Meliha Ismailoglu: VNL silver just the first step for Turkey
Meliha Ismailoglu is confident that Turkey's silver medal finish at last year's VNL will lead to more success
Ismailoglu started playing volleyball at the age of eight and soon had the chops to play the outside spiker position. She won individual awards as a young player, and as a member of the Turkish national team, her horizon expanded into winning medals.
She joined Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul in the 2017-2018 season and won the 2018 CEV Cup. The following season, she won the Spor Toto Champions Cup and a bronze medal at the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Women's Club World Championship.
How would you describe Turkey's team dynamics at the Volleyball Nations League last year?
Meliha Ismailoglu: Most of our players were really young but what I like about our group is that no one is afraid. There were tough times, times when we cried, but when we were on the court, we were on fire. We always give our best!
Giovanni is the one who pushes us the most but he also gives us the confidence that we need. I think he knows how to manage that very well.
What were the factors that led you to a silver medal finish at the Volleyball Nations League?
Meliha Ismailoglu: First of all, we started with a great win over USA in the United States, so this immediately gave us the confidence to achieve something even bigger. Secondly, since we had nothing to lose and there were no big expectations of us, we played without any pressure and we were always focused only on improving ourselves. This gave us the great result of winning the silver.
What was your biggest contribution in Turkey's VNL campaign last year?
Meliha Ismailoglu: As one of the oldest players in our still very young group, I know my responsibilities very well. I still have a lot of things to learn too but I always try to pass on the experience that I have to the younger players. What I did for this team last summer was to play steady, to keep my concentration on passing and to improve myself each day.
How would you describe your role at Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul?
Meliha Ismailoglu: I am very lucky to be a part of this amazing group. We had a very beautiful season last year and that will always have a special place in my heart. We have an even stronger team this year.
By playing a lot of games, I gained better rhythm. I got to know the players better and improved my game. When I'm on the court, passing and defence are the things that I try to help the team with because we already have strong attackers. If I'm good at those two things then attacking becomes much easier too.
How does it feel to be playing in a star-studded club team?
Meliha Ismailoglu: I have the great pleasure and opportunity to learn. I admire and respect all of these players. I've known Kim (Yeon-Koung) since 2014 so I am closest to her, but we are all having a lot of fun on and off the court, which is important in our team's chemistry.
If you were to create your own Dream Team, who are the players - past or present - you would like to play with?
Meliha Ismailoglu: My Dream Team would be:
Outside Spiker: Kim Yeon Koung because I have been a fan for years and think that she is a complete player for this position. Natalia Pereira plays very smart and she is very strong.
Setter: Maja Ognjenovic because she is simply the best!
Middle Blockers: Eda Erdem Dundar because despite not being very tall, she is one of the best middle blockers in the world for me. She is fast, competitive and always pushing herself to the limits. And then, Milena Rasic because she is the best at playing simple and she's been doing that for years. I really admire her.
Opposite: Tijana Boskovic because she was always one of my favourite players. Getting the chance to play alongside her made me realise even more what a professional and a great player she really is!
Libero: Monica De Gennaro because she plays at a very high level and I love how passionately she plays the game.
What are your expectations for the next edition of the Volleyball Nations League?
Meliha Ismailoglu: We have a very tight schedule this year so our start date depends on when we finish our club season. We won't really have time to practice so we will try to learn and improve ourselves by playing games.
This year, everyone will step up, not only me, to show that what we accomplished last year wasn't just a coincidence but our first step towards something bigger.
Quick links - Volleyball:
FIVB.com - Volleyball Nations League
FIVB.com - Volleyball
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