‘Clutch Park’ Pepper Savings Bank women’s professional volleyball outside hitter Park Jung-ah earned her nickname from fans. It’s a nickname she’s earned because of the number of times she’s come through in pinch situations for her former clubs, IBK, Korea Expressway Corporation, and the Korean Women’s National Volleyball Team.
But the nickname also applies to Kim Yeon-kyung, who is one of the first “signature stars” of the V-League. Heungkuk Life played an away game against IBK IBK at Hwaseong Gymnasium on Thursday in the fourth round of the 2023-24 Dodram V League. The two teams had a close match in the first three rounds, and this was no different.
It was Heungkuk Life who came out on top in a long match that went to a full set. Heungkuk Life defeated IBK with a set score of 3-2 (25-13 12-25 25-22 20-25 17-15). With the win, Heungkuk Life improved to 16-5 (44 points) and remained in second place, closing the gap on first-place Hyundai E&C (15-5, 47 points).
IBK did not move up in the standings, but they did pick up a point. It remained in fourth place with 11 wins and 10 losses (32 points).
Heungkuk Life was led by Yelena (Bosnia) with a team-high 29 points and Kim Yeon-kyung with 18 points. Middle blockers Kim Soo-ji and Lee Ju-ah combined for six blocks and 18 points. IBK middle blockers Choi Jung-min and Lim Hye-rim combined for three blocks and six points.
The offensive trio of Abe “Cannon” Crombie (Puerto Rico, USA) with a team-high 35 points, Pyo Seung-ju, who returned to the court after recovering from a cold, with 21 points, and Hwang Min-kyung, with 15 points, did not allow IBK to get past Heungkuk Life.
The first and second sets were a back-and-forth affair between the two teams. Heungkuk Life took control in the first set with Yelena, Kim Yeon-kyung, and Reina (JPN) racking up points to take a commanding lead early in the set.
IBK had a different story in the second set. After being held to two points in the first set, Abe Crombie and Pyo Seung-ju combined for 15 points in the set to take the set.
After Heungkuk Sinsaeng took the third set to take the set lead, IBK IBK took the fourth set to even the score. The fifth set decided the match.
Heungkuk Life was the first to reach the set technical timeout at 8-6, but IBK took the lead at 10-9 with back-to-back kills from Abe Crombie and Hwang Min-kyung.
Heungkuk Life immediately responded and made it 10-10 and the match went to deuce. Kim Yeon-kyung played the role of fixer.
She hit a spike that gave Heungkuk Life the lead at 15-15. With the score 16-15 in favor of Heungkuk Life, it was Kim who put an end to the long rally in the next game. Following a dig by Yelena, she connected with an open attack on a ball from Kim Soo-ji.