Montreux, Switzerland, June 4, 2016: Today’s encounter was a fast-paced contest of wits and tactics at the 31th edition of the Montreux Volley Masters, as Thailand and Turkey faced off in the first match of the semi-finals. Thailand, the audience’s favourite, managed to defeat the internationally acclaimed Turkish delegation 3 - 2 (25-22, 21-25, 25-18, 16-25, 19-17) after a drawn out tie break.
The first set began with a quick exchange ending in a challenge by Thailand, which was sustained. Both teams showcased their abilities, handling difficult receptions and landing precise shots. Once again, the Thais proved that height isn’t everything by giving the Turkish team a hard time overcoming their blocks. FIVB world rank 13 had a steady lead before the first timeout, after which Turkey proved their offensive capabilities and equalised the score. The Turkish formation focused their energy on the skills of Baladin and Uslupehlivan who obtained 3 points each in the first half of the game. Thailand was quick to retaliate with fast maneuevers and difficult spikes, for which they are known for. The set remained as exciting as ever as both teams managed to snuck the ball across the enemy’s defense. At 23-21, it seemed as if the South East Asians would almost certainly win this set thanks to their lightning fast reflexes, when setter Naz Aydemir Akyol forced an out. Still, the concluding point, a treacherous net rebound, went to Thailand, resulting in 25-22.
The excitement continued in the second set as the pace of the game began to quicken. Even after a clever play had netted the Thais a chance to turn the situation to their advantage, the ball returned to the Turkish side after a serve error by opposite spiker Malika Kanthong. From there the Turkish team steamrolled their opponents for the next couple of rallies. A precise spike by WS M. Chatchu-On put an end on the Turkish streak. That did not prove to be long-lasting because Turkey received the serve again after the next exchange. Feeling the pressure, Coach Sriwacharamaytakul’s protegées attempted to turn the tide with a more offensive playing style. Nonetheless, the Turkish team prevailed in most rallies, leaving their opponents behind. At 17-21, Thailand had a comeback, making it to 19-21 before losing the serve again. This set’s conclusion was everything but clear, ending in a victory for Turkey 21-25.
After the break, Thailand lead at first, and even the kill attacks they sustained weren’t enough to reign them in. The South East Asian team demonstrated numerous times that even the most difficult of shots they could turn into an advantage. Meanwhile the skilled Turkish team’s formations started to fall apart, prompting Coach Ferhat Akbas to call in a timeout. Turkey came out successful in a number of exchange but Thailand kept their composure and pace and consistently scored until 20-14. Nevertheless, Turkey proved they are a force to be reckoned with. Thailand got the set point with a rapid dash-and-smash 25-18.
In the fourth set, the gap between the opposing sides became even smaller. Fatigue started to show as the number of errors increased, regardless of the team. The Thais continued their fast-paced onslaught with a smile, while the Turkish team focused on outwitting their opponent’s defense. Turkish attempts were met with fierce resistance, which proved not enough to stop them from achieving a 4 point lead. Despite their best effort, the South East Asians were not able to close in. Having adapted themselves to the Thais’ maneuvers, the Turkish team settled the fourth set 16-25.
The final set saw an exceptionally strong performance from Turkey, who managed to outscore their opponents 1-6. Determined to beat Thailand in terms of stamina, the players from the Bosphorus strait pressed on. Turkey was able to repeat their success from the last set in the first half. Before long, however, Thailand closed in seemingly reinvigorated. The audience roared when Thailand scored the 10-9 lead. Again, they were stopped by Turkish blocks at 10-10. With an outlandish save and a point-blank spike, Thailand managed 11-11. But every time, Turkey answered with unconventional moves. The match point for Turkey at 14-11 seemed to be a sure win for the Turkish, when Thailand connected several improbable shots. The turmoil continued through the 15-15 tie which was prolonged even further. Both teams fought valiantly with their last drop of strength until a spike and an out ball concluded both set and match - with Thailand winning the tie break 19-17.