Serbia retained their EuroVolley crown after edging hosts Turkey 3-2 at the end of a truly exciting final match, filled with drama and turnarounds. As they did so, Serbia secured their third EuroVolley title to go with those they previously won in 2011 and 2017. They emulated Italy (2007 and 2009) and Russia (2013 and 2015) – who celebrated back-to-back European gold medals in recent times as well.
Earlier in the afternoon, Italy beat Poland in the bronze medal match to secure their first EuroVolley podium finish since 2009. The top four teams of the competition travel home with € 400,000 – 200,000 – 100,000 and 50,000 in prize money for a record-breaking total purse of € 750,000.
Serbia vs. Turkey 3-2 (21-25, 25-21, 25-21, 22-25, 15-13)
In a repeat of a Pool A match, which had ended 3-1 Serbia’s way, Tijana Boskovic – the eventual MVP of the tournament – scored 23 points, with Brankica Mihajlovic adding 22 to Serbia’s tally. Meryem Boz was the top scorer for Turkey with 16 points, as the ‘Sultans of the Net’ tried many different line-ups throughout the match.
The tiebreak was a rollercoaster of emotions – with Serbia showing nerves of steel to come back from a 6-9 deficit to triumph 15-13. The hosts had previously fought back in the fourth set, courtesy of as many as seven blocks.
Turkey, who only lost to Serbia in the competition, had to be content with their second silver medal from EuroVolley – to go with the previous one they won in 2003 in Ankara as well.
The final was the real climax of a history-making competition, with a record-breaking crowd of 13,040 in attendance at Ankara Sports Hall.
Maja Ognjenovic, captain and setter of Serbia: “It is a great feeling but I have to say it was not easy to play in such an atmosphere. Turkey is a very good team. I think our coach did a great job today. He made some changes in the right moments. I am so happy and proud because as I said before the tournament, it is more difficult to defend a championship title than to win one. All eyes were on us because we were the defending champions. There was a lot of pressure. In the pool phase, we did not play our best game but we got better with each match. We played great in the tiebreak. It was magical. We managed to come back from a 3-point deficit. It is not easy to do so in a tiebreak. We had more experienced players and this helped a lot. We had a big wish, I know Turkey also wanted to win but maybe we were more motivated to win.”
Naz Aydemir Akyol, setter of Turkey: “It is very sad to lose a European Championship final like that, in front of our fans, after coming so close. We lost our lead in the tiebreak due to simple mistakes. It makes our hearts even more sink. If we had lost 3-0, maybe it would not have been that painful. I cannot say that we performed really well in the pool phase but we improved with each match. In the last week, I think we were better as a team. We wished to finish the tournament with the gold medal but it was not meant to be.”