Heungkuk Life overcomes challenges after Kim Yeon-kyung, commander smiles

Heungkuk Saengsim extended its winning streak to nine games and took sole possession of the top spot in the Women’s Professional Volleyball League. Riding the momentum of their second-round sweep, they swept the first game of the third round at home and continued their unstoppable run. 

Heungkuk Life, led by head coach Marcello Abondanza, swept the Dodram 2023-2024 V League Women’s Third Round match against Pepper Savings Bank in straight sets 3-0 (25-16 25-22 25-17) at Samsan World Gymnasium in Incheon on Friday.

The team’s winning streak continued with a hard-fought 3-2 (25-10 20-25 25-22 22-25 17-15) set victory over Pepper Savings Bank in Gwangju on October 1. The winning streak, which started with a 3-0 (25-22 26-24 25-23) shutout win against GS Caltex on October 31, has now reached nine.

With the three additional points, Heungkuk Life improved to 12-1 on the season with 33 points, overtaking second-place Hyundai E&C (9-4, 29 points) and third-place GS Caltex (8-5, 22 points) by four and 11 points, respectively.

The power of the Heungkuk Life duo of Yelena and Kim Yeon-kyung shone through on this day. The duo combined for 36 points, including 19 from Yelena and 17 from Kim Yeon-kyung, as the team cruised through the game.

“It feels good to beat Pepper Savings Bank with a shutout,” Abondanza said in the official post-match interview. We struggled in the second set, but we were fortunate to take the lead (in the first set) and played well.”

“Our reception was shaky as Pepper Savings Bank’s serve came in strong, but overall we did a good job on defense and we were able to win the set 3-0,” he added.

Prior to the match, Abondanza was concerned that despite Heungkuk Sinsang cruising to an 11-1 record on the season, they did not have much of a point difference with second-place Hyundai E&C. He emphasized the need to manage the points as Hyundai E&C has been improving as the season progresses.

Unlike the first day’s match against Pepper Savings Bank, today’s match ended in the third set, securing three points and allowing the team to stay within striking distance of first place. The key is to maintain the current gap before their third-round match against Hyundai E&C on April 20.

The offense has also improved with Kim Yeon-kyung at the back, which has been one of Abondanza’s biggest concerns lately. The team’s offense has also improved with Kim at the back, something that Abondanza himself has mentioned as one of his biggest concerns in training.

“I think Kim Yeon-kyung solved about three back attacks today (from the back row), and I could see a change in her game,” Abondanza said, adding, “I hope it will continue to change in this direction.”

She was also positive about the performance of Reina, who was recruited as an Asian quarter this season. Reina was an outside hitter and outside spiker in Japan, but since joining Heungkuk Life, she has been used as a middle blocker due to the team’s high number of 토토 injuries. Although she is not very tall at 177 centimeters, she contributes to the team with her excellent jumping ability and volleyball sense. 

“She definitely has good blocking ability and a good jump,” Abondanza said, adding, “We use her (in the middle blocker position) because she can block high balls along with Yelena and Kim.”

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