Korean Air and Heungkuk Life, the favorites to win the men’s and women’s professional volleyball titles this season, got off to a good start with straight-set victories in their opening matches.
Korean Air swept Hyundai Capital 3-0 (27-25 25-22 25-23) in the opening match of the 2023-24 Dodram V League Men’s Division at Incheon Gyeyang Gymnasium on Thursday.
The matchup between the two teams, who met in last season’s championship game, was highly anticipated, but the match ended relatively unscathed in favor of Korean Air.
Korean Air was without ace Jung Ji-seok (back pain) and national team middle blocker Kim Min-jae (ankle pain), but apogee spiker Lincoln Williams paced the team with 19 points. Outside hitter Jung Jung-yong paced the win with two blocks, a 76.92% attack percentage, and 12 points.
Korean Air out-blocked their opponents 8-4.
Hyundai Capital was led by Apojit Ahmed Iqbairi with 30 points, but the rest of the team struggled in the loss. National teammate Apojit Husubong played as a middle blocker on the day and scored 10 points, but was less effective.
The first set proved to be a watershed moment. In a back-and-forth affair, Korean Air struggled with Ahmed’s offense and fell behind 17-20.
However, Korean Air gradually closed the gap with Lincoln, and at 21-22, Lincoln’s spike and service ace helped Korean Air take the lead.
In the deuce battle, Korean Air came from behind. At 25-25, Lincoln’s back-attack broke through, and soon after, Ahmed’s spike was blocked by Jeong Jung-yong to take the crucial first set.
Korean Air jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second set, but Hyundai Capital’s comeback was short-lived, as Lincoln’s spikes at every juncture kept the lead. Kwak Seung-seok’s quick opener and Kim Kyu-min’s kill at 22-20 gave Korean Air the lead, and Han’s push at 24-22 gave them the second set.
Korean Air took a 14-11 lead and never let the opponent catch up. Hyundai Capital fell victim to service errors at every juncture, and Korean Air secured the shutout victory with Kwak Seung-seok’s center back row attack.
Heungkuk Life easily swept Korea Expressway Corporation 3-0 (25-20 25-13 25-16) at Gimcheon Indoor Gymnasium.
With the victory, Heungkuk Life avenged their loss in last season’s championship game. After finishing first in the regular season last season, Roadworks took a two-game lead in the championship match, but lost three straight games to fall short of the title.
Heungkuk Sinsa’s Yelena Mrazenovic (real name Yelena) led both teams in scoring with 20 points. Kim Yeon-kyung chipped in with 16 points.
The Roadrunners lost the first game as they were unable to fill the void left by last season’s championship mainstays, including Park Jung-ah (Pepper Savings Bank) and Chung Dae-young (GS Caltex), who left the team as free agents.안전놀이터
Heungkuk Life fell behind 5-8 early in the first set, but capitalized on Yelena’s kills and opponent errors to take an 11-10 lead. From there, Heungkuk Life never tied the game and took the first set.
Heungkuk Life’s momentum continued in the second set. Kim Yeon-kyung, Kim Mi-yeon, and others went on an onslaught from the beginning of the set, opening up a 10-3 lead before taking the second set with a comfortable 25-13 victory.
At the beginning of the third set, the two teams were tied at 8-8, but three consecutive points from Yelena gave Heungkuk Life an 11-8 lead. Taking the lead, Heungkuk Life capitalized on their opponent’s successive errors, scoring six straight points to extend their lead to 18-9 and virtually seal the win. In the end, Heungkuk Life finished the match without any major crises.