank, their strongest rivals. The first was a delay league game due to its conflict with the Qatar schedule. The foreigner quota that would force Ze Roberto to send two of his superstars to the stands would be in place as of then. A few weeks ago, in this column, we talked about the trust issues Ze Roberto had with his Turkish players except for Erdem. Especially, for reception and back court defense concerns, Ze Roberto was rightfully insistent in picking Sokolova and Osmokrovic for all tough games. His post-match explanation about Tokatlioglu’s abilities as an outside hitter was important testament to his choice of Rasna – normally a middle blocker- as an outside hitter or opposite from time to time. Anyway, Tokatlioglu was already injured so he could relieve himself of the pain of conscience he would experience in making such a choice. The third choice was quite obvious – Kasia Skowronska. His idea was to simultaneously strengthen the defense and attack power. In doing so, he sent a Furst and Fofao to the stands by investing all his confidence in the junior setter Aydemir and Ergül Avcı as Erdem’s dual complement. However, his plans did not work exactly. Up against the world champions, Vakıfbank was highly willing and determined to leave the court with a win. Smart floating serves of Vakıfbank girls were pressurizing even the world-class complete players Sokolova and Osmokrovic. On top of that, Aydemir had a huge problem in getting along with the three world-class spikers. Nevertheless, Vakifbank were the casualty of their over-ambitious style of play in addition to incapability of Nikolic to join Glinka on the left wing as a scorer to rely on and of inexperienced setter Ozge Kirdar setting too many inaccurate balls to Glinka enabling Fenerbahçe blocks to easily take care of Vakıfbank attacks. Although Vakıfbank lost in four sets, they had all the right to really regret the chances they missed in the first two sets while Fenerbahçe once again redeemed their confidence in the eyes of everyone as the team to clinch a win despite a shaky game.

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Yet Vakıfbank had one more chance to test their likelihood against Fenerbahçe this time in the Turkish Cup as the two sides had an unlucky draw to compete early in the second round just before the quarter finals. Vakıfbank started the game worse than their previous encounter as the setter Kirdar was not able to vary the attacks of the team and finally opted out her middle blockers out of the game. Aydemir, her counterpart in Fenerbahçe, was not very different from her as she totally wasted Erdem, the middle blocker who shone with Fofao’s sets a few days ago in Doha, and solely relied on Sokolova, Osmokrovic and Skowronska. However, her inconsistency in the sets she distributed particularly at back court pipes was discouraging her spikers, which was bluntly evident. Guidetti then had a smart move to substitute the setter Kirdar for Nilay Ozdemir and the opposite Kirdar for Guldeniz Onal, who were all young Turkish players but slowly helped turned the winds in favor of Vakıfbank. Onal made a pretty outstanding job in digging all the balls big guns of Fenerbahçe Acıbadem forwarded to the Vakıfbank court and Ozdemir displayed an above-average performance to finally let Poljak into the game while giving more space to Nikolic and Glinka to find in-between Fenerbahçe blocks. Nikolic’s unusually wonderful reception performance on top of the libero Gizem Guresen’s perfect digs carried Vakıfbank Güneş Sigorta Türk Telekom to an enormous comeback against the world champion Fenerbahçe Acıbadem  and forced them out of the Turkish Cup very early.

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The shock on Mehmet Ali Aydınlar’s face at the end of the game was not a surprise to some of the audience. This team was smoothly running last year with extraordinary performances of Ekaterina Gamova who were able to kill all the inconsistent sets of Frauke Diricx and Aydemir. They crashed only when they faced a team like Bergamo who were smart and fit enough to cover all the areas of the court and attack perfectly even after a tough dig. This time two worldwide stars Fofao and Furst are being wasted among the audience in the Turkish games due to the foreign player quota. Aydınlar’s should not be that much shocked. This ironic scenery is the result of his unforeseen greed to collect all the dream foreign players in a league where two of them will be wasted each time and thus, the balance of the team will never be restored.