Day 2 of Volleyball Nations League action brought redemption for many sides, but also saw World #2 United States edged by a young Turkish squad.
To see the agony and ecstasy of each match, we’ve included a short recap of the action and also quotes from the involved parties.
China def. Belgium 3-0
China was again led by youth in their 2nd match of the tournament. Xinyue Yuan, already a relative veteran at just 21-years old, led the team with 15 points, including 10 kills on 12 swings (83%) to go along with 2 blocks and 3 aces. 18-year old Yingying Li added 14 with 12 kills and 2 blocks, and hit 48% in the match. That comes as a follow-up to her National Team debut yesterday, where she had 17 and hit 49%.
As a team, China had just 4 errors of all kinds, while forcing 19 from Belgium. All of that led to a 54% hitting day for the Chinese.
China coach Lang Ping: “We had good service today, which was really important in the game. In the second set, they used combination plays and it took my players some time to adapt to it. I could see that our new players were responded slowly to it, but it was a really good chance for the players to improve themselves. I appreciated how the Belgian team put pressure on us. They are a young team with talented athletes and I hope they can perform well in European competitions.”
China captain Liu Xiaotong: “I think the two teams tried their best by going all-out in the match. The Belgian team did not give up even when trailing behind and kept fighting throughout the match. In the second set we were challenged and kept us under pressure, which troubled us a lot. All the players played today because we wanted the younger players to have an opportunity to gain experience.
“We won 3-0 against Belgium, which is a very good team. We just found the right strategy to play against them. It’s good to have this chance to let other members to have an experience of playing an international match.”
Belgium coach Gert Vande Broek: “Congratulations to China. They played very good volleyball today especially in the first and second sets. I am not satisfied with my team’s defence and how they started the match. The second set they played well, but our opponents are stronger. It’s not a problem for us to lose against a great team like China, which served well and played very high level of volleyball. My team was okay from the start until half of the match.”
Belgium player Celine Van Gestel: “We are pleased to play against the Olympic champions. We’re very nervous at the beginning of the game and made quite a bunch of mistakes. Our reception was not so good since the Chinese players all had strong services. We respect our opponents China and their coach Lang Ping.”
South Korea def. Dominican Republic 3-2
South Korea and the Dominican Republic both picked up their first points of the tournament on Wednesday, but it was South Korea that came up with the win: the first and most important tie-breaker.
Both teams relied heavily on their superstars in the match, with Dominican Republic’s Brayelin Martinez scoring 31 points with 27 kills on 60 swings, and South Korea’s Yeon Koung Kim scoring 29 points with 26 kills on 63 swings. For Martinez, that came out to 34% of her team’s swings, while for Kim that was 36%.
South Korea’s Yeon Koung Kim: “We were not happy with the loss to Belgium yesterday, but today we made big adjustments. We analyzed the attack-defense system so we made improvements. It’s really difficult to win in five sets. After yesterday, we were a little bit upset. We lost to Belgium because we expected that we could win. Today we tried our best with our blocks and defense against the Dominican Republic.”
Korean coach Kim Haewon: “Our blocking today was better than yesterday. Last night, we also discussed our performance on service, so today we will cover the other things. I think we did not really do well in the third set, but the Dominican Republic made more mistakes. Fortunately my players (were) in great shape today. That was the winning factor.”
Dominican Republic coach Marcos Kwiek: “I’m not happy with the way we played the game today. I was wishing our performance in this match would be better than yesterday. Our players made a lot of mistakes that we can’t afford to make especially in crucial moments.”
Dominican Republic captain Niverka Dharlenis Marte Frica: “Congratulations to the Korean team. It was a very difficult match. Of course we are not happy, being on the losing side, but what we can do is to forget about this match and move on to the next.”
Russia def. Thailand 3-1
The Russian team underachieved again. After having lost a set to Argentina in their opening day match-up, it lost a set 25-13 to Thailand, a team it has no business entertaining such score. The Russians, supposedly favorites in their home-soil, came dangerously close to having to decide the game on the tie-break, before it was finally able to close it at 3-1 (25-23, 13-25, 25-18, 30-28). 23 year old Kseniia Parubets led the charge for the Russian team with 24 points on an amazing 23/38 (60%) hitting performance. Pimpichaya Kokram had 17 points in the losing effort.
Thailand coach Danai Sriwacharamaytakul: “This is a good game. We played by our plan, but Russia is a great team. They have a good system. Tomorrow we will try to play better then today.”
Thailand captain Pleumjit Thinkaow: “It was a good game, we played with fun, and better than yesterday. But Russia is a great team with high class. They have a great block and strong attack. Hope tomorrow we will play better and better. I was surprised to see so many of Thailand’s fans in Ekaterinburg.”
Russia captain Kseniia Parubets: “It’s important for us to win in every match. We expected a hard game, because the opponent plays a very fast game. We do not have players of this style in the Russian championship, so it’s hard for us. But we were able to adjust the spike, and the high speed of Thailand was not terrible for us. We were able to adjust to their game.”
Russia coach Vadim Pankov: “The game was nervous only because of our unpreparedness. As far as we serve not great, we do not knock down the opponent’s reception. We have not played much with such teams. As soon as we start to serve properly, everything is immediately simplified and we play our game.”
Netherlands def. Argentina 3-1
Once again Argentina, with basically a semi-pro roster, was able to scare one of Europe’s best teams. Like in yesterday’s match against Russia, it stroke first, narrowly beating The Netherlands in the first set 25-22. The win must have consumed all of the inexperienced squad’s energy, as it lost the next three sets 25-19, 25-8, and 25-18, an amazing 30 point difference. Anne Buijs led the way for the Dutch with 15 points, while Anahi Tosi had 11 in the losing effort. The Dutch out-blocked Argentina 14 to 6 while also committing 13 errors to their opponent’s 21.
Brazil def. Japan 3-1
Brazil rode Tandara Caixeta‘s offensive firepower to overcome their opening day loss. Behind the talented opposite’s 25 points, it handed Japan a 3-1 (22-25, 25-18, 25-23, 25-11) loss. Adenizia Silva added 15 points, including an amazing 9 blocks. Sarina Koga had 15 points in the losing effort.
The game started with a scare, as Brazil lost the opening frame, which gave the thousands of fans on the standings reasons to worry, as Brazil had played really poorly the day before. Brazil eventually was able to overcome the deficit, but the game, except for the last set, was no easy affair, as it didn’t do much to calm down the nerves of everyone, players included.
Brazil player Adenízia da Silva: “Yesterday, we were not able to win but it was only our first game of this season. Today was a different story. We played aggressively showing our spirit and energy. We talked before the match and I am happy with the way we played against Japan.”
Brazil head coach José Roberto Guimarães: “Today we played with a different energy. We are improving with each game. It was an important victory after our loss yesterday. Our team was able to recover fast and I am happy with that. It was a difficult game. To play Japan is always really difficult.”
Japan captain Nana Iwasaka: “We had a good performance in the first set. We will try to correct our mistakes to play a better game tomorrow against Germany. It will be our last game here and we want to finish this first week with a good victory.”
Japan head coach Kumi Nakada: “After our loss yesterday I think that we had a better energy today against Brazil. Also I believe that we had a better performance tactically even with the defeat to Brazil.”
Serbia def. Germany 3-0
Serbia completely dominated Germany 3-0 (25-16, 25-21, 25-17). The surprise of the night, though, came from Jovana Stevanovic‘s ten blocks performance. Such a feat, when accomplished in only 3 sets, specially at this level of play, is almost unheard of. Brankica Mihajlovic helped out with 19 points of her own.
Serbia’s 22 blocks completely shut down Germany’s offensive duo of Louisa Lippmann and Maren Fromm, which combined for an atrocious 8/37 (21%) performance.
Poland def. Italy 3-2
It was a back and forth affair all evening long between Italy and Poland, both in search of their first Volleyball Nations League victory.
In the decisive fifth-set, it was nearly all Poland to start with the side jumping out to a 7-1 lead. Italy remained calm and clawed its way back to a 9-all tie in a run including an ace by Marina Lubian. The teams split the next six points leading to a knot-up at 12. From there, however, Polish captain Agnieszka Kakolewska took over with two of the final three points on kills to clinch the Polish victory at 15-12.
Smarzek scored a match-high 28 points for Poland, with 23 kills and five blocks. Kakolewska added 21 points with 13 kills, five blocks and three aces. Natalia Medrzyk (14) and Martyna Grajber (10) also notched double-digit scoring tallies.
Anastasia Guerra was the top scorer for Italy with 19 points, 15 on kills and a team-best three on aces. Miryam Fatime Sylla (15), Serena Ortolani (14) and Lubian (12) followed. Sylla and Ortolani turned in 13 kills apiece, while Lubian put up a team-leading four blocks.
Poland coach Nawrocki Jacek: “It was a very good, very close game, like a see-saw. The tiebreak showed the teams were both in high position, but we are so happy tonight, because it was our first win in Volleyball Nations League.”
Poland captain Agnieszka Kakolewska: “I am so happy and I am so proud of our team because we were fighting on every ball, which is the most important and was the key to our win.”
Italy coach David Mazzanti: “I am pleased with our performance because we played better than yesterday. (It was) a different mood, a different game, and we are improving.”
Italy player Anastasia Guerra: “It was a hard match today. Probably our emotions played a factor in the fifth set. We try to take this tournament by gaining experience and learn from this.”
Turkey def. USA 3-2
Turkey outdid the United States across the stat sheet, besting the Americans in kills (62-60), blocks (20-17) and aces (8-5), although they did give away six more points on errors (27-21) in the win.
Meryem Boz led five Turkish players with double-digit scoring efforts. Boz tallied 17 points with 15 kills and two blocks. Seyma Ercan (16), captain Eda Erdem Dundar (16), Zehra Gunes (16) and Meliha Ismailoglu (13) followed.
Kim Hill scored a match-high 19 points with 15 kills, three blocks and an ace. Tori Dixon and Lauren Gibbemeyer turned in 12 points apiece with Dixon accounting for eight kills, three blocks and an ace and Gibbemeyer notching seven kills, a team-high four stuffs and an ace.
The tiebreak was tied at 7-all before Turkey scored five of the next six, two on Ercan putaways, to go ahead 12-8 and force a USA timeout. A review on a touch call was overturned, giving Boz a kill and putting Turkey just two points away at 13-9. Putdowns by Gibbemeyer and Bartsch-Hackley kept the Americans within striking distance at 13-11, but a Gunes kill put Turkey on the hill at 14-11. Two kills and a Turkish error each thwarted each match-point try, keeping USA in the game and tying the score at 14-all. A hitting error by Hill and a stuff block by Edrem Dundar and Gamze Alikaya capped the Turkish upset at 16-14.
United States coach Karch Kiraly: “Turkey is a really good team. We are a good team and those kinds of battles are going to happen a lot. This was only match 2… I really like the way our team responded down 2-0 and came storming back. We even had a swing to go up 15-14, didn’t quite put it down to the floor, but Turkey played some really good volleyball. We are thankful because teams are going to bring a lot of good at us and it is only going to make us better in the long run.”
United States outside hitter Michelle Bartsch-Hackley:
“From the bench it just looked a little disconnected, but I think still that is really normal for us, because its still a brand new team really and we’re just trying to figure it out from being overseas. Turkey is a really tough team and they are good servers, we are just working really hard and trying to make great angles, and again, I think it is just (about) time.”
United States middle blocker Tori Dixon: “It is always good to put on the uniform, no matter what the outcome is. It was a great opportunity to compete. Turkey is a really good team and I am happy with how our team fought back at the end.”
Turkey coach Giovanni Guidetti: “I don’t know when the last time Turkey beat the USA. I don’t think many times in history of Turkish volleyball. We are just at the beginning of the tournament where every team is not really ready and making many experiments. But of course, this kind of match is difficult for this young group because we are facing one of the best teams in the world. We are leading 2-0, and even when they come back we were able to win the tiebreak. That means our team is mentally strong and did not give up, and that is the most important thing. In the fifth set we didn’t make too many mistakes. Our serve worked really well, and our block worked really, really well and that was the difference.”
Turkey captain Eda Erdem Dundar: “We just entered the court with a free mind. We said girls, let’s just enjoy and do whatever we can do. Let’s do our best. The first two sets actually, we played really good. We helped each other, we didn’t do unforced errors and we were 2-0 in front, but then USA started to play good and also they changed their lineup. They joined back to the game. They serve very good … and they really pushed us with the serve and it the third and fourth set, we couldn’t receive well. but, at the end, in the tiebreak set, we were so excited. We knew that if we win 15 points, we are going to win that game and we just went point by point. At the end, we helped each other and we won the game.”