It’s national team time again. The task at hand is to restore the pride that was shattered last year.
Led by head coach César Hernández González (Spain), the Korea Women’s National Team is in full training mode in Turkuye, host of the FIVB Volleyball Nations League 2023 (VNL) Week 1 tournament. Korea will open the tournament on June 1 (KST) with a first-round match against Turkiye, followed by Canada (June 2), USA (June 3) and Thailand (June 4). The team will then travel to Brazil and Suwon for the second and third weeks of competition.
South Korea suffered an embarrassing 12-game loss at the VNL last year. Kim Yeon-kyung, Kim Soo-ji (Heungkuk Life Insurance), and Yang Hyo-jin (Hyundai E&C), who were part of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games fourth-place finish, returned to the tournament, but it was humiliating to fail to pick up a single point.
Park Jung-ah (Pepper Savings Bank), the captain of this year’s team after last year’s team, will be especially determined. She can’t let her fans down again. Moreover, the atmosphere of the first VNL is of utmost importance this year, as there will be a series of major international competitions such as the Paris 2024 Olympic Qualifiers and the Hangzhou Asian Games.
“This year, I want to come back with a smile on my face,” Park, who showed confidence in a recent public interview at the Jincheon Athletes’ Village, told reporters before departing for Turkuye on the 22nd. “Last year, there were many young players who were new to the international stage. I’m sure they will have grown a little more through last year’s experience.”
The biggest difference from last year is the staff. Broadcast commentator Han Yumi was appointed as the national team coach, and Kim Yeon-kyung is helping the juniors as an advisor. “I’m getting a lot of help,” Park said.
Park has been working tirelessly since last year. Called up to the national team right after the end of the 2021-2022 V-League season, she was 안전놀이터 voted captain for the first time and had a packed schedule that included the VNL and World Championships. He struggled to rescue the team from its slump, but was unable to prevent the worst losing streak of his career. As a result of his hard work, he contracted shingles at the beginning of the 2022-2023 V-League season and struggled for a while. After slumping in the middle of the season, he proved his worth on the big stage in the playoffs and championship game, leading Korea Express to the top. All that energy took its toll on his body.
After the season, he became a free agent (FA) and took a break to wear a Pepper Savings Bank jersey at the highest level. But less than a month later, he was called up to the national team. “It’s true that there’s a lot of pressure, but it’s unavoidable, so I’m determined to overcome it,” he said.