Women’s National Team D-9 looking for at least ‘3 wins’…’experience or not’ matters

VNL is back with a fresh start after a year of struggles. This time, the road will not be easy.

On April 22, the South Korean women’s volleyball team flew out of Incheon International Airport and headed to Turkuye. Week 1 (May 30-June 4) of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League (VNL) 2023 will be held in the city.

The women’s national team, led by head coach César Hernández González, has been training at the Jincheon Athletic Village since April 24 to prepare for the VNL. However, Cesar will be joining the team in Turkiye as his team, Turkiye Bakifbank SK, has not finished their league schedule. Therefore, the team’s training was centered around Coach Han Yumi and Advisor Kim Yeon-kyung via Zoom video chat.

With veterans like Kim Yeon-kyung, Yang Hyo-jin, and Kim Soo-ji retiring, the experimental Korean women’s volleyball team had to come to terms with a disappointing performance at last year’s VNL, where they went undefeated (three sets out of 12 matches). At the subsequent World Championships, they only managed one win against Croatia on the final day of five matches.

This time around, the team is not taking it easy. There is no longer a team on the international stage that “deserves” to play Korea.

In Week 1, South Korea was drawn with Turkiye, Thailand, Italy, Poland, USA, Serbia, and Canada. In Week 2, they are paired with Brazil, Croatia, USA, Japan, Germany, Thailand, and Serbia, and in Week 3, they will face USA, Poland, Germany, Bulgaria, Serbia, Dominican Republic, and China.

Thailand and Japan, with their similar physicality, are role models for Korea to follow. Japan is currently ranked sixth in the FIVB rankings 안전놀이터 (315.65 points) after a 3-1 victory over last year’s No. 3 Brazil. They are one place above the powerhouse Turkiye. Miyu Nagaoka, Hayashi Kotona, Nishida (Koga) Sarina, Ishikawa Mayu, Shimamura Haruyo, and Seki Nanami were among the players named to the roster.

Thailand Women’s National Volleyball Team, VNL

Thailand, which features Hyundai E&C’s Wipawi Sittong, IBK’s setter Ponpun Gedpard, and IBK’s setter Pongpun Gedpard, is also pursuing a fast volleyball that matches the global trend, with a fast toss and an attack to match. It’s hard to say they’re “one step” ahead of Korea. Thailand is ranked 15th (207.47 points) on the 23rd.

Both nations are good back-attackers, and Korea, which has been trying a simple distribution strategy based on outside hitters and apogee spikers, needs a new breakthrough.

In the past, Heungkuk Life coach Abondanza has talked about getting all of his attackers involved in the pipe. It’s a picture that’s needed not only for certain V-League teams, but also for the Korean national team itself. Of course, it won’t happen overnight, and it also requires a lot of sub-receiving and blocking.

Realistically speaking, you can”t even predict how many sets a team will take. Croatia lost to South Korea at the World Championship last year, so there’s no reason to assume they’ll give up the points this time around. However, the general consensus among the coaches on the ground is that “we’ve been there before, so we’ll be better than last year.”

Moon Jung-won of the South Korean women’s volleyball team, Yonhap News Agency

There are some new faces on the roster who didn’t make the cut last year. There are also some specialty positions for the international stage. Outside hitter Moon Jung-won (Korea Expressway Corporation), who has been a solid defender in the league, was named to the roster as a libero. Kim Yeon-kyung, who had already retired, also donned the Korean flag and participated as an advisor, offering advice on the direction the team should take.

During his visit in February, Cesar said, “Our players’ performance and level were lacking on the international stage, and it’s important to have fast volleyball from the setter.” “Korea’s serve is one of the strongest in the world, and we need to focus on our offense to reach a high level,” he added.

The team accepted the disappointing report card, made plans to look a little different from the previous year, and faced the cold barriers of the international stage without an ace. This time around, there is a strong sense that the focus is on growth rather than performance. “Our goal is to win one game every week, and we’re aiming for about three,” said Han Yumi, the team’s coach.

On June 1, the women’s volleyball team will kick off their VNL campaign at 2 a.m. KST. They’ll face a tough opponent in Week 1’s hosts, Turkiye, and will struggle from the start.

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