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China stunned by Turkey in Olympic volleyball, US eases past Argentina

/ 08:46 PM July 25, 2021
China's Zhang Changning (L) spikes the ball in the women's preliminary round pool B volleyball match between China and Turkey during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Arena in Tokyo on July 25, 2021.

China’s Zhang Changning (L) spikes the ball in the women’s preliminary round pool B volleyball match between China and Turkey during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Arena in Tokyo on July 25, 2021. (Photo by Yuri CORTEZ / AFP)

TOKYO– Defending women’s champions China was stunned in straight sets by Turkey in their Olympic volleyball Pool B opener on Sunday, going down 25-21 25-14 25-14 at the Ariake Arena.

China, who have won six Olympic medals in women’s volleyball including three gold, was overpowered by the Turks for whom opposite hitter Ebrar Karakurt — with her distinctive bright pink hair — led the way with 18 points.

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Three of her teammates finished in double figures while Turkey’s defense also proved to be too good for China, with Hande Baladin and libero Simge Akoz making 13 successful digs to keep the ball in play.

The Chinese lacked cohesion throughout the encounter and coach Lang Ping made several substitutions to find the right combination while Turkey stuck with the same line-up for all three sets.

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“Right now we’re so happy because we know that Chinese are a great team, they have incredibly talented players and they are the Olympic champions,” Turkey captain Eda Dundar, who led the match with four blocks, told reporters.

“Today we served well… In every part of the game we were leading. Maybe China didn’t play their best game but we played our best game.”

China’s top scorer Zhang Changning (13 points) said they must “prepare from zero” for the upcoming games.

Japan’s Mayu Ishikawa followed in her elder brother Yuki’s footsteps by top-scoring with 13 points, alongside Ai Kurogo, as the hosts made short work of an error-prone Kenya in a 25-15 25-11 25-23 victory.

Yuki had scored 15 points on Saturday as Japan beat Venezuela for its first Olympic victory in 29 years.

USA's players celebrate their victory in the women's preliminary round pool B volleyball match between USA and Argentina during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Arena in Tokyo on July 25, 2021.

USA’s players celebrate their victory in the women’s preliminary round pool B volleyball match between USA and Argentina during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Arena in Tokyo on July 25, 2021. (Photo by YURI CORTEZ / AFP)

Earlier, Jordan Thompson scored 20 points to lead top-ranked U.S. to a comprehensive victory over Argentina, with the 2016 bronze medalists winning 25-20 25-19 25-20 to open their account in Pool B.

Thompson was supported at the net by Jordan Larson, who had 10 points, while Michelle Bartsch-Hackley added 13.

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“The two Jordans were able to find a good connection,” U.S. head coach Karch Kiraly told reporters while middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo said the team had a “gold medal mentality.”

“We’re going for gold, 100%,” Akinradewo said. The Americans have won five Olympic medals in women’s volleyball, but never the gold.

In the other Pool B encounter, Italy was tested in its opening set against the Russian Olympic Committee team but won 25-23 25-19 25-14 while Serbia cruised past the Dominican Republic in Pool A.

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