Revamped Korean squad heads to Volleyball Nations League

윤소향 입력 2022. 5. 26. 16:17
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"There are many inexperienced players on our squad, so I think it will be a hard match," said Kim Hee-jin. "But it is an important match. We need to do everything that we can and pour out everything on the court."

"I am excited for the new season with the new uniforms too," said Park. "The atmosphere is bright and lively with the new recruits. I want to share my experience and knowledge on the court. Kim Yeon-koung said that I should do good because she will be watching and that she will visit when time allows."

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The Korean national volleyball team will jet off Friday to start their 2022 Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) Volleyball Nations League (VNL) season on May 31.
From left to right: Kim Hee-jin, Lee Da-hyeon, head coach Cesar Hernandez Gonzalez and Park Jeong-ah pose for a photo during the Korean national volleyball team's media day at Jincheon National Training Center in North Chungcheong on Wednesday. [NEWS1]

The Korean national volleyball team will jet off Friday to start their 2022 Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) Volleyball Nations League (VNL) season on May 31.

Korea heads to Louisiana, where the new Volleyball Nations League season will kick off, with a very different squad than last season, as veterans Kim Yeon-koung, Kim Su-ji and Yang Hyo-jin all retired after competing at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games.

Not only is there a change to the roster, but there's also a new man at the helm. Korea will play the new season under new head coach Cesar Hernandez Gonzalez.

Gonzalez was appointed as head coach in October last year for a three-year term from 2022 to 2024. He was an assistant coach under former head coach Stefano Lavarini from 2019 to 2021.

Gonzalez's debut with the team will be at the VNL, and he is expected to lead the team until the Paris Olympics. Gonzalez started his coaching career in 2001 in Spain, working with Turkish club VakifBank Istanbul before coming to Korea.

Last year, Korea finished second-to-last with three wins and 12 losses at the VNL, one ahead of last-place Thailand. Despite the losses, Korea were able to use the tournament as an opportunity to work on teamwork and tune up for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Lavarini, the team's head coach at the time, proved that teamwork on the big stage, earning his space in the annals of Korean sporting history after his underdog squad fought their way through higher-ranked opponents to finish in a historic fourth place.

As Lavarini, Kim Yeon-koung, Kim Su-ji and Yang have all stepped back from the national team after the Tokyo Games, this year’s VNL will be more about how Park Jeong-ah can step into the captains' role and Kim Hee-jin into the supporting veteran’s role, and how well younger players adapt to the international stage.

“I thought a lot about how the national team will be with some players having retired last year,” said Kim Hee-jin at the media day held at Jincheon National Training Center in North Chungcheong on Wednesday.

“Naturally, there are constant changes in the national team and this season’s results will depend on how we can play with the changes.”

Korea will first face Japan on June 2.

“There are many inexperienced players on our squad, so I think it will be a hard match,” said Kim Hee-jin. “But it is an important match. We need to do everything that we can and pour out everything on the court.”

New captain Park faces a serious challenge as she takes over from volleyball legend Kim Yeon-koung.

“I am excited for the new season with the new uniforms too,” said Park. “The atmosphere is bright and lively with the new recruits. I want to share my experience and knowledge on the court. Kim Yeon-koung said that I should do good because she will be watching and that she will visit when time allows.”

The 2022 edition of the VNL will be held in the United States, Turkey, Brazil, the Philippines, Canada and Russia. While last year’s VNL was played in a bubble with all matches held in Rimini, Italy, the 2022 VNL will return to its original format where 16 countries compete in a round robin across six cities around the world.

Korea will jet off Friday to Louisiana to prepare for their upcoming matches against Japan, Germany, Poland and Canada.

BY YUN SO-HYANG [yun.sohyang@joongang.co.kr]

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