“I will make the 6th place team 1st place”…The volleyball empress kept her promise
Kim Yeon-kyung’s Heungkuk Life Insurance wins the regular league championship in 4 years
Kim Yeon-kyung (35)’s hopes, “It won’t be easy to get first place right away from 6th place, but I’m looking forward to it because I prepared well” became a reality. Kim Yeon-kyung, who returned to the domestic league after two years, aimed for first place in the regular league at Media Day before the season began. And he achieved that goal.
Heungkuk Life Insurance won the professional volleyball IBK Industrial Bank match held in Hwaseong on the 15th with a set score of 3 to 0 (25-15 25-13 25-16) and confirmed first place in the regular league for the 2022-2023 season. Kim Yeon-kyung scored 23 points and Yelena scored 20 points, overwhelming IBK Industrial Bank. Heungkuk Life Insurance gained 79 points and widened the gap with second-place Hyundai E&C (70 points), keeping first place even if it lost one remaining game.
Heungkuk Life Insurance reached the top of the regular league for the sixth time in four years after the 2018-2019 season, and Kim Yeon-kyung lifted the domestic league first place trophy 15 years after the 2007-2008 season.
Heungkuk Life Insurance, which finished 6th out of 7 teams last season, was reborn as the league’s strongest in a year thanks to the role of Kim Yeon-kyung, the ‘Volleyball Empress’ who returned. Kim Yeon-kyung, who returned to Heungkuk Life after two years after playing in the Chinese league until last year, showed off world-class offensive power. As of the 15th, it ranked first in the attack success rate (45.76%) and time-lag attack success rate (61.29%), second in the quick open success rate (46.26%), and fifth in scoring (669 points). Kim Yeon-kyung shone not only in offense but also in defense. His receiving efficiency (46.80%) is the ninth highest in the league on the team.
Kim Yeon-kyung’s addition gave wings to the performance of her colleagues. Foreign player Yelena, whose attack burden was reduced, also performed at the top of the league. Along with Kim Yeon-kyung, he played an active role as the team’s ‘supplement’. Compared to last season when he was a member of KGC Ginseng Corporation, most of his key offensive indicators have improved significantly. He ranks third in scoring (818 points), third in attack success rate (42.84%), and second in serve aces (0.26 per set).
Kim Yeon-kyung said, “I would be lying if I said that I had no influence. It’s good to have a good influence on the team,” he said. “But good results are not created alone. All the players worked well together, so good results came out.”
Heungkuk Life Insurance suffered internal troubles during this season. In January, while running second in the league and chasing leader Hyundai E&C, then coach Kwon Soon-chan was suddenly dismissed, causing controversy over the involvement of the club’s leadership in the game. Although Italian coach Marcello Abondanza was appointed as the successor, the game was played without a coach for over a month, but Heungkuk Life Insurance players, centered on veterans such as Kim Yeon-kyung and Kim Hae-ran (39), united tightly and rose to first place without wavering.
Kim Hae-ran said, “It is true that the players had a hard time at that time. Still, we encouraged our juniors to do what we had to do,” he said. Kim Yeon-kyung said, “I am also grateful to coach Kwon Soon-chan, who led the team well until the beginning of the season.”
After taking over as head coach Abondanza, Heungkuk Life Insurance has also diversified its attack routes. In particular안전놀이터, there are many cases where Kim Yeon-kyung and Yelena are used in the center rear attack without relying on flank attacks. IBK Industrial Bank coach Ho-cheol Kim said, “After coach Abondanza came, Heungkuk Life Insurance’s volleyball changed to a European style.”
The ‘Kim Yeon-kyung effect’ also appeared off the court. This season’s Heungkuk Life game was crowded with volleyball fans who wanted to see Kim Yeon-kyung. It was sold out from the first home game on November 18 last year, and more than 5,000 spectators entered the women’s volleyball single game in four years. A total of 18 crowded spectator games were played in women’s volleyball this season, and 14 of them were Heungkuk Life Insurance matches.
Head coach Abondanza said, “Ever since I took office, I thought that the team would be able to take first place because of its good grades and good condition.” Kim Yeon-kyung said, “I went straight to the championship match, so I had some time to spare. I will prepare well and lead to the unified victory.”