Volleyball WC: Sunbirds begin campaign with 3-0 win over Spor Kulubu

Bengaluru: Japan’s Suntory Sunbirds came up with a strong overall performance to beat Turkey’s Halkbank Spor Kulubu in straight sets in the opening Pool B encounter of the Men’s Volleyball Club World Championship 2023 at the Koramangala Indoor stadium here on Wednesday.

Sunbirds, the first Japanese club to participate in the Club World Championship, took time to find their feet against their Turkish opponents but were able to turn the tables midway through the opening set and went on to win 25-23, 25-23, 25-16 in just over an hour to clinch three full points.

This is the first time that an international volleyball tournament of this stature is being held in India with some of the world’s best players in action over a period of five days. Six teams have been divided into two groups, making every match a must-win encounter to reach the knock-out stage.

And Sunbirds put themselves in pole position for one of the semi-final spots from Pool B on Wednesday, bagging all three points. According to the tournament format, the winning team gets three points only if they drop one or no sets.

Such a result for Sunbirds didn’t look possible during the initial exchanges of the opening set with the Turkish side boasting of the likes of Frenchman Earvin Ngapeth and Nimir Abdel-Aziz of Netherlands going on the offensive.

Despite a couple of service errors, Halkbank looked in control with a four-point advantage at 18-14 before Sunbirds turned the tables with their strong blocking and smart attack from Russian Opposite Dmitriy Muserskiy and outside hitter De Armas Berrio Alain Junior of Cuba.

Muserskiy, a 2012 Olympic gold medallist, went for the big spikes from the right while Alain Junior came up with smart angles to deceive the opposition blockers.

With the momentum completely in their favour, Sunbirds began the second game with a lot more confidence and whatever pressure Halkbank would build on them was released thanks to their service errors.

Overall, the Turkish outfit was guilty of 17 service errors with the captain Nimir making five mistakes in his 13 attempts across three sets.

In contrast, Sunbirds raised their levels as the match progressed and Alain Junior was definitely the stand out player, scoring a total of 15 points, nine from attack, three from blocks and three on serve including an ace. Muserskiy, one of the tallest players in the volleyball circuit, supported him by clinching a total of 14 points.

The duo took turns to leave the Turkish defence flummoxed in the third set as Sunbirds clinched seven straight points from 10-10 and left their opponents an uphill task to make a comeback.

Sunbirds came up with eight block points and three aces in the third set to earn nine match points. Halkbank saved the first but it was not to be their day and a service error by Matic Mert meant that the team had very little to show for their day’s effort.

Tomorrow’s action will feature Sada Cruzeiro Volei as they take on the Suntory Sunbirds, while the second match will see defending champion Sir Sicoma Peurgia take on Minas Tenis Clube (Itambe Minas)

The Men’s Volleyball Club World Championships 2023 will be telecast live in India on Sony Sports Network across Sony Ten 1 & Sony Ten 3 channels and the broadcast will be shown globally on Volleyball World. Fans in India can also stream the tournament online on FanCod.

UNI

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