Park Eun-jin (KGC Ginseng) in 1999, Lee Ju-ah (Heungkuk Life) in 2000, Jung Ho-young (KGC Ginseng) and Lee Da-hyun (Hyundai E&C) in 2001 will compete at the same time. Called the next generation of Korean women’s volleyball’s middle blockers, the goodwill competition has begun.
The FIVB Volleyball Nations League (VNL) will kick off in 2023. After nearly a month of domestic training, the Korean women’s national team traveled to Antalya, Turkey, on Nov. 22 for the VNL Week 1 matches. Coach Cesar, who was away on a club assignment, joined the team on site in Turkuye.
The team is now without veteran middle blockers Kim Soo-ji and Yang Hyo-jin. They left the national team after the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Park Eun-jin, Lee Ju-ah, Jung Ho-young, and Lee Da-hyun will compete for the two starting middle blocker spots.
Lee Da-hyun and Lee Ju-ah saw a lot of playing time in last year’s international tournament. After her professional debut, Jung Ho-young switched her position from outside hitter to middle blocker, reaching the Taekwondo mark, and showed steep growth with her height and excellent offense. However, Jung suffered an ankle injury at the end of last year’s VNL and was no longer with the national team.
Park Eun-jin also suffered an ankle injury during the 2021-22 season. She didn’t make the final roster for last year’s VNL and was named to the national team ahead of the World Championships in September, but fought back tears when she injured her ankle during a practice match.
Again, four middle blockers wore the flag side by side. They aim for a ‘win-win’ through goodwill competition.
“On my team, if I need to fix something, (Yang) Hyojin tells me,” Lee said. We have that advantage. On the national team, we ask each other questions and get advice, and it’s a win-win situation. We tell each other what we’re lacking.”
In the previous V-League, Jung Ho-young, Lee Ju-ah, and Lee Da-hyun were among the top 10 blockers, while Lee Ju-ah, Lee Da-hyun, and Park Eun-jin were among the top 10 mobile attackers. Lee also ranked ninth in the league in serving. These are four players with distinct strengths in the same position.
Historically, Korean women”s volleyball has been dominated by outside hitters. This changed after the Tokyo Olympics. Like Japan’s women’s volleyball team, they used three outside hitters at the same time, and intentionally tried to move the middle blocker frequently to get past the opponent’s blocking. This year, the team is also focusing on attacking from behind. 스포츠토토
As a result, the role of the middle blocker has become more important than before. Park Eun-jin, Lee Ju-ah, Jung Ho-young, and Lee Da-hyun are expected to follow in the footsteps of Choi Ji-yeon (retired), Jung Dae-young (GS Caltex), Kim Su-ji (Heungkuk Life), and Yang Hyo-jin (Hyundai E&C) as the next generation of Korean women’s volleyball middle blockers. Expectations are high for the ‘young blood’ quartet.
“Last year, we lost a lot and lost a lot of ranking points,” Lee said ahead of the VNL. The players also lost confidence, but this year, I feel that we have improved from the preparation process.” “We can’t keep up with foreign players in height or power. We have to compete with speed like other Asian countries. That’s the only way to survive. If you have the same high ball and they have two or three blockers behind you, you can’t break through, and even if you lose in five sets, you still have ranking points in each set, so the goal is to limit your losses. It’s important to build a foundation in the VNL so that we can do well in the Olympic qualifiers this year.”
Currently ranked 23rd in the FIVB World Rankings, South Korea will travel to Brazil for Week 1 of the VNL, where they will play Canada (7th)-Turkey (14th)-USA (4th)-Thailand (15th), followed by Brazil (3rd)-Japan (6th)-Croatia (27th)-Germany (13th) in Week 2. Week 3 will be held in Suwon, South Korea. They will face Bulgaria (16th), Dominican Republic (9th), China (5th), and Poland (10th). The only VNL opponent with a lower ranking than South Korea is Croatia. The team is determined to rack up as many wins as possible to erase last year’s 12-game losing streak.