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Korea comes forward even when hurt and broken

he golden generation has passed, and the transition period is still in progress. How much can Korean women's volleyball awaken in a situation where 'transformation' is realistically difficult?

The Korean women's volleyball team held training open to the media at the JoongAng Girls' High School gymnasium in Seodaemun-gu on the 1st.

The women's volleyball team, led by new coach Fernando Morales, is scheduled to participate in the 2024 Volleyball Nations League (VNL) of the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), which will be held in the United States, Japan, and Brazil from May 14 to June 16.

After the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Korean women's volleyball is suffering from a severe slump due to the absence of veterans such as Kim Yeon-kyung, Kim Su-ji (Heungkuk Life Insurance), and Yang Hyo-jin (Hyundai Engineering & Construction). From 2022 to 2023, when former coach Cesar Hernández González took charge, most of the international competitions ended in defeat. In particular, in the VNL, where world powers such as Japan, Turkiye, and the United States participate, they suffered the humiliation of losing 24 games in two years.

'I lost' came out once in a while, but the result was defeat anyway. Korean men's and women's volleyball, caught up in the issue of high salaries in the league compared to poor international performance, has not been able to avoid criticism for two years.

As of the 2nd, the world ranking of Korean women's volleyball was 40th, falling behind Kazakhstan (32nd), Croatia (35th), Peru (38th), and Vietnam (39th). Some even achieved a tough win over Taiwan, ranked 44th, at the Hangzhou Asian Games held last year. To be honest, Korean women's volleyball currently lacks confidence that it can win against any team it faces.

Last month, the Korea Volleyball Association appointed new coach Morales, who has experience coaching the Puerto Rican national team, to revamp the atmosphere. He focused entirely on coaching the national team as a full-time manager rather than a concurrent position at the club. Former coach Cesar was criticized once for being late in joining the national team while also serving as a club coach.

The sense of security that comes from having a leader observe the training process from the beginning, communicate directly, and lead consistently is definitely different. In an interview after training that day, Jeong Ji-yoon said, "Rather than preparing without the coach, I feel a little more prepared by matching the volleyball style pursued by the coach from the beginning."

However, Korean women's volleyball is not yet optimally prepared for the world stage. In fact, it is like resetting the team every time we convene.

I'm desperately yearning for one win, but realistically it's not easy considering various situations, including power. When asked about the first game of the day, against China, Coach Morales responded, "The first thing to do is to raise the team's level so that we can play in the VNL." The defense is good, but it lacks the power and flexibility to use it in attack.

Coach Morales consistently emphasized, "If the attack is concentrated on the wing attackers, it becomes difficult for the players. We need to diversify our attack options more by using middle blockers and pipes." This is also the diagnosis first made by foreign coaches of men's and women's teams who entered the league. In fact, it was not easy to establish this in the regular league.

In addition, the women's volleyball team had a lot of replacements from the start due to injured players. Lee So-young (IBK Industrial Bank), who was originally selected, was replaced by Park Soo-yeon (Heungkuk Life Insurance) due to a ruptured left ankle ligament suffered during the season. Park Soo-yeon is a backup libero who served as a one-point server for the team. Kim Da-eun could barely play in the 23-24 season due to a partial tear of the rotator cuff in her right shoulder joint, and eventually gave up her spot to Moon Ji-yoon (GS Caltex).

Two defensive lines were also missing. Kim Yeon-gyeon (Hyundai Engineering & Construction) was replaced by Kim Chae-won (IBK Industrial Bank) due to a left ankle injury. In addition, Moon Jeong-won (Korea Expressway Corporation), who was diagnosed with traumatic arthropathy of the right knee joint, degenerative meniscus and medial meniscus, passed the baton to Han Da-hye (Pepper Savings Bank).

Apart from the players who left due to injuries severe enough to prevent them from playing in the game, all of the players have minor injuries.

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