by Burak Akinci
ANKARA, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- Struggling with economic woes, Turkey has found something to cheer on and a sense of hope with its national women's volleyball team's success in international tournaments.
Fondly known as the "Sultans of the Net", Turkey won 3-0 in the quarterfinals against Poland on Wednesday in Brussels, Belgium, reaching the semifinals at the 2023 CEV European Championship.
Led by Italian head coach Daniele Santarelli, Turkey secured victory in a match where star players Ebrar Karakurt and Cuban-born Melissa Vargas assumed a crucial role as best scorers.
With this win, Turkey advanced to the EuroVolley semifinals for the fifth time in a row.
Turkey captain Eda Erdem said afterwards that she was "extremely happy", especially as their victory coincided with a national holiday in Turkey.
The Crescent Stars will play against the reigning champions Italy on Friday in a clash that will be watched by millions across Turkey.
The Ankara Metropolitan Municipality has invited citizens to watch the match on giant screens.
On X, formerly known as Twitter, Turkish fans celebrated the victory and said that Turkey's women's national team made the country proud and lifted spirits as the country grapples with economic difficulties.
"As the economy is in trouble, the success of the Sultans gives us some hope," said Ulker Oner, an X user.
"When our girls win, I'm over the moon. I forget my daily worries. They represent the Turkish women," Nursel Ciftci, a bank employee from Turkey's capital Ankara, told Xinhua following the Poland win.
Ciftci's words summed up a general feeling that has been growing in a notoriously football-enthusiastic country in economic decline for the past years hit by high inflation and a cost-of-living blow.
Turkey's women's volleyball team enjoyed their biggest success to date when they won the Volleyball Nations League on July 16 in the United States to top the world volleyball rankings.
It was the most significant victory for Turkish volleyball, representing the first world-level title ever won by the country.
The sport of volleyball, particularly women's volleyball, is popular in Turkey. For several years, Turkey's women's national team has been viewed as an emerging force in international volleyball.
From the successes of their professional teams to the development of their junior programs, Turkey has become one of the top volleyball-playing nations in the world in the past two decades.
More and more girls are turning to this sport across Turkey, according to the local press, and behind this drive is the success of the women's national team.
"My daughter started playing with a junior team in Ankara two years ago, her main motivation was the Turkish national players that she sees as role models," Bergin Sari, the mother of a young volleyball player from the Turkish capital, told Xinhua.
She said that all the family gathers in front of the television every time Turkey plays against another country. ■