International Volleyball



The Japanese captain fires 31 points towards a five-set victory

Sarina Koga in attack

Japan delivered the first huge upset of Volleyball Nations League 2024, defeating defending champions, the worldโ€™s number one team, and pool hosts Tรผrkiye in Antalya on Wednesday evening. Their captain Sarina Koga produced 31 points and a truly inspirational performance on the court to lead her team to victory despite the deafening support of nearly 10 thousand Turkish fans for the home side.

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Outside hitter Koga piled up 27 kills in attack, three aces and a kill block towards her 31-point match high in Japanโ€™s 3-2 (25-23, 25-21, 23-25, 20-25, 15-11) victory over Tรผrkiye. This outcome resulted in 9.9 points changing hands from Tรผrkiye to Japan in their FIVB World Ranking scores, which is really important for the Asian team as they have not qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games yet. Japan jumped over the Dominican Republic into position eight in the ranking, narrowed the gap to number seven Italy and widened the distance from number 10 the Netherlands, two teams that have yet to earn their Olympic visas too.

Japanโ€™s other striker Mayu Ishikawa added another 20 points towards this important success. Her tally included two of the teamโ€™s seven aces. Tรผrkiye outplayed Japan in blocking with a total of 15 stuffs against just seven. The two middles, Beyza Arici and Asli Kalac, impressed with four kill blocks each. As many as five Turkish players reached the double digits in scoring. Tugba Senoglu Ivegin led the way with 19 points, followed by Ebrar Karakurt with 16, Hande Baladin with 15, Melissa Vargas with 12 and Beyza with 10.

Mayu Ishikawa in action

Koga spearheaded Japanโ€™s attacks to help open a six-point lead in the first set. Tรผrkyie battled their way back to within one, but the Asians managed to edge ahead by a narrow 25-23. In a rollercoaster second set, Koga once again showed her leadership to steer her teammates to a 25-21 close and a 2-0 lead in the match.

The really tight battle continued in the third set, with the lead going back and forth a couple of times. With Ebrar Karakurt taking charge in Tรผrkiyeโ€™s offence, they took the set by 25-23 to stay in the match. There was no stopping them in a one-sided fourth set as they cruised to a 25-20 win and pushed the game to five. 

Tรผrkiye stormed the tie-breaker on a 3-0 run, but Japan quickly turned things around. After 9-5, coach Danielle…

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