Press release

Host Turkey outlast Serbia in marathon semifinal


There was nothing to separate the two teams in the fifth and deciding set. Finally, host Turkey overpowered Serbia 3-2.

Ankara, Turkey, August 20, 2011 – In front of 4,700 thrilled fans, host Turkey scored a hard-fought victory over Serbia in a highly competitive five-set semifinal (25-14, 14-25, 25-17, 20-25, 16-14) to advance to the gold medal match at the 2011 FIVB Girls’ Youth World Championship at Baskent Sports Hall in Ankara, Turkey on Sunday.

In their fourth international duel this year, Turkey improved their record to 3-1 with today’s win. Serbia had won the European Olympic Youth Festival semifinal in Trabzon (Turkey) in July while Turkey prevailed two times at 2011 CEV Girls' Youth European Championship in May. 

Serbia’s Nikolina Lukic topped the scores with 26 points while Mina Popovic and Natasa Cikiriz registered 13 and 11 points respectively for Serbia. Turkish captain Damla Cakiroglu finished with a match-high 14 points. Two other Turkish players compiled double digits in the scoring charts with Kubra Akman and Ece Hocaoglu notching twelve points each. The Serbians held the upper hand in the attacking category (43-36) while Turkey edged their opponents 10-9 in the aces department.

In the first set, Turkey dominated early, taking leads of 16-10 on Seyma Ercan’s ace, and then 20-11 as the Serbs struggled in reception. It was a disproportion in terms of mistakes in the first period. While the hosts only committed five, the guests from Serbia already had 14 mistakes in their statistics after twenty minutes of play. 197cm tall Kubra Akman closed the first set out for the Turks to delight the big majority of the 4,700 fans in Baskent Sports Hall.  
In the second set the young Serbs raised their game, surprising many who expected Turkey to blow them out after the first set. Milan Grsic’s side took leads of 4-1, 10-3 and 20-9 on Lukic’s spikes and strong blocking by Popovic in particular.  The hosts seemed slow to react as the Serbians controlled most of the net actions, and also showed solid defense play.  Serbian setter Sladjana Mirkovic finished the set in Serbia’s favor to draw it level, 1 set to 1.  

Both teams still felt like sitting on a roller-coaster as the match went on. With Turkey dominating the first and Serbia ruling the second set, it was again Turkey’s tour in the third period. The hosts increased their speed and power at the net while Serbia fell back with nine unforced errors compared to only two in the second installment. On the other side, Cagla Akin ran an almost flawless offensive game for Turkey. With Cakiroglu and Hocaoglu as hard-hitting outside hitters and efficient middle blocker Akman, the Turkish setter had good alternatives to set up variable offensive combinations. Captain Cakiroglu concluded the set 25-17 for Turkey with a convincing winner from the left. 

The play intensified in the beginning of the fourth set. However, as a copy of the previous sets and as a logical consequence of this up-and-down semifinal, it was again Serbia who took an early lead. It seemed as one side of the court was bringing good luck and the other one was doomed to fail. Turkish coach Sahin Catma called his young players off court at 11-17 for a serious chat. It helped as some moments later the hosts bounced back muscularly from 12-20 to 17-20 to reduce the gap to three points. However, in a chorus of whistles the Serbs proved strong nerves with Lukic bringing up set point at 24-19 with a well-timed tip, and closing it out with a blistering winner down the line to make it 2 sets to 2.  

In the deciding fifth period, player of the match Lukic soared for a spike to make it 2-0 for Serbia, before Turkey fought back valiantly with a spectacular block from Seyma Ercan on Natasa Cikiriz to level at 4-4. Compared to the four previous sets, there was nothing to separate the two teams in the fifth set. Popovic hammered the Mikasa down for an 8-6 Serbian lead at changeover. Then Turkish captain Damla Cakiroglu blasted another from the left wing for 9-10 before Ece Hocaoglu tied the score at 10-10. Serbia appeared on the edge of defeat with Turkey scoring relentless to turn the tables at 13-10. Lukic kept the Serbian hopes alive with a spike to 13-13. Then Turkey had a first match ball after Popovic sent her service out of bounds, but Lukic hammered back from the left. The hosts got their second chance at 15-14. Cakiroglu’s serve was called in by the referees, bouncing the Turkish team as well as 4,700 flipping fans to heaven.
 

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