In professional volleyball, a match between the first and second place teams is often referred to as a 6-point match. If you win and earn 3 points, you take away your opponent’s chance to earn 3 points, so it has the effect of 6 points.
The fifth round matchup of the 2023-2024 season between leader Hyundai E&C and second-place Heungkuk Saengsim at Suwon Gymnasium on Wednesday was expected to decide the battle for the top spot in the V-League Women’s Division this season. With so much at stake and the last day of the Lunar New Year holiday, there was not an empty seat in Suwon Gymnasium. All 3834 seats were sold out. It was Hyundai E&C’s second sellout of the season after a blackout on January 14th.
The match was highly anticipated by volleyball fans, but they say there’s nothing to eat at the rumored feast. Hyundai E&C was unable to make a single effort and lost the set 0-3 (14-25 18-25 20-25).
HMC was missing the services of Wipawee Sittong (THA). Wipawee is the only one of Hyundai E&C’s outside hitters who is a fully stocked resource. Wipawi went to the bench with shoulder pain in the second set of the GS Caltex match on Sept. 9, and coach Kang Sung-hyung said before the match, “Wipawi is not seriously injured, but we will leave him out today to control his physical condition.”
With Wipawi unavailable, Kang’s outside hitters of choice for the day were Jung Jung-yoon and Kim Joo-hyang. Both players don’t have much to offer in the way of receiving, with their season average receiving efficiency hovering between the low 20s and low 30s.
On this day, both players’ receiving efficiency was abysmal. Kim received a team-high 25 serves, delivering nine of them accurately, but gave up three receptions for service points, resulting in a 24% receiving efficiency. Jeong Ji-yoon was 4 of 14 accurate and 1 unsuccessful for a 21.43% efficiency. With both players struggling against the Heungkuk Life serve, Hyundai E&C lost the first set without even trying.
In the second set, Kang started Go Ye-rim in place of Kim Joo-hyang to stabilize her reception. An outside hitter who is somewhat weaker in offense compared to Jeong Ji-yoon and Kim Joo-hyang, but stronger in receiving. However, Go Ye-rim also received 10 serves and connected with only two accurately, and one ate a serve point. Receiving efficiency of 10%. With that kind of receiving efficiency from the three players who were supposed to fill Wipawi’s void, Hyundai E&C shouldn’t have won. Of course, even libero Kim Yeon-yeon can’t escape the blame. She received 16 serves, connected on only seven of them accurately, and allowed two service points. Her receiving efficiency was just 31.25 percent.
That’s not to say she didn’t do her part in the offense. Jung Ji-yoon, who was on the court the longest, didn’t connect on any of her 11 open attacks and converted two of her 10 quick open attempts. His offensive success rate was 9.5%. His offensive efficiency was -19.05%. It was almost uncomfortable to be on the court. Kim Joo-hyang and Go Ye-rim both scored just 6 and 2 points, respectively, on 33.33% shooting. Three players scored below a failing grade on offense.
After the game, Kang entered the interview room with a mixed emotion. When asked if he realized the absence of Wipawi, Kang said, “There was some absence of Wipawi, but the overall performance was below expectations. It’s an excuse to talk about fitness because we played the last nine days. We were completely overwhelmed by our opponents. We need to reflect on all aspects of our game, including reception and connection.” “Our three outside hitters had negative efficiency in both attacking and receiving. We were looking for a breakthrough, but we couldn’t find it.”