A smile appeared on the lips of Korean Air coach Tommy Tilikhainen. Even though he had his first loss in the tournament, he showed satisfaction with the growth of young players and the experience accumulated through the tournament.
Korean Air represented Korea at the 2023 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship. In the days of unemployment volleyball, Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance participated for three consecutive years from 1999 to 2001 and achieved a runner-up-winner-winner, but this is the first time a male professional team has participated in this tournament since the V-League was launched in 2005.
The purpose of participating in the competition is ‘growth’ based on ‘experience’. Coach Tommy has in mind the belief that he will give opportunities to young players who have not been given a chance to play and prepare a foothold for growth. For this reason, starting setter Han Seon-seon, middle blocker Kim Gyu-min, apologetic spiker Williams Lincoln, and libero Jung Sung-min were not included in the roster.
It was evident from the first match. In the first game against the Canberra Heat (Australia), Korean Air hired outside hitters Lee Joon and Jeong Han-yong. Main outside heater Jeong Ji-seok took a break. Opposite spiker Lim Dong-hyuk, who had fewer opportunities to play in the same position as an outsider, also stepped on the court. Lee Joon and Jeong Han-yong jointly scored 21 points in the first game, and Lim Dong-hyuk took center stage with 13 points, the most in the team.
In the second game, Jeong Han-yong and Lim Dong-hyuk supported Jung Ji-seok at the center, and they ran for two consecutive wins. Libero Song Min-geun also supported the rear defense. On the 17th (Korean time), in the third round of the group stage against Jakarta Bayangkara Fresh, the runner-up in the Indonesian league, they lost with a set score of 1-3, but the three outside heaters were used evenly to solve the game.
In the meantime, players who had few opportunities to participate in the V-League roamed the court to their heart’s content. This is why coach Tommy smiles even when he sees the players gradually gaining experience points.
After the 3rd game, coach Tommy said, “The goal of this tournament was melted into the 3 games of the group stage. I am satisfied that our players have achieved a good record of 2 wins and 1 loss in the new environment and face-to-face confrontation with new players.”
Although Korean Air confirmed their advance to the quarterfinals early on, they will face Suntory Sunbirds (Japan) in the quarterfinals as they finished second in the group following Jakarta (7 points) with a record of 2 wins and 1 loss (6 points) in the group stage. Coach Tommy said, “I will prepare well for the rest of the game. We need a little more supplementation in the aggressive part,” he said with strength.