The US team celebrate with the VNL trophy, the gold medals and a check for $1 million
Lausanne, Switzerland, December 19, 2018 – The United States claimed the first ever FIVB Volleyball Nations League women's title as they snatched a dramatic 3-2 (17-25, 25-22, 26-28, 25-15, 15-7) victory over Turkey, twice coming back from a set down in the final of the inaugural edition on July 1 in Nanjing, China.
The epic five-setter was the perfect ending to the new competition featuring 16 teams playing each other in a round robin format over a five-week period, with the best five – USA, Serbia, Brazil, the Netherlands and Turkey, in that order – joining hosts China in the final tournament in Nanjing. The line-up consisted of 12 core and four challenger participants, with bottom-placed challenger team Argentina to be replaced by Bulgaria, winner of another new FIVB competition, the 2018 Volleyball Challenger Cup, for the next edition in 2019.
USA, who were also the reigning world champions, topped the final standings of the preliminary round on a 13-2 record, hinting at ambitions for the finals. And they started the final tournament the same way they finished it, with a five-set win over Turkey, this time mounting a furious comeback from two sets down. The Americans followed up with a shutout of Serbia to top their Finals pool and advance to the semifinals, where they mastered a four-set victory over reigning Olympic champions China.
Finishing second in the pool, Turkey also progressed to the semis, where they were up against Brazil, who had won the other pool on an impeccable 6-0 set record. The Turks delivered a sensational 3-0 upset of the South American team to make their way to the gold medal match.
China pleased the home fans with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-22, 25-22) victory against Brazil in the third-place game to secure a podium finish. Top international star Zhu Ting scored 20 times to top the charts of the match.
In the big final of the tournament, USA’s Kimberly Hill and Turkey’s Eda Erdem Dundar also scored 20 points each, but it was the young Turkish opposite Meryem Boz, who tallied 21 to become the best scorer of the match.
The American players rejoice after the final whistle
“I am so proud of this team!” USA’s coach Karch Kiraly exclaimed after the end of the game. “All 14 of them, and many others back home, have put their heart and souls into this, and that makes us better every day. It is a great win for USA’s volleyball programme.”
From May 15 and the first match between Belgium and South Korea, over the entire 130 women’s VNL games, the aim of the event was to be innovative and forward thinking, using digital technology, engaging the crowds and interacting with fans all over the globe. The VNL was a revolution in its approach to presenting the sport and encouraged all fans to be “part of the game.”