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17/03/2021 18:48
Yesilyurt hammer out solid advantage in Challenge Cup final
CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup 2021 - Women

Luxembourg, March 17, 2021. In a completely one-sided first leg of the CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup 2021 women’s final, Sistem9 Yesilyurt Istanbul crushed hosts CSM Volei Alba Blaj of Romania in straight sets to gain a solid advantage in the race for the trophy ahead of the second-leg game in Turkey next week.

CSM Volei Alba Blaj (ROU) vs Sistem9 Yesilyurt Istanbul (TUR) 0-3 (12-25, 18-25, 16-25)

With a five-point run early into the first set, Yesilyurt took a 6-3 lead and never looked back. Alba’s offensive efforts were not working well, producing far too many unforced errors or blocking opportunities for the opponents. The Turkish team dominated throughout the set to win it by an emphatic 25-12.

The storyline of the first set pretty much unfolded again in the second. Yesilyurt recovered from a 2-5 deficit before scoring five in a row to gain a 10-6 lead. Working well in attack and continuing to take advantage of the abundant mistakes on the other side of the court, they kept the fire burning and widened the gap to the eventual 25-18, shaped up by Lana Scuka with a powerful spike.

Set three was quite competitive through 11-11, after which Yesilyurt took the lead for good. Seven points in a row with Jennifer Cross serving led to a 23-14 lead and it was a matter of minutes for the match to end with a 25-16 close and a straight-set victory.

Yesilyurt’s outside hitter Derya Cebecioglu scored the match high of 16 points, including four blocks. Ioana Maria Baciu was Alba’s best scorer with 12 points to her name.

Mehmet Kamil Söz, head coach of Sistem9 Yesilyurt Istanbul: “I am happy for today’s result, especially since we are a team with 9-10 very young players, who are not used to playing matches of such a high level. We expected an intense match, because we knew that Volei Alba Blaj is a team made up of players with great experience, who have not lost so far this season, but it was easier than we expected. Of course, the absence of Blaj's libero, Silvija Popović [due to injury], who is a very good player and who would have given more solutions to the hosts, did matter as well. We are very happy, and now I hope we will win next Wednesday, because this final has two legs. We managed to win in the first match but the second match is very important, because we have to focus even more to win the Challenge Cup.”

Darko Zakoč, head coach of Volei Alba Blaj: “First of all, it is a shameful result and I want to apologise to all those who invest and believe in this team. This is not the way to play a final, and even in the darkest nightmares, I did not think such a thing was possible. It is not an excuse, but maybe it also mattered that we lacked our most important player, Silvija Popović, not necessarily from a volleyball point of view, but from what she represents on the court, a true leader. Her absence was felt on the position of libero and I think we could have performed differently with her help. We will go to Turkey with a very little chance, but I never give up and I hope that there we will at least play the best possible Volleyball, which is what we did not do tonight.”

Named in 2020 the best women’s Volleyball player in Romania, Alexia Ioana Căruțașu also impressed in this match, in which she met, for the first time, a team from her native country: “I was just fine today. It was the first time I played against a Romanian team and I am glad we managed to deliver a very good game. We will prepare well for the return match and we will definitely give our best – I am sure that everything will be good.”

The second-leg match is set to take place on March 24, at 15:00 local time at the Burhan Felek volleyball hall in Istanbul.

For more details, stats and photos, visit the CEV Volleyball Challenge Cup 2021 - Women competition page.

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