Türkiye (TUR) vs. Canada (CAN) men - Pool 1 - Preliminary Phase #15813028

Maar accounted for five of Canada's 12 aces in the match

Türkiye’s big plans for a memorable debut in the Volleyball Nations League in front of their home fans in Antalya were spoiled by Canada, who came from behind to beat the Europeans on Tuesday, in the teams' first match in the 2024 edition of the tournament. Reigning Olympic champions France also triumphed in the first day of action in Pool 1.

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Powered by thousands of fans at the Antalya Spor Salonu, Türkiye started their first-ever VNL match on fire, but couldn’t keep their high level of play throughout the entire encounter, allowing Canada to come back and take a 3-1 (17-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-21) victory.

The Canadian reaction was propelled by the team’s serving efficiency as they ended the match with 12 aces to Türkiye’s five, making up for the European’s dominance in blocking (12 to five).

Outside hitter Stephen Maar was extremely efficient from the service line, firing five aces to go with 19 kills in his match-high 24-point performance. Middle blocker Lionel McCarthy had three aces, eight kills and three blocks to contribute 14 points, two more than outside hitter Eric Loeppky.

“This is my favorite time of the year,” Maar reacted. “We have a great group and I think you can see it by how we play, we love playing with each other. Our goal in the VNL is to improve. We just want to keep playing good volleyball and see how high we can raise our level. We developed a lot last year, going from not a great showing on the VNL to having success at the Olympic Qualifier. We have a young group and I feel that we have a chance to make a really big step again.”

Türkiye had Ramazan Efe Mandiraci and Adis Lagumdzija as their leading scorers, as the 22-year-old outside hitter tallied 21 points (13 kills, six blocks, two aces) and the star opposite, 17 (15 kills, one block, one ace).

“We were very emotional on the first set, had a lot of support from our fans and started well,” Turkish setter and captain Arslan Eksi commented. “Canada started serving better on the second set and that leveled the game. We should have won the second set when we had a chance. We need to improve our passing and our side out, but for a first match on the VNL, although it wasn’t a great start, it showed we can do more.”

The result gave Canada, who are already qualified for the Paris Olympics, an additional 6.86 points in the FIVB World Rankings and kept them in 12th place. From Türkiye’s perspective, the setback further complicated their Olympic push as they were passed by Iran and now have to pass five opponents until the end of VNL 2024 Preliminary Phase to qualify.

Volleyball Nations League 2024: schedule and results

Canadians and Turkish will both play their next matches on Thursday, when Canada meet defending champions Poland at 17:00 local time (14:00 GMT) and the Europeans battle the Netherlands at 20:00 local time (17:00 GMT).

France sweep Bulgaria

In the first match of the day in Antalya, reigning Olympic champions France had a great start to their VNL 2024 campaign, downing fellow Europeans Bulgaria 3-0 (25-21, 26-24, 25-14) to collect their first three points in the tournament.

Opposite Jean Patry led the French offense in the match with 12 points (nine kilks, three blocks), one more than middle blocker Barthélémy Chinenyeze, who registered nine kills, one block and one ace.

“The VNL is really important for us,” Patry said. “We’re really taking it as great preparation for the Olympics. Every match is important for our growth, but we also want to get a good result. We want to make it to the semifinals so the team can get to Paris with a lot of confidence.”

Bulgaria (BUL) vs. France (FRA) men - Pool 1 - Preliminary Phase #15804497

Patry was France's leading scorer against Bulgaria

Bulgaria had three players ending the match with seven points, including 17-year-old setter Simeon Nikolov, the younger brother of star outside hitter Aleksandar Nikolov, who had three kills, two blocks and two aces. Opposite Dimitar Dimitrov and middle blocker Iliya Petkov had the same output.

“It was a great feeling to get the VNL started,” Nikolov reflected. “We know we’re going to play the best teams in the world and unfortunately, we couldn’t get the win today. We were close in the second set, but they outplayed us and they deserved it. I know that having this experience of playing the best teams in the world at just 17 is a privilege and I hope this is going to help me in the future.”

The French also earned 3.06 World Ranking points with their victory, which was enough to make them pass Slovenia and take over seventh place, now with 309.86 points. The Bulgarians continue in 20th place.

The second day of action in Pool 1 in Antalya will also feature two matches, with the Netherlands facing Slovenia at 17:00 local time (14:00 GMT) and USA meeting defending champions Poland three hours later.

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