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Coach Kim confident despite loss: “IBK’s goals look achievable”

The IBK Women’s Professional Volleyball Team had their winning streak come to an unfortunate end at ‘3’. The team fought a full-set battle against Heungkuk Life but couldn’t get over the hump in the final game.

IBK Enterprise Bank lost the third round of the Dodram 2023-2024 V-League Women’s Division on Thursday at Samsan World Gymnasium in Incheon, Korea, with a set score of 2-3 (24-26 25-22 18-25 25-23 16-18) against Heungkuk Life.

The loss ended IBK’s recent three-match winning streak, which included a 3-2 set win against Chung Kwan Jang on April 2, a 3-1 set win against GS Caltex on April 6, and a 3-0 set win against Korea Expressway Corporation on April 10.

With eight wins and 23 points on the season, IBK is tied with Chung Kwan-jang (7 wins, 8 points), who has played fewer matches, but has moved up from fifth to fourth place due to its lead in wins. The bank also moved to within two points of third-place GS Caltex (9 W, 6 D, 25 P), giving it a foothold in the top half of the standings.

“As you can see, it was a game we could have won,” said IBK head coach Kim Ho-cheol in an official post-match interview, “We had a few chances in the (fifth) set, but we couldn’t finish. This can be seen as our timing ability.”

IBK suffered an unexpected setback when middle blocker Lim Hye-rim suffered an ankle injury in the Korea Expressway Corporation match on April 10. With only Choi Jeong-min and Kim Hyun-jung available, the team fought evenly with Heungkuk Life but had to settle for a loss.

IBK came back from a 22-24 deficit in the first set to tie the game at 24-24. However, back-to-back errors quickly gave up two points to Heungkuk Life, giving them the first set.

IBK quickly regrouped and fought back to take the second set. Despite losing the third set to Heungkuk Life, they took the fourth set and pushed the match to a fifth set. In particular, they effectively blocked Heungkuk Life’s vaunted foreign player Yelena, greatly reducing Heungkuk Life’s firepower.

They seemed to complete the upset drama by taking a 13-10 lead in the fifth set, but were unable to hold off Heungkuk Sinsang’s fierce pursuit. A successful attack by Kim Yeon-kyung and Reina was followed by a touch net error by middle blocker Kim Hyun-jeong to make it 13-14.

IBK got a respite with a quick opener from Hwang Min-kyung, but was unable to stop Heungkook Life’s Reina’s back-to-back openers at 16-16 and fell to their knees. It was their third straight loss against Heungkuk Life this season, following the first and second rounds, and they’ll have to postpone their revenge until another time.

However, it was comforting to see that Jupo Abercrombie did his part with 36 points, 38.42% offensive share, and 43.59% attack success rate. Thailand’s Ponpun also showed better chemistry with his teammates and played up to his status as Asia’s No. 1 mercenary.

Coach Kim Ho-cheol said, “Even though we lost today, we played much better. However, I can see the players’ old bad habits coming out in the middle of the game and breaking themselves down a little bit,” he said, adding, “If we can improve this part, I think we can reach our goal.” He also gave a positive assessment of the team’s performance.

“At the end, it seemed like Kim Hyun-jung’s stamina dropped, but even if I wanted to replace her, I couldn’t,” he said. “Still, Kim Hyun-jung and Choi Jung-min did a good job. I’m a little worried about Choi Jeong-min because I can see her (fitness) dropping a bit.”

As the most senior coach in the V-League’s men’s and women’s divisions, he also shared his views on the current state of the women’s game this season. He assessed that Heungkuk Life and Hyundai E&C are forming the ‘two strongest teams’, but they are in a position to never let their guard down.

“This season is very unpredictable, and (any team) can bite you if you let your guard down a little bit,” Kim said, adding, “Heungkuk Life, Hyundai E&C, and GS Caltex could go out with a bang, but the teams that are still in the hunt are doing a good job of keeping up with the top teams.”

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