Brightest Türkiye secure their first-ever VNL gold

by Press

Volleyball-loving country Türkiye enjoyed the biggest success of their women’s national team to date on Sunday when the Sultans of the Net became the third different side to win the Volleyball Nations League.

Playing in Arlington, the United States, the Europeans dominated Asian powerhouse China to a 3-1 (25-22, 22-25, 25-19, 25-16) victory in the match that brought to an end the fifth edition of the tournament at the College Park Center.

Led by first-year world champion head coach Daniele Santarelli, the Turkish joined the United States, who won the first three editions of the VNL in 2018, 2019, and 2021, and Italy, who took the title last year, in the exclusive list of women’s national teams that managed to lift the coveted trophy.

The result also marks the most significant victory of Turkish volleyball ever, being the first world-level title won by the country. Prior to the VNL 2023, the Sultans of the Net had the silver and bronze medals won in the VNL in 2018 and 2021, respectively, and the silver medals earned at the European Championship in 2003 and 2019 as their most relevant results at the international level.

The third-best team in the VNL Preliminary Phase with nine wins in 12 matches, Türkiye were capable of further improving their game in the Finals, when they were dominant, knocking out defending champions Italy with a sweep in the quarterfinals and topping hosts and Olympic champions USA in the semifinals ahead of their gold medal match encounter with China.

A new addition to the team in 2023, opposite Melissa Vargas was unstoppable against the Asians. The 23-year-old star led all scorers with 26 points (21 kills, three aces, two blocks), coming up big in key moments for the Europeans.

Team captain Eda Erdem, who lifted the VNL trophy, and ferocious hitter Ebrar Karakurt, who produced the game-winning point with a stuff block, also had strong performances. Each of them added 12 points, with the middle blocker registering eight kills and four blocks, while the opposite-turned-into-outside-hitter had seven kills, two aces and three blocks.

“I’m living a dream right now,” Erdem reacted. “I just can’t believe it, it doesn’t feel real. I’ve been representing my country since 2005 and there’s been so much sacrifice, so much sadness and so much joy. It’s been a long journey and I think that this year, with coach Santarelli, he made us believe we could be the champions. He helped us grow and remember who we are. I’m so proud of my team, we made history, we waited for it for so long.”

Defensively, libero Gizem Örge, who returned to the national team in 2023 after four years away, was the main standout, with impressive 20 digs.

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