Sapporo, Japan, October 4, 2018 – Turkey ended the first round of matches of the FIVB World Championship in Sapporo with a 3-2 record after beating winless Cuba 3-1 (25-15, 25-14, 23-25, 25-7) at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center on Thursday.
It was Cuba’s 12th straight loss in World Championship matches.
Turkey were led by Meryem Boz (17 points), Hande Baladin (16 points) and Zehra Gunes (15 points). Gunes scored five blocking points while teammate Meliha Ismailoglu netted four aces. Cuba’s top scorer was Ailama Cese with 11 points.
Cuba offered some early resistance against Turkey but were still three points behind at the first technical timeout. Turkey quickly extended their lead to 12-5 but the Cubans were able to land some big shots from the likes of Kitania Medina, Cese and Jessica Aguilera. Ebrar Karakurt brought up setpoint at 24-13 and Turkey went 1-0 up when a shot by Zehra Gunes rolled off the net and out of the Cubans’ reach.
Cuba took a 2-0 lead in the second set after a netted serve by Cansu Ozbay and a spike by Gretell Moreno, but errors by Diaris Perez and Cese saw Turkey ahead at 4-3. Cese landed a rocket to make it 4-6 but a good shot by Meryem Boz saw Turkey 8-4 ahead at the first TTO. Cuba coach Tomas Fernandez called a timeout after some ragged play allowed Turkey to increase their lead to 13-5 and Egli Sabin and Aguilera responded with some clean kills, but Turkey were seven points ahead at the second TTO. An ace by Baladin brought setpoint and a hit by Karakurt put Turkey 2-0 up.
So, game over? Not quite. Cuba, to their credit, continued to play with enthusiasm, Turkey not so much. Perez picked up an early ace to make it 3-1 and then Moreno targeted Turkey’s Hatice Orge, which earned her successive aces and put Cuba 7-5 ahead. Beyza Arici responded with blocks on Cese and Daima Del Rio and it was all-square again at 7-7. Moreno and Arici traded blocks before an ace by Sabin – with Orge the hapless target again – saw Cuba into a 13-11 lead. Turkey turned things around to lead by a point at the second TTO but two terrific shots by Cese brought Cuba back, and when they moved into a 19-17 lead on an ace by Aguilera, Turkey coach Giovanni Guidetti called a timeout. Moreno then blocked Baladin and Guidetti hauled his players off court again. A sloppy wide shot by Gunes gave Cuba a four-point lead and they weren’t in the mood to give it up. Blasts by Cese and Sabin gave Cuba three setpoints and when a serve by Arici went long, the match headed to a fourth set.
Which went all wrong for Cuba. Turkey zoomed into a 5-0 lead and Cuba only got on the scoreboard when Ismailoglu sent a serve wide. Baladin delivered a couple of stingers and Eda Erdem Dundar contributed two aces as Turkey ran away with the set. Ismailoglu collected successive aces at the expense of Cese to make it 23-6 when a wide shot by Perez brought up matchpoint. Boz finished off the match with a classy crosscourt kill.