Turkey had to work hard but they eventually secured their spot in the quarterfinals of the 2017 women’s EuroVolley in Baku as they stood up to the challenge brought by a young, determined and dynamic Polish team. The ‘Sultans of the Net’ emerged victorious after four closely contested sets (25-22, 27-25, 18-25, 25-23) and will continue their #EuroVolleyW campaign on Friday playing Russia at 20:30 local time for a spot in the semis. As for Poland, the White-and-Reds can be proud of what they did in Baku – as with such a young team, they fought until the end and did stand a real chance of upsetting Turkey.
This matchup was a remake of the ‘grand finale’ Turkey and Poland had contested two years ago in Baku as well when Azerbaijan’s capital hosted the inaugural European Games. However, only a very few players among those on the roster of the White-and-Reds had contested that game since Jacek Nawrocki rejuvenated the group after the 2016 season – but such a young Polish team did not seem too intimidated by the star-studded line-up standing on the other side of the net. Poland caught a promising start to the match but Turkey eventually edged ahead for the first time at 11-10 their way. Güldeniz Önal, Gözde Kirdar and Meryem Boz helped Turkey break away after the second technical time-out and the ‘Sultans of the Net’ were able to hold on to their advantage to secure a 25-22 win.
Turkey displayed their attacking power in the early stages of the second set to storm to a 13-6 lead – but after a break Poland somehow found their way back into the game, producing an impressive 9-2 run to draw level at 15-all. Turkey responded with a short positive series on their end (18-15) before Poland rising star Malwina Smarzek restored equality (18-18) with an ace. The young players in white and red shirts played with much resilience and composure as the set approached its end, leading by two at 23-21; Turkey cancelled two set points for Poland before taking the most exciting rally of the game to double their lead in the match (27-25).
Those afraid that the young Polish team would ‘collapse’ after such a setback were wrong – as Poland set the tempo of the game from start to end of the third set (25-18) and they just did the same for most of the fourth one as well. Turkey, however, surged back and at 23-21 could set their sights on the finish line. Poland fought back to 23-all, but Turkey finished it all off shortly afterwards with a monster block to seal their spot in the quarterfinals and go for a remake of their pool match with Russia – where they will be hoping to make amends for the 1-3 loss they suffered in their tournament debut.
Joanna Wołosz, team captain of Poland: “I think today was a perfect day to win against Turkey, as they were not showing that great of a game. If it was not for those final points in each set and for some small but stupid mistakes that we made, we would have been able to win this – perhaps even 3-0. This is why I am sad and feel this regret, because we really had a huge chance of winning this match.”
Jacek Nawrocki, head coach of Poland: “Match with Azerbaijan aside, I think the girls played three good games on their level, even if they were a bit too nervous and too tense in the one against Hungary. The matches with Germany and now Turkey gave justice to their abilities. Sometimes you feel better after a beat down, when you know that you had no chances of winning. We had those tonight. We talked about the importance of keeping calm during this game, about inner discipline and I think the girls showed a lot of character. For some of them this tournament is a huge thing. Some, like Julia Twardowska, do not play main roles in their league teams and here they showed that they are worth the investment. I can only thank all of them and say again that they fought with everything they had.”
Eda Erdem Dündar, team captain of Turkey: “It was really close, but we actually started very good and won the two first sets. After that, they started serving really well, and did a great job in defence and we could not score even on a single block. We were behind also in the fourth set, but we caught up with them and fought until the last point. We believed that we could win this game and in the end we did, which makes me so happy! We are in the quarterfinals and will face Russia now. Both teams know each other well, so we know what to do and what not to do.”