Montreux, Switzerland, September 06, 2018- Turkey took advantage of China’s dip in morale to oust the 2017 Bronze medallists 1-3 (19-15, 18-15, 25-23, 23-25) and soar to the top of Pool A at the 33rd Montreux Masters, China’s hopes of reaching the last four now over. The victory guarantees Turkey a semi-final place, along with Italy who did their bit by beating Switzerland in the earlier Pool A game.
An Jiajie’s China had been tipped to make another big impact at this year’s Montreux Masters after their opening day win over Switzerland, but after a devastating loss to Italy on Wednesday, all the optimism surrounding the Olympic champs dissipated and their hopes were brought to a premature end tonight as they fell under the pressure of the Turkish onslaught and the tactical masterclass of their coach, Giovanni Guidetti.
China and Turkey entered the match looking to take a decisive step toward qualification for the last four. Both teams were off to a strong start, and were neck-and-neck until the Turkey captain Eda Erdem stepped up to the plate. She fired an ace to put her team ahead, 13-14. Erdem’s teammate and one of Turkey’s most prominent scorers at this year’s competition, Meryem Boz, supported her captain having finished an intense rally with a precise attack. China couldn’t regain a foothold until the near the end of the set, but it was too little to late as they let Turkey sneak into the lead 0-1 (19-25).
The second set started similarly to the first. The teams exchanged a handful of powerful attacks as well as unforced faults. Turkey’s Boz found a way through the Chinese block and defense by varying her attacks with the smashed spike and deft touches over the net, much to the pleasure of coach Guidetti who greeted her exploits with approval from the sidelines.
World Number One seed China responded with a couple of quick points which forced Turkey to call a time-out at 7-9. Reinspired and reinforced after Guidetti sent Middle Blocker Beyza Arici into the fray, the Turkish team quickly pulled away and built a lead. China used all the tricks in the book to try and get closer to the Turks, but the latter seemed to be always one step ahead of their East Asian rivals, closing out the second set 18-25.
Coach An Jiajie decided to stick with the starting team in set three. Turkey relied on their powerful attack whilst China tried to speed up their game with increased intensity and quicker movement of the ball, and their strategy paid off. China notched seven unanswered points from captain Xiaotong Liu’s serves to take the lead. Turkey attempted to grind their momentum to a halt but to no avail. After reaching a breaking point there was no stopping China, as they clinched the third set 25-23 to keep themselves in the game and force a fourth set.
Inspired by the previous set China got off to a flying start and continued to put pressure on Turkey. Coach Guidetti then rang the changes once more, calling upon youngster Ebrar Karakurt in place of his star scorer Meryem Boz to shake his team up. It worked for the Turks as they levelled 12-12 and then raced to lead 12-14 with an affirmative block. China didn’t hesitate to answer, however. With the advantage in the set continuing to sway back and forth, the teams battled it out over some nerve-shredding rallies to regain control which led to an extremely intense and close ending. Boz was sent back out for Turkey by Guidetti to add a decisive touch, and she played a key role in the late exchanges as her team claimed the fourth set (23-25) and the match with a 1-3 win, the Queens of the Net soaring into the semi-finals with one game to spare.