Turkey produced a clinical performance to defeat an out-of-sorts Team USA in straight sets in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League with Ebrar Karakurt top scoring with 23 points at the Jiangmen Sports Hall.
In a repeat of last year’s VNL final, it was Turkey who came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders, securing the first set 25-15 without breaking a sweat.
The second set did not fare much better for the Americans, who have now lost three of their last four games, as they fell 25-18 to the Turks who were dominant throughout courtesy of Karakurt’s flawless display.
Karch Kiraly’s side, which featured several players who play their club volleyball in Turkey including Jordan Larson and Kelsey Robinson, made wholesale changes for the third set and put up a fight in a tense final set.
University of Cincinatti’s Jordan Thompson gave her side a much-needed boost, while Michele Bartsch-Hackley made several important contributions, but their efforts were in vain as Turkey held on to take the third set and the victory.
Victory for Turkey ensured a new team record for longest winning run at world-level major tournaments and they remain top of the standings on 27 points. They will now look to confirm their spot in the final round in Nanjing next month when they face hosts China on Wednesday.
You could tell that meant a lot to the Turkish side. Karch Kiraly will need to think twice before he plays the same line-up from the start. But that is another step up for Turkey as they put forward a massive claim for the VNL title. They could now be favourites for Tokyo gold next year.
However, some of the walkovers that are occurring in this VNL are doing the sport no favours and shows how teams are prioritising Olympic qualification later in the year. It’s great that we’re seeing players given an opportunity to develop but it makes for a poor spectacle.