Heungkuk Life lost the set score 1-3 in the women’s third round of the 2023-24 V-League against Hyundai Engineering & Construction at Samsan Gymnasium in Incheon on the 20th.
Heungkuk Life lost for the first time in a row this season. Heungkuk Life Insurance, which had ranked second in the women’s league before the match, could have regained the top spot if it had taken the lead in Hyundai Engineering & Construction. Rather, however, by dedicating three points to the two teams, the gap widened to four points (40 points for Hyundai Engineering & Construction and 36 points for Heungkuk Life Insurance).
There was another reason why Heungkuk Life was even more shocked on the day. Kim Da-in, the main setter of Hyundai Engineering & Construction, failed to play due to flu symptoms. Instead, Kim Sa-rang, a 19-year-old, inexperienced candidate setter, put up the ball instead. Before the game, almost everyone expected Heungkuk Life to win. However, the result was the opposite.
Heungkuk Life Insurance was “absolutely in the first place” until the second round. In the 12 games in the first and second rounds, the team lost just one game and recorded 11 wins and one loss. It also has nine consecutive wins, the most in this season.
However, it started to creak in the third round. It lost to GS Caltex on the 9th and failed to secure 10 consecutive wins. Since then, it took a breather by beating IBK Industrial Bank after a full-set match on the 14th. However, it lost to Korea Expressway Corporation, the lowest-ranked team, on the 17th, and was caught by Hyundai Engineering & Construction again on the same day.
Heungkuk Life Insurance’s biggest strength is the twin guns of Kim Yeon-koung and Yelena Mrazenovic (registered name Yelena). The problem is that attacks are too focused on the two. Kim Yeon-koung has a 30.52 percent attack share this season. Yelena accounts for 34.86 percent of the total. Together, the two players are responsible for more than 65 percent of the total attacks. In the match against Hyundai Engineering & Construction on April 20, 75 percent (42 percent for Yelena and 33 percent for Kim Yeon-koung) of the team’s attacks were concentrated on the two players.
Attacks on a specific player also mean that the attack pattern is simple. The opposing team puts all their energy into stopping only Kim Yeon-kyung and Yelena. No matter how good your individual abilities are, it is not easy to overcome concentration checks.
The bigger problem is physical stamina. Kim Yeon-koung is already in her mid-30s. It is hard to display 100 percent power throughout the game like she was in her heyday. As the actual rounds continue, the attack destructive power seems to decrease. The attack success rate, which was close to 50 percent at 48.47 percent in the first round, fell to 45.95 percent in the second round and 43.78 percent in the third round.
In fact, it’s not just Kim Yeon-koung’s problem. Heungkuk Life Insurance has recently shown signs of exhaustion across the team. Being tired means losing concentration. If you lose concentration, it leads to an error.
Heungkuk Life Insurance made a whopping 29 team mistakes in the match against Hyundai Engineering and Construction. It is more than double the number of mistakes made by Hyundai Engineering and Construction. In the first set, the team recorded seven serve errors alone. In the final four sets, the team made a mistake due to consecutive serve errors.
Receiving instability is also serious. Heungkuk Life Insurance’s team receiving efficiency for this season is 30.91 percent, ranking sixth among the seven teams. Pepper Savings Bank is the only team that has the lowest receiving efficiency. However, in the two games it lost recently, receiving efficiency remained in the 20% range. The receiving is a mess, but offense cannot be carried out properly.
“It was a terrifying game,” Heungkuk Life coach Avondanja said after the game. “We had 29 errors. It’s hard to put into words.” “We had our own problems,” he said. “I don’t know why we showed such a good performance even though our opponent’s key setter was missing.”
Future schedules will also not be easy. He will meet Chung Kwan-gwan in succession on April 24 (Incheon) and April 28 (Daejeon). Heungkuk Life Insurance had one win and one loss against Chung Kwan-gwan in this season. Both games were neck-and-neck competitions in full set. On the following day, it will face off against the leader Hyundai Engineering & Construction again. Heungkuk Life Insurance has faced its biggest crisis this season.