Volleyball Olympic Qualifying Tournament - News

Japan (JPN) vs. Türkiye (TUR) women - Pool B #7047832

Melissa Vargas spikes above the Japanese block

After winning the Volleyball Nations League and the CEV European Championship earlier this season, on Saturday Türkiye became the first volleyball team to qualify for next year’s Paris 2024 Olympic Games after host country France. The Turks secured one of the top two places in the final standings in Pool B of the women’s FIVB Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifiers after a four-set comeback victory over Japan in Tokyo. Japan and Brazil will engage in a direct battle for the second ticket from Tokyo to Paris as they lock horns with each other on Sunday’s last competition day.

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It will be the third time Türkiye compete at the Olympic Games. At their debut at London 2012, they stopped short of making the quarterfinals, but progressed to the last eight two years ago, at Tokyo 2020.

On Saturday, the Turks recovered from losing the first set to hosts Japan in their capital and turned the match around to a 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 26-24, 25-12) win, handing the opponents their first defeat of the tournament.

Japan took the early lead and did not let go through the end of the first set. They stayed well in control of the second until 22-19, after which the Europeans went on a six-point run to level the match. A similar story unveiled in set three. Japan were the first to reach set point at 24-22, but Türkiye produced a four-point streak, crowned by two consecutive kills from Hande Baladin for the set. The fourth set was a one-sided affair as Türkiye cruised to a comfortable 25-12 close on a Zehra Gunes kill block for the match winner.

While Japan showed more accuracy on the court (17-25 in unforced errors) and a slightly better blocking effort (9-8 in stuffs), Türkiye emphatically outplayed the home team in offence (65-48 in attack kills) and in serving (8-2 in aces). Opposite Melissa Vargas led the scorers with 22 points, including two aces and a kill block. Outside hitter Hande Baladin added another 19, while middle blocker and captain Eda Erdem and outside Ilkin Aydin finished with 13 points apiece. Captain Sarina Koga was Japan’s most prolific player on 15 points.

Undefeated Türkiye lead the current pool standings on a 6-0 win-loss record and 18 points, followed by Japan (15 points) and Brazil (14 points) on 5-1 each. The deciding game for the second Paris 2024 berth will be played on Sunday at 19:25 local time (10:25 UTC).

Earlier on Saturday, Brazil bounced back from Friday’s loss to Türkiye with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-14, 25-20) win over Belgium, outplaying the opponents on all counts, but particularly in serving with six aces against none. Star outside hitter and captain Gabriela Guimaraes put away two of those aces and a kill block towards the match high of 19 points, spiking at a 55% success rate, while star middle blocker Thaisa Menezes added 10 points towards Brazil’s success, including three kill blocks and an ace. Also with 10 points to her name, outside Manon Stragier was Belgium’s most prolific player.

Before that, Argentina and Bulgaria engaged in a thrilling five-set battle. The southern Europeans managed to come back from a set down twice during the match, before the South Americans snatched the tie-breaker win in the overtime for a 3-2 (25-14, 14-25, 25-20, 19-25, 18-16) victory. Argentinean opposite Bianca Cugno was the best scorer of the match with 20 points (including two aces and two kill blocks), one clear of Bulgaria’s most productive player, outside Maria Yordanova, all of whose 19 points came in spike kills.

In the first match of the day, Puerto Rico celebrated their third win in Tokyo, hammering out a 3-0 (26-24, 25-22, 25-21) shutout of winless Peru. Puerto Rican opposite Brittany Abercrombie delivered the match high of 19 points, including on block, while outside hitter Ysabella Sanchez was Peru’s leading scorer with 15 points, including one ace.