Philippines vs. South Korea match preview

After playing 14 sets in three straight days, the Philippine women’s volleyball team got two days of rest before resuming their AVC Cup for Women 2018 campaign. Currently in ninth place, the Shaq Delos Santos-coached squad awaits the loser between the Chinese Taipei-South Korea quarterfinal match. Thus, the Filipina spikers will now face South Korea in the 5th to 10th classification phase.

What are the implications of this game?

The winner between the Philippines and South Korea will move to the semifinals of the 5th to 8th classification phase where they will face the winner in the rematch of Iran and Australia. Meanwhile, the loser will move to the ninth-place game where they will face Kazakhstan who lost to Vietnam in straight sets (25-16, 25-14, 25-15). If the Philippines wins this game, the lowest ranking they can get is eighth. But given how they dragged the Iranians and the Volleyroos to five sets, they have a good shot of finishing fifth.

But if our team loses, the best they can do is second to the last. However, this does not mean that they will be assigned to the AVC Challenge Cup. As per the Asian Volleyball Confederation, what’s used to determine who will play in the Asian Women’s Volleyball Cup and the AVC Challenge Cup is the team’s ranking in the previous Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship. Teams that will finish in the first to 10th spot will play in the succeeding AVC Cup for Women while those who will finish 11th and below plus teams that did not participate in the championship will play in the Challenge Cup.

To put this in perspective, the Philippines must finish at least 10th in the 2019 Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship to play in the 2020 Asian Women’s Volleyball Cup. Despite that, it would be a great morale booster for our players and our volleyball program if we can finish fifth behind Japan, Thailand, China, and Chinese Taipei. Plus, defeating a South Korean national volleyball team, regardless of who is playing, is a matter of national pride.

Team South Korea preview – Asian Women’s Volleyball Cup 2018

For starters, we’re lucky that this is not the best team South Korea can send. Kim Yeon-Koung and the rest of the senior national squad is already gearing up for the FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship in Japan that will start on September 29. That could be the reason why Chinese Taipei was able to defeat them. But given how technically sound and disciplined the South Koreans are in terms of the sport, they cannot be taken lightly. After all, a so-called “Team B” of China who is participating in this tournament demolished the Iranian women’s volleyball team in three sets.

While this is a young South Korea squad that is coached by Lee Kyungsuk has their tallest player at just six feet, they do not lack in firepower. Their two main weapons are opposite spiker Ha Hyejin and outside hitter Go Yerim. Hyejin Ha is part of the South Korean squad that finished third in the 2015 Asian Women’s U-23 Championship held in Pasig City, Philippines. She averages 16.66 points per game in the three matches she has played in the AVC Cup for Women 2018 (so far) which include a 28-point performance (24 spikes, three blocks, one ace) in a win against Japan.

In that same game, Yerim Go tallied 14. But her prowess manifested to a greater extent when she collected 24 points (19 spikes, three blocks, two aces) in a losing effort to Chinese Taipei. Another noteworthy player for South Korea is middle blocker Han Sooji who is the most experienced in the roster at age 29. Meanwhile, 18-year-old wing spiker Park Hyemin led the team against Thailand with eight markers.

Like their senior counterparts, there is little to no wasted movement in their execution. However, the pace by which this South Korean team play is not as par with their top squad and much of their attack is concentrated on the wings. Still, Chinese Taipei found a way to defeat them.

How Chinese Taipei defeated South Korea – 6th AVC Cup for Women

Perhaps our team can take something from the Taiwanese’s game plan. Basically, Chinese Taipei found the weak spot in their opponent’s defense and exploited it. The result is a 63-47 advantage in spikes with three players scoring connecting on at least 11 kill spikes (Tseng Wan-Ling – 15; Huang Ching-Hsuan – 12; Chen Tzu-Ya – 11). That Achilles heel in the South Korean defense is at the middle of the floor in between Zones 2 and 5.

Regardless of their shifts in defensive formation, the South Koreans have left a gaping hole in this spot. Those who are in Zones 1 and 5 are playing shallow and closer to the sidelines while their player in Zone 6 is practically the only one covering the backline. Thus, this was the location that Chinese Taipei targeted with their cross-court spikes and it helped them reach the semifinals.

Ideal First Six for Team Philippines against South Korea

Given the tendencies of South Korea, here’s the ideal first six that can neutralize their attack:

Outside hitters – Alyssa Valdez and Gretchel Soltones – Alyssa for offense, Gretchel mainly for floor defense
Middle blockers – Aby Marano and Maika Ortiz – The shiftiness of Marano especially with her slides can cause problems to their net minders. Meanwhile, Ortiz can be activated for quick sets to keep their backline on their toes.
Opposite spiker – Mylene Paat – She continues to impress in this tournament but I’d reserve her more for net defense and scoring because her first ball reception has been shaky.
Setter – Jia Morado – Aside from orchestrating fast plays, her success in digging makes her an asset against South Korea’s spikes.
Libero – Denden Lazaro – Not to take anything from Melissa Gohing but the Iron Eagle has played better.