2018 FIVB WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL NATIONS LEAGUE – FINAL SIX/POOL A
- June 27th-June 29th, 2018
- Nanjing, China | Nanjing Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium (Capacity: 13,000)
- Time Zone: China Standard Time (UTC +08:00)
- World Rankings: #2 USA, #3 Serbia, #12 Turkey
|Date||Time||Score||Set 1||Set 2||Set 3||Set 4||Set 5||Total||Report|
|27 Jun||15:00||United States||–||Turkey||–||–||–||0–0|
|29 Jun||15:00||United States||–||Serbia||–||–||–||0–0|
Since China is hosts and assumes the top spot for seeding the two groups, we are left with the top two teams in points, USA and Serbia, in the same pool of this Final Six. They are joined by Turkey, who was the last team to make it on after they edged out Italy for the final spot.
Leading off the top of the standings are the Americans, who were the only team to reach a point ratio over 1.2. They also only lost twice in their first 15 matches, which is likely what would need to happen in their next two matches for them not to make the semifinals – barring a three-way tie at 1-1 that would go down to other categories.
Serbia wasn’t far behind the table and actually defeated the Americans. Rounding things out is Turkey who was a bit of a surprise to go 11-4 but won their last two – including one over China – to fend off Italy and a spot in the Final Six.
Two of the top teams in the world and favorites are joined by one of the surprise stories of the tournament thus far in Turkey, who came in as the 12th ranked team per FIVB. The mix should present intriguing story-lines and matches with two teams moving on to the semifinals and one being eliminated.
Obviously if either team wins both matches they would be locked into the next round. That would also mean a 1-1 record would be the runner-up and get in as well. The other scenario is that all three teams end 1-1 and the tiebreaker goes down to points, set ratio and potentially point ratio.
In the opener, the Americans are seen as a heavy favorite over Turkey. On Bovada, they are -850 compared to a +500 underdog in Turkey. That kind of represents the projected pecking order in this pool, where the Americans and Serbians are the favorites to move on and battle each other for the top two spots. That’s mainly because of the balance for both Serbia and the United States and their previous pedigree in these big-time moments.
However, if Turkey can continue to execute their block at a high level, there’s no reason they cannot butt into the conversation. In fact, Turkey even defeated the Americans in five sets back in week one in Lincoln, Nebraska. And in that match, the 19 blocks of Turkey led to a win. They also came just a set away from downing Serbia on the road as well but couldn’t stop Tijana Boskovic (28 points).
For Serbia, they will need to play even better to get past Turkey since that one was at home and this next one will be in China. Based on previous head-to-head meetings though they are the favorites as they not only were victorious over Turkey but also over Team USA in four sets on June 12.
The United States couldn’t get their serve going in that one and were hurt by the in-system Serbian attack. They’ll need that to change when they meet again. With a more full roster than their earlier Turkey meeting and more on the line, their balance will make them very dangerous.
Nonetheless, all three teams have shown the ability to beating each other with the Americans only two losses in 15 tries coming to the exact teams in this group. Serbia has been strong throughout and Turkey looks like a legit contender as an underdog. We will see how much of that is true early on, as Turkey will be the first to a pair of matches which could potentially set up a Serbian-USA meeting for the pool victory to take on Pool A’s runner-up in the semifinals.
STORIES/PLAYERS TO WATCH:
- Serbia – While many options have created terminations for Serbia, no one stands out more than Tijana Boskovic, who ranks third in the tournament in points scored (238). Amazingly even with all of the attempts she’s been the most successful attacker too, as teams haven’t figured out how to slow her down. They’ve also got a spread-out block with a myriad of options and a trio of athletes in the top 17 for blocks per set led by Jovana Stevanovic (0.56 per set).
- Turkey – The Turkish block has created plenty of issues for their opposition, led by Eda Erdem Dundar (0.75 blocks per set) and Zehra Gunes (0.57 blocks per set). The duo ranked fourth and seventh in pool play respectively in blocking. While that is the team’s strength, Dundar does a little bit of everything for the team and was third in aces per set (0.37) and 15th in points scored (179) in the first 15 matches. They’ve also got Meryem Boz (197 points) to give Turkey a top-line attacker on the pin.
- United States – The wealth of options and depth for Team USA have showed up in the tournament, as they’ve gotten contributions all along the court from different athletes. Setter Carli Lloyd has started it all offensively and was second during pool play in sets per game. Her top option was Michelle Bartsch-Hackley, who was the second most efficient player and 10th best scorer in pool play. Continuing the different options are two others in the top 36 for points scored which doesn’t even include their top two blockers (who are in the top 25 of the tournament) led by Lauren Gibbemeyer (0.52 blocks per set, 11th).