Down after the first and third sets, Türkiye mounted a dramatic comeback to seal their first-ever trophy at the CEV EuroVolley Women, after clinching a 3:2 win over Serbia, with opposite Melissa Vargas delivering an epic performance in her maiden appearance in the European premium competition, scoring 41 points.
It was always going to be a tense and dramatic final, and the two sides, which went into the last act of the CEV EuroVolley 2023 Women riding eight-game winning streaks, surely delivered exactly what everyone was waiting for, a topsy-turvy match, a true roller coaster of emotions, where both Serbia and Türkiye looked like they were going to clinch the gold medal.
The focus was going to be on the battle between the two stars – Tijana Bošković and Melissa Vargas – and while Vargas might have impressed from the start of the match, with devastating attacks in the first set, it was still Serbia which were calmer and more clinical in the first set, clinching it, 27:25, after keeping the lead throughout most of the first part of the match.
Slowly, but surely, Türkiye came back into the game and it was thanks to Vargas, Ebrar Karakurt and Zehra Güneş, all of the three stars contributing with a little of their own to the success. With a better efficiency, more aces, more winning spikes and less opponent errors, six for Serbia and three for them, Türkiye clinched the second set, 25:21, and looked in control.
It was do-or-die for Türkiye from that moment on and Vargas’ maiden CEV EuroVolley Women appearance was crucial for her side. The opposite, who was the second best scorer in the competition after Bošković, had some impossible to stop serves, delivered magnificent attacks and took all the weight up her shoulders in the closing moments of the fourth set, one which Türkiye eventually took, 25:22.
In the tiebreaker, only the fourth final to be decided in the fifth set since 1987, Türkiye and Serbia went head-to-head, albeit with Türkiye a little more prepared, better on the defensive end and with Vargas firing from all cylinders.
The pivotal moment came at 10:8 for Türkiye, with Vargas closing a point in superb fashion, as she also was the one delivering the decisive point, as Türkiye celebrated a 15:13 win in the tiebreaker, to seal their first ever European trophy, after having lost two finals, one in 2003 and the other in 2019, against Serbia, in Ankara.
While Bošković finished with 37 points, Vargas dominated everybody, with 41 points, delivering one of the best-ever performances in a final of the CEV EuroVolley Women, as Türkiye sealed the double this summer, adding the European title to the one sealed in the FIVB Women’s Nations League in July.
On the other hand, Serbia sealed their sixth medal at the CEV EuroVolley Women and the fifth in a row, with the powerhouse now boasting three gold medals, three silver medals and two bronze medals in the European premium competition.
Earlier on Sunday, in the Palais 12 in Bruxelles, the Netherlands sealed a surprising bronze medal, after a hard-fought win against Italy, in straight sets, 3:0 (25:23, 28:26, 25:20).
Italy’s Elina Pietrini (18 points) and Ekaterina Antropova (15 points) tried to finish off the competition as best as possible for the reigning champions, but faced an immovable object in the Netherlands, who delivered an excellent all-around performance, with four players scoring at least 10 points.
After a 17-game winning streak, Italy conceded two losses in a row and missed out surprisingly on a medal, having lost both matches which they did not play on their home court, with the Netherlands sealing the bronze, their first medal since 2017 and the first bronze since 1985 at the CEV EuroVolley Women.