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Korea Edges Italy in Women’s Volleyball

Posted May. 12, 2004 22:49,   


The Korean woman`s volleyball team showed off its fighting spirit to the world.

The Korean women’s volleyball team secured a spot on the Athens main round ticket with a dramatic come-from-behind victory, taking three straight sets after giving away two as the team showed signs of defeat for just a moment in the 2004 Athens Olympics woman`s volleyball final preliminary match against Italy held in Metropolitan Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan. Korea was leading Italy (ranked #4 in the world) 19 to 8 in head to head matchups, but the victory meant much as Italy`s strength has been evident after 2000, defeating Korea four times in a row.

The match was the stage on which Korea’s veteran players flashed their fighting spirit. It also proved why head coach Kim Chul-Yong was right to be so obsessed with the veterans who refused to join the team in the beginning. The pack of players in their 30s, Koo Min-Jung (31), Jang So-Yun (30), Kang Hye-Mi (30), and Choi Kwang-Hee (30) accomplished their roles to lead the team whenever it faced critical moments.

The movements of the Korean players were dull in the 1st and 2nd sets, showing that the team had over-exerted its strength versus the number-five ranked team in the world, Russia, the other day. The Korean team felt helpless in front of Italy’s high-targeted hard shots to end up losing the first set 17-25 and allowing multiple losing points. The team displayed sluggish play to lose the second set 10-25.

In the last moment of the second set, the Korean team substituted veteran Kang Hye-Mi instead of Kim Sa-Ni and seized a chance to turn things around as the “fab-four 30s,” including Koo Min-Jung (18 points), Jang So-Yun (9 points), and Choi Kang-Hee, who came off the bench after resting, were back in action in the third set to return the team to basic tactics and hit the mark with their shots.

Motivated by the senior players’ fighting spirit, rookies Jung Dae-Young (19 points), Kim Se-Young and rest of the newcomers’ offensive plays revived to win the third set 25-17 as the team set a foothold to pursue. Italy`s defense line became shaky due to the strong attacks of the Korean team as they lost the fourth set 25-18, evening the match at two sets apiece.

The Korean team rallied in the fifth set after trailing 11-14. But Korea`s succeeded in taking three points on Jung Dae-Young’s fast break, Kim Mi-Jin’s blocked shot and Kim Sa-Ni`s service ace to even the match to deuce. In the deuce situation, Choi Kang-Hee`s hard shot and Jang So=Yun`s moving fast break targeted the opposing court to end to match 18-16.

The Korean team extended its winning streak to four so far in the full tournament league in which eight countries (including four Asian countries) are competing with each other. The team could be in a favorable spot to acquire an Olympic berth, which is assigned to the countries within the first-through-third place teams in the Asian group, if the team beats Japan in match number five on the 14th.

Sang-Ho Kim hyangsan@donga.com