Korea’s national women’s volleyball team is on the verge of a new era as it is set to welcome new Italian coach Stefano Lavarini. The squad did not get a favorable result at last year’s FIVB VNL, as they wound up at 12th place, so they will be looking to climb up a few notches this time around.
With well-loved veteran skipper Kim Yeon-koung leading the charge once more, can the world’s 9th ranked team do more damage at the FIVB VNL 2019?
FIVB VNL 2018 record & stats
Win/loss: 5 / 10
Sets win/loss/ratio: 16 / 34 / 0.471
Points win/loss/ratio: 1022 /1141 / 0.896
Final position: 12th
What’s new for Korea in FIVB VNL 2019?
The Koreans appear to be on a “win now” mentality with the impending entry of new Italian coach Stefano Lavarini. The 40-year-old coach, who has won titles in his home country and in South America, is reportedly set to start on the job in May after he wraps up his stint with Brazilian club Minas.
It’s unclear how much time he will have with the team ahead of the start of the FIVB VNL 2019, which starts on May 21 in China. But it will be quite the challenge for the team to adjust to his tactics right away with so little time ahead of the tournament.
Lavarini will be taking over from Cha Hae-won with the specific mission of ensuring the Koreans qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. His continued role with Korea’s women’s national team, according to Globo, will depend on whether or not the squad earns a ticket to Tokyo, in which case he will stay on until 2020. Otherwise, he’s set to return to club volleyball.
Korea world ranking: 9 (October 2018)
Korea provisional FIVB VNL 2019 roster
Full provisional squad listed with subsequently cut players listed in red.
Head coach: Stefano Lavarini
Wing Spikers (Outside & Opposite Hitters): Kim Yeon-koung, Lee So-young, Pyo Seung-ju, Kim Hee-jin, Go Yerim, Kang Soh-wi, Lee Jae-yeong, Moon Jung-won, Jeong Ji-yun, Ha Hye-jin, Jung Ho-young, Choi Eun-ji
Average age: 26.4 (3rd oldest)
Average height: 179.7cm (14th tallest)
Korea player to watch in FIVB VNL 2019: Kim Yeon-koung
Each time Koreans take the volleyball court all eyes will almost always be on veteran Kim Yeon-koung. The 31-year-old outside hitter has been a member of the national team since 2005 and has won all kinds of individual accolades, including Most Valuable Player and Best Scorer at the 2012 London Olympics as well as Best Scorer at the 2018 Asian Games.
However, Yeon-koung did not make it to the leaderboard in any statistical category during the FIVB VNL 2018 so it would be interesting to see how she fares this year.
She’s considered a legend in Korean volleyball and is the heart and soul of this team, so everyone will be looking to her leadership once more from the FIVB VNL 2019 to, hopefully, Tokyo 2020.
Korea FIVB VNL 2019 match schedule
Korea games to watch out for in FIVB VNL 2019
Korea finished 12th at last year’s competition, taking only 5 wins. So it’s hard to see the team making life hard for top tier teams like Serbia or Brazil. However, they did spring surprise 3-0 defeats of both China and Russia, of which neither will be looking to repeat this year.
Korea is pooled with China for the second week of competition with Belgium and Thailand making up the group. The latter two squads finished right below Korea in the standings last year at 13th and 15th, respectively. It means that the week 2 fixtures really could make or break Korea’s tournament, particularly given their tough start in week one.
The bottom line: How far can new coach Stefano Lavarini and Kim Yeon-koung take Korea?
Korea is coming off a rough 17th-place finish at the World Championship in China in 2018, a terrible result for a team that finished 5th in Rio 2016. It was uncharacteristic of them, which might be the reason for bringing in Lavarini.
It’s interesting to see whether Korea is considering rebuilding the team with its star player Yeon-koung already at 31 years old. There are questions about whether or not she’s at her peak or well past it. The team has relied on her for years, and that was best exemplified when Yeon-koung won MVP in the London Olympics.
This year’s FIVB VNL would be a great opportunity for other players to step up to the plate. Most of Korea’s roster consists of veterans with extensive international playing experience. There are some young players who are showing the potential to take over. 19-year-old middle blocker Park Eun-jin, 24-year-old outside hitter Lee So-young and 22-year-old wing spiker Lee Jae-yeong could all take over the mantle from their piers.
What is a realistic FIVB VNL projection for the Korea women’s team?
After shaky performances in 2018, anything better than 12th place would be ideal for Korea at the FIVB VNL 2019. It would certainly boost the team’s confidence heading into the Olympic qualifiers. But with a new coach potentially coming in right as the tournament begins, it would be understandable if the Koreans encounter hiccups that could affect their performance.
How to watch Korea in FIVB VNL 2019
FIVB haven’t as yet released the broadcast details for the 2019 FIVB Volleyball Nations League. Once it is updated we will update this section.
For now we are able to say that fans in Korea were able to watch the 2018 tournament on IB Sports.