Sapporo, Japan, September 30, 2018 – Captain Zhu Ting claimed she was off form but still led China to a hard-fought 3-0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-23) victory over Turkey on the second day of the FIVB Women’s World Championship at Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center on Sunday.
Zhu blew hot and cold in an intense match but made some crucial scores alongside her teammates. The only other China player to make it into double figures was Zhang Changning, who contributed 12 points. The star performer on the day was Turkey’s Ebrar Karakurt, a club teammate of Zhu’s who came in as a substitute and almost turned the game on its head, matching Zhu’s 16 points in a brave, losing effort.
The teams were matched in terms of spikes and blocks. Turkey picked up six points on their serve to China’s zero but committed 24 errors to China’s nine. Turkey had won their only previous meeting at a World Championship in 2010 and also beat them in the Nations League this year.
Turkey no doubt wanted a quick start in the match to put pressure on China but it wasn’t to be. Turkish errors allowed China to gain the upper hand and they were five points ahead at the first technical timeout. Turkey steadied their ship in the second phase of the match but couldn’t get closer than three points. The pressure got to them and China took advantage, rattling off five straight points to pull away from 17-13 to 22-13, thanks in part to great blocks by Zhang Changing and Yan Ni. Zhang was in brilliant form in attack and defence and it was fitting that she sealed the set.
Turkey started off the second set in inspired form with Meliha Ismailoglu leading the way with a neat spike and a cute dink over the net. An ace by Hande Baladin put Turkey 6-2 up and they appeared to be cruising. Zhu Ting had other ideas and a trademark thunderbolt started China’s comeback at 6-3. A repeat blast levelled the scores at 7-7. A couple of Turkish errors and a terrific block by Yuan Xinyue on Meryem Boz made the score 11-7. Turkey coach Giovanni Guidetti introduced Ebrar Karakurt and the 18-year-old power hitter had a major impact in rallying her team, but she could do little to prevent China surging into an eight-point lead. Turkey’s charge came a little too late but a bomb by Karakurt and a super block by Seyma Ercan on Gong Xiangyu started Turkey’s pushback. A long serve by Cagla Akin gave Turkey a mountain to climb at 24-20 but Karakurt gave them hope with another monster smash. A service reception error by Zhu Ting and a block by Ercan on Zeng Chunlei put Turkey within a point at 24-23, but Zhu atoned for her error with a resounding thump that put China 2-0 up.
Intense as the second set was, it was merely a preview to the drama of Set 3 where every point was massive. After putting her team up 2-0, Karakurt was celebrating like she’d won a championship, but her enthusiasm was infectious and Turkey believed they could get something out of the game. Zhang kept China steady and Zhu came up with a big block on Eda Erdem Dundar, which she followed up with a smash, putting her team 11-8 ahead. Three spikes by Karakurt brought Turkey right back into the set and a crosscourt bomb by Dundar saw the scores level at 19. China edged ahead and earned three matchpoints after great defence set up Zhang for a hit. Karakurt pulled a point back and Arici blocked Zhu to narrow the margin to one point. Fittingly, Zhang ended a heroic performance with a brutal shot that settled a truly intense match.