South Korea trust in KYK & Kazakhstan lucky?

Saturday, 29 Sep 2018
Lawrence Fernandez - Editor - @lancefernandez
Photo courtesy of Noel Monzales, Volleyball PH

The day has finally come! FIVB Women’s World Championship 2018 is finally upon us. The top 24 teams in the planet will converge in the Land of the Rising Sun until one team rises above the competition as best in the world. As we wait for the opening day games of this quadrennial FIVB volleyball competition, let’s preview two more teams under the Asian Volleyball Confederation: Kazakhstan and South Korea.

Team Kazakhstan – lucky participants?

AVC member countries compete for four World Championship tickets but it is usually taken by powerhouse teams such as China, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand. But with Japan getting an automatic bid as hosts, a slot was opened. Can we say then that Kazakhstan got lucky to make it this far? Regardless of the circumstance, the Kazakhs have paid their dues in the qualifiers by defeating the likes of Chinese Taipei, Australia, and Fiji after bowing out in straight sets to China.

Likewise, the 21st ranked team in the world have solid World Championship mettle for this is their third straight time competing in the tournament. Therefore, they do belong with the other 23 teams but getting deep into the tournament is another question for their best finish is 15th during the last edition in Italy.

We are familiar with the squad of Coach Vyacheslav Sharpan because these are the same players that narrowly defeated the Philippine women’s volleyball team in five sets during the 5th-8th classification semifinals of the 2018 Asian Games. Their offense will be led by wing spiker Sana Anarkulova and opposite spiker Yekaterina Zhdanova. Other players who can induce damage to their opponents are middle blocker Yana Petrenko.

While they don’t play particularly fast, they can spike the ball with force when setter Natalya Akilova passes the ball cleanly. They can be a step slow in stopping slides but Tatyana Fendrikova is a serviceable libero that can extend rallies due to excellent digs. Kazakhstan is in Pool D of the FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship 2018 with Brazil, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Puerto Rico, and Serbia.

Team South Korea – in KYK we trust

Where Kim Yeon Koung goes, so too the South Koreans. She is the undeniably the main weapon of the South Korean squad that did not qualify for the 2014 World Championship. Now, they are raring to show it was just a hiccup and that their volleyball program is still a force to reckon with. But while KYK is going to be the heart and soul of the Korean attack, the squad of coach Cha Haewon doesn’t stand on one leg.

Setter Hyo Hee Lee has an artillery of spikers at her calling. There’s wing spikers Jaeyeong Lee and Jeongah Park while Go Yerim is joining the squad after a commendable stint in the AVC Cup for Women 2018 in Thailand. Meanwhile, middle blockers Su Ji Kim, Hyo Jin Yang, and Sooji Han will fortify the net defense and can shock opponents with quick strikes too. Opposite spiker Hwang Minkyoung can also bring the hurt as proven by her AVC Cup performances.

But beyond the offense, South Korea (much like Japan) is known for its defense. Their impeccable reflexes will frustrate opposing spikers because they can field the ball with high efficiency. Thus, it’s no surprise that they brought in four liberos to their FIVB Women’s World Championship 2018 roster. Their top-tier liberos are Myungok Yim who plays for Korea Expressway Corporation and Hae Ran Kim with Heungkuk Life Insurance. Completing their libero line-up are Hyun Jung Na of GS Caltex and Yeongyeo Kim from Hyundai Construction.

While their top players are still at the peak of their career, South Korea is aware of the inevitable. KYK might have half a decade of excellent volleyball left in her and replacements must be trained. Thus, they have called up 22-year-old Lee Jaeyeong, 21-year-old wing spiker Sohwi Kang, 19-year-old middle blocker Eunjin Park, 18-year-old middle blocker Juah Lee, and 17-year-old middle blocker Hoyoung Jung. While much is not expected from them in this tournament, they continuous training, development, and international exposure makes them ready in no time.

For the FIVB Women’s World Championship 2018, South Korea is part of the highly-competitive Pool C with Thailand, Azerbaijan,