Club Volleyball

VC WIESBADEN double the sensation with Golden Set victory over Galatasaray


Article Thu, Dec 7 2023

After 145 epic minutes, Germany’s VC WIESBADEN caused a second sensation within the space of a week as they knocked out pre-favourites Galatasaray Daikin ISTANBUL of Türkiye in a matchup that will go down in history as the ‘victory of the decade’. Not many in the sold-out hall (2,100 spectators) could quite grasp what had just happened: VC WIESBADEN had progressed to the quarterfinals of the women’s Challenge Cup after winning the first leg 3-2 in Istanbul and, after losing 2-3 at home, they had taken the decisive Golden Set! 

Jubilant scenes in Wiesbaden following the sensational Golden Set victory over Galatasaray

After five thrilling sets (20-25, 25-22, 25-21, 18-25, 14-16), a sixth had to be contested and there the team of head coach Benedikt Frank and his co-coaches Christian Sossenheimer and Daniel Ramirez kept their composure. After winning 15-11, the players dropped to the floor, exhausted but overjoyed. Tears of joy, tussled hair, bewilderment at what they had just achieved: those who witnessed this match will be talking about it for a long time. This applies also to the Turkish Consul General in Frankfurt, Erdem Tunçer and Wiesbaden’s Lord Mayor Gert-Uwe Mende, who were among the attendees in the arena. 

Hundreds of Turkish fans in red and yellow shirts raised the alarm even before kick-off. The hall quickly resembled a madhouse. Divided into two stands, the men (mostly in football shirts, some even bare-chested) jumped up and down. Home-made red and yellow confetti was thrown onto the court. There was incessant shouting and whistling – especially loud when the Wiesbaden team served. Speaker Tobias Radloff could no longer get through. The local drummers and all other home fans gave their best. The noise felt like a hundred jet engines. The home players endeavoured to keep their composure and calm, even in the face of the slogans coming from the two red-and-yellow corners. The Frank ladies appeared to be impressed, at least in the first set, but then the opposite effect did set in:

“This crazy atmosphere gave me extra motivation. We were determined to put in a solid performance. I have never experienced a game like this in my career. The fact that we left the court as winners and are now in the quarterfinals is an incredible story. We are very, very proud."

Rene Sain

First to fourth set
VC WIESBADEN took the lead at the start of the match through outside hitter Jaidyn Blanchfield, but Galatasaray equalised immediately. Neither team was able to open a gap of more than two points until the middle of the set. Benedikt Frank called his first time-out at 14-17. The hosts clawed their way back to 19-19, but then no longer had the necessary freshness to prevent Galatasaray from winning the opening set 25-20. Their opposite hitter Danielle Cuttino (USA) and the block stood out in this section for Galatasaray. At this point, the Turkish fans were urged by their own officials to calm down. 

At this stage, the home team had to deliver. They again took the lead through Blanchfield, and this time the advantage was gradually extended (4-2, 8-4, 10-5, 13-9). Tanja Grosser made it 18-14 with an ace, then middle blocker Nina Herelová struck twice. At 24-19, they had earned five set points, which Galatasaray initially cancelled successfully. Rachel Anderson finally hammered the ball onto the floor to make it 25-22. 

The third set was initially evenly contested (4-4, 7-7) before VC WIESBADEN made it 10-7 with a good block. However, things became tight when Ilkin Aydin scored an ace to make it 20-19 in favour of the visitors. She then hit her serve into the net. This also happened to Blanchfield (22-20), but there were no significant consequences. Izabella Rapacz clinched the much-acclaimed set win (25-21) as the Germans had managed to get their hands on balls that would have slipped through their fingers in the first set. They had found a way to deal with the way the Turkish team was playing. 

However, that did not happen in the fourth set. The hosts fell behind (3-5, 6-9, 11-16) and at 13-18, Benedikt Frank briefly tried to provide fresh impetus by making some changes (Pauline Bietau in as a setter for Milana Božić, Celine Jebens as opposite for Rapacz). A short time later, middle blocker Jonna Wasserfaller was allowed onto the court to serve. However, the ‘solutions’ applied by VC WIESBADEN were generally well countered by the opponents, who had the upper hand at 25-18. 

The home side had to deal with the noisy support of the many Galatasaray fans in attendance

Showdown! Tie-break and Golden Set
It was by then clear: should VC WIESBADEN lose the fifth set, both teams would have achieved a 3-2 victory in their opponent’s dent – and that is exactly what happened! The Germans let the tie-break slip from their grasp, despite leading several times (3-2, 7-4 and 10-7 thanks to an ace from Rapacz). However, they were not consistent enough in the crunch time and allowed Galatasaray to close the gap to 13-13. The first match point for the visitors (14-13) was controversial. Rachel Anderson equalised again to 14-14, but in the end the Turks were the ones to celebrate. The tie-break went 16-14 to the visitors, who (like VC WIESBADEN in Istanbul on the previous Thursday) had won 3-2. Whoever wanted to advance to the quarterfinals had to win the Golden Set. 

The psyche should have spoken in favour of the team of Spanish coach Guillermo Naranjo Hernández, but it was VC WIESBADEN who showed stronger nerves despite the frenetic cheering of the visiting fans! Frank’s team only trailed once (0-1) in the Golden Set, and the Turks did not achieve more than the equalisers at 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4. The home side pulled off its system impressively and repeatedly showed outstanding defence against the high block on the other side. After leading 9-7 and 12-9, they had five (!) crucial match points at 14-9 to advance to the quarterfinals. In the end, the score was 15-11 – the Germans had made the sensation perfect! The home fans went crazy, the red and yellow armada was silenced for the first time. 

Izabella Rapacz (22 points), Rachel Anderson (18), Nina Herelová and Jaidyn Blanchfield (15 each) finished the match in double digits for VC WIESBADEN. Galatasaray’s most successful players were Logan Eggleston and Ilkin Aydin (25 each) followed by Danielle Cuttino (24).

“That was a huge advert for women’s Volleyball. Both teams gave it all and electrified the fans,” said a visibly moved Managing Director Christopher Fetting after the memorable match. However, VC WIESBADEN did not celebrate for long, because a few hours later the focus was already back on the German Bundesliga: on Saturday (at 7 pm), they will play at home against their neighbours in the table, VfB SUHL Lotto Thüringen. Managing Director Fetting will soon meet with the officials of AC PAOK THESSALONIKI (Greece) to discuss the two upcoming Challenge Cup quarterfinals in January. These dates have not yet been finalised. 

Opposite Izabella Rapacz top scored for VC WIESBADEN with 22 points

“Today was a unique moment for everyone – for the club, the players, the coaches, the staff, the volunteers, fans and sponsors. The backdrop was fantastic. We were a bit intimidated at first, but what our girls then showed was a mental masterclass. We overcame everything, all the jibes and ultimately the opponent’s system. I would like to pay my team a huge compliment.”

Benedikt Frank
Head coach of VC WIESBADEN

Middle blocker Rachel Anderson: "That was a mega match in a mega atmosphere. Our fans were also fantastic. We are now specialists in five-set matches and know that we can withstand the pressure. We are over the moon, but also tired after so many exhausting weeks with two games per week. Now we will celebrate briefly, recover, and then be fully focussed again on Saturday against Suhl.”