USA (USA) vs. Türkiye (TUR) women - Semifinals #5851223

With 23 points, Vargas was a difference-maker for the Turkish

Türkiye are one win away from their biggest-ever success at the international level as the Europeans secured the second spot in the Volleyball Nations League 2023 gold medal match on Saturday, in Arlington, the United States.

The Turkish will enter Sunday’s decisive encounter with China full of confidence after they stunned reigning Olympic champions and hosts the United States with a strong 3-1 (25-21, 25-14, 24-26, 27-25) semifinal victory in a packed College Park Center on Saturday.

  • Watch Volleyball Nations League 2023 Finals live on VBTV

In the final, the Turkish will face China, who took Poland down 3-0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-23) in the first semifinal. The gold medal match in Arlington will begin at 17:30 local time (22:30 UTC) on Sunday, while the bronze medal match, between the United States and Poland, is scheduled for 14:00 local time (19:00 UTC).

The Turkish have the silver and bronze medals won in the VNL in 2018 and 2021, respectively, as their most relevant results at the international level, as well as a pair of silver medals earned at the European Championship in 2003 and 2019. In case of victory, they would also become the third different national team to win the VNL on the women’s side, joining the USA (2018, 2019 and 2021) and Italy (2022).

VNL rookie Melissa Vargas had a big role in the Turkish victory against the Americans, leading all scorers with 23 points. The 23-year-old, Cuban-born opposite had 20 kills, two blocks and one ace in a stellar performance with the team coached by Daniele Santarelli.

Star opposite Ebrar Karakurt played as an outside hitter, just like she had done in the quarterfinals against Italy, and had another outstanding performance, producing 15 points (11 kills, three blocks, one ace) for her team. Middle blocker Zehra Gunes, who scored the game-winning point with a block, was another key player in the Turkish triumph with 13 points (seven kills, six stuffs), as well as libero Gizem Orge, who left the court with 16 digs.

“Winning this match was so difficult for us because the United States were at home,” Gunes reflected. “They were playing really well, but we did an amazing job today. We knew they have a lot of experience and a lot of success and that they could come back in the game, but we held strong. We’re very happy about it and about being in the final.”

USA (USA) vs. Türkiye (TUR) women - Semifinals #5849352

Turkish captain Eda Erdem battles USA's Chiaka Ogbogu at the net

Rookie outside hitter Khalia Lanier had the highest scoring performance for the United States, with 18 points (16 kills, one block, one ace) – Olympic champion opposite Annie Drews had 14 points, with 12 kills and two blocks. Outside hitter Alli Frantti also had a strong display, coming off the bench on the third set and leaving the court with 12 points (all in kills).

Volleyball Nations League 2023: full schedule and results

The higher number of American errors (31 to 19) ended up making a difference as the teams were very close in the scoring skills, with each side registering 50 kills, the Turkish leading in blocks (18 to 14) and the Americans having the most aces (three to two).

USA (USA) vs. Türkiye (TUR) women - Semifinals #5851146

Americans and Turkish played in a packed College Park Center

For the Americans, a victory against Poland on Sunday will not only mean standing on the podium in front of their home fans, but also becoming the first team in the VNL, men or women, to win medals in four of the five editions of the tournament.

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