After last year’s ‘nightmare’, the South Korean women’s volleyball team is back in front of a big rock.
The team, led by head coach Cesar Hernandez, left Incheon International Airport for Turkiye Istanbul on Wednesday to compete in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League (VNL) 2023.
Coach Cesar will be joining the team in the country. Cesar was unable to fly in due to a scheduled match with Turkkiye Bakıpbank, where he is also a coach, and the team has been training under Han Yumi. Han communicated with the coach by checking in on the players’ physical condition on a daily basis, and she also sent him videos of practice games to get detailed instructions and incorporate them into training.
After arriving in Istanbul, Cesar’s team will travel to Antalya for the first week of the VNL. This year’s VNL will take place from June 30 to July 2 in Turkuye, Brazil, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Thailand.
Last year, the national team suffered a disgraceful 0-0 record for the first time in the history of the tournament.
The team, which was led by Park Jung-ah (Pepper Savings Bank) after the retirement of veterans such as Kim Yeon-kyung (Heungkuk Life), Kim Soo-ji (Heungkuk Life), and Yang Hyo-jin (Hyundai E&C) following their fourth-place finish at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, lost all 12 matches. They also suffered a humiliating 1-5 loss at the World Championships.
“There is a very big rock in front of us. At first it won’t move, but if you keep pushing it, it will. Once it’s rolling, it’s going to keep rolling, so I’m going to keep challenging for the national team, even if it’s hard right now,” said Cesar, but it’s not like he doesn’t know where he’s going with this.
The composition of the team hasn’t changed much since then. This is a team that has been weakened and is once again facing a big rock. Objectively, they”re still classified as an underdog. Their current FIVB ranking is 23rd. In Asia, they are fourth behind China (5th), Japan (6th), and Thailand (15th). The immediate schedule is not easy. The team will open the tournament next month on January 1 in Antalya against Turkiye, followed by Canada (2), USA (3), and Thailand (4).
But this time, she’s got some psychological support. “Volleyball legend” Han Yoo-mi has joined the team as a coach, while “volleyball queen” Kim Yeon-kyung will serve as an advisor. The addition of the two, who will help guide the juniors and act as a bridge between Cesar and the players, is a big plus for the team. 메이저놀이터
Captain Park Jung-ah (Pepper Savings Bank) said, “We didn’t perform well last year. On the first day we met, I said to the players, ‘Let’s work hard. Everyone has a strong will.”
“I know that the players have to perform well and show improvement,” said Kim Yeon-kyung, who is accompanying the team as an advisor. Unfortunately, Kim won’t be able to make the full VNL schedule. She will return to Korea in early June to train with her team, Heungkuk Life.
The team needs to win as many games and sets as possible in the VNL to move up the rankings and finish in the top two at the World Qualifier Group C in Poland in September to qualify for the Paris Olympics. It will be interesting to see if the national team, which is determined to restore its honor, can wake up from last year’s nightmare and show new possibilities and hope.