Kraljevo, Serbia, May 30, 2018 - An Ekaterina Lyubushkina-led block lifted Russia over Turkey in a pulsating 3-2 thriller (25-23, 19-25, 23-25, 25-20, 15-11) in Wednesday's action of the 2018 FIVB Nations League.
The Dynamo Moscow middle blocker capped off an impressive defensive performance with an astonishing 8 blocks in total, almost half of her team's 22.
Irina Voronkova also played her part, scoring 20 points, including three aces, as Natalia Malykh claimed 16.
Meryem Boz scored 26 points against Belgium on Tuesday, more than a third of her team's 76 points, but was this time shut out by an impressive Russian block. The opposite spiker was limited to 8 points while Eda Erdem Dündar (16) topscored for her team.
Turkey headed to Serbia, looking for a seventh win that would keep them at the top of the table in the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League. History, rather than current form, however favoured five time World champions, who have not lost to Turkey since 2014.
Two back-to-back aces from Irina Voronkova set Russia on the right track as Vadim Pankov's players raced to an early lead (12-9). But Turkey clawed back into the game as Meryem Boz sprung into action to block at 15-15. The Turkish even leapfrogged their opponents of the back of the ever lethal Boz (18-20). Russia, however, had not given up and both teams fought tooth and nails as Turkey scrambled at the business end of the set (22-22). And it was Russia who had the last word in a tense set, through a massive Natalia Malykh block (25-23).
A powerful spike from captain Kseniia Parubets, followed by a block by Ekaterina Lyubushkina and good run behind line, forced a Turkish time out as they had conceded five straight points without answering. Despite another strong Boz showing, the Turks never seemed able to really trouble Russia, who easily jumped into the lead (7-12). A couple mistakes from the Russians gave Turkey some hope as they came back to within two points. The end of the second set was as uncertain as the first as the young Turkish team finally completed its impressive comeback (17-17). With the wind in their sails, Giovanni Guidetti's players seemed unstoppable as Boz and Baladin spiked to claim an emphatic win and level at 1-1 (25-19).
With the momentum on their side, Turkey started strong thanks to captain Eda Erdem Dündar but a video appeal overturned a referee decision and changed the score from 5-2 to 4-3. Russia now had the wind in their sails and reached the first time out in the lead (9-8). They held on it to off the back of a strong performance from a Ekaterina Lyubushkina-led block (19-17). But Turkey once again showed plenty of guile in attack and claimed the thirs set with a massive triple block (25-23).
It was more of the same in the fourth set as Russia took the lead (8-4) but this time managed to remain in front, dominating so much the Russians took a ten-point lead (16-6) off an impressive block performance. Turkey couldn't climb the mountain in front of them and let Russia run away with it despite six straight aces from Dündar and an heroic run from teenager Ebrar Karakurt (25-20).
The fifth and decisive set was once again tightly-contested with both teams exchanging blows but it was the Russians who got their noses in front early on (4-1). Turkey rapidly clawed back into the game after a Meliha Ismailoglu spike (10-6). But Russia still had an ace up their sleeves and Olga Biryukova spiked to help the Russians come out on top in the end (15-11).