After No. 22 Poland pushed No. 2 USA to four sets on Tuesday, No. 12 Turkey offered an even tougher challenge on Wednesday, one that proved to be too much for the Americans as Turkey took the match in five sets (28-26, 25-19, 20-25, 24-26, 16-14).
“They played a very disciplined game and they’re very well-coached,” USA Coach Karch Kiraly said. “They’re young and they just never stopped coming at us and that’s what we expect; we have a target on our backs or on our chest, so those kinds of matches are really good for us to have to fight through, and we fought through well. We just didn’t get the last point or two that we wanted but we fought through very well.”
The win at the Devaney Center was just the fourth ever for Turkey against the United States, snapping a five-match winning streak for the Americans.
“It’s a big thing but at the same point, we know we are just at the beginning of the tournament where every team is not really ready and the other team is making a lot of experiments,” Turkey Coach Giovanni Guidetti said. “But of course this kind of match gives confidence to this young group because we are facing one of the best teams in the world and we are leading 2-0, and even when they come back in their home, we are able to win the tie-break. That means that our team is very mentally strong and our team never gives up and that is the main important thing about it.”
Kiraly started with Tuesday’s top two scorers, Jordan Larson and Michelle Bartsch-Hackley on the bench. Instead, another former Husker in Kelsey Robinson got the start at outside hitter along with Kim Hill.
Turkey jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but the U.S. rallied to tie it up at 6-6. The two sides battled back and forth until the USA earned a set point at 24-23, but Turkey saved three set points at 24-23, 25-24 and 26-25 before closing the match on a 3-0 run to take the first set 28-26.
USA jumped out to an 8-5 lead in the second set but fell behind 17-13 as Turkey took control. Turkey stretched its lead to 21-15 before USA scored a run and Larson checked in for the first time. She wasn’t able to spark a rally, however, and Turkey took the set 25-19 to put USA in a two-game hole.
“At the start, we were certainly — and we still are — excited to have Kelsey and Kim play as a pair of outsides after Jordan and Michelle Bartsch played as a pair yesterday and that particular pair, tonight against this team, wasn’t quite as effective as we were hoping, nor were we quite as effective as we were hoping to be in the opposite department.”
Larson and Kelly Murphy started the third set and after trading blows early, USA used a 9-0 run to take a 17-8 lead. However, Turkey responded with its own 11-3 run to make it 20-19 USA. The Americans responded with a 4-0 run before finishing off the set 25-20.
USA took control midway through the fourth set at 13-8 and stretched its lead to 19-14, but Turkey rallied to tie it at 20-20. The teams traded the lead four times to set up set-point for the Americans at 25-24 and USA recorded a stuff on the next point to seal the set and send the match to the tie-breaker.
“We just look at every match as if it’s this puzzle and we’re trying to get the pieces together,” Kiraly said. “Even against the same team two nights later, it might be a different puzzle. But the puzzle tonight, the solution that we found was, I think, a pretty good one; it’s just that we set ourselves into a hole of 2-0 and when you play a game to 15 against a good team, anything can happen. So we waited a little too long. It took us, it took me a little too long to find the answer to that puzzle and get the pieces in place. I think we did, but it was pretty late by then and we had no margin for error.”
USA struck first in the fifth set, but Turkey played from ahead most of the way, taking leads at 3-1, 6-4, 10-7 and 9-13, but the U.S. battled back each time. Turkey earned a match-point at 14-11 but USA staved off elimination three times to tie it up and had a quality chance to take the lead, but an American attack went wide and Turkey finished it off on the next rally.
“Turkey’s a really good team, we’re a good team and those kinds of battles are going to happen a lot,” Kiraly said. “This was only match number two. I really liked the way our team responded down 2-0 and came storming back. We even had a swing to go up 15-14 and didn’t quite put it down to the floor but Turkey played some really good volleyball and we’re thankful because teams are going to bring a lot of good at us and it’s going to make us a lot better in the long run.”
Hill led the United States with 15 kills, three blocks and an ace. Tori Dixon added eight kills, three blocks and an ace. Larson, Lauren Gibbemeyer and Annie Drews chipped in seven kills apiece. Robinson recorded four kills, two blocks and an ace while Justine Wong-Orantes served as the libero for all five sets.
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) May 17, 2018
In the first match on Wednesday, No. 22 Poland defeated No. 7 Italy in five sets (21-25, 25-14, 19-25, 25-17, 15-12). Through two days, Turkey leads the pod at 2-0, USA and Poland are both 1-1 and Italy is 0-2.
USA wraps up its stay in Lincoln with a match against Italy at the Devaney Center. First serve will follow the completion of Turkey versus Poland which is set for 5 p.m.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.