Middle blockers have improved their influence on the game, but this is just the beginning

The performance of middle blockers has improved significantly. But it is too early to be satisfied.

Korea won a complete victory over Cambodia with a set score of 3-0 (25-23, 25-13, 25-15) in the second match of Group C of the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games men’s volleyball preliminary round held at the Linping Sports Center in Hangzhou, China on the 21st local time. Korea ended the first set, which was unstable until the middle, with a victory, and from the second set onwards, they showed off the difference in weight classes and crushed Cambodia. With this victory, Korea ranked second in Group C after India, and will play the round of 12 against Pakistan, first place in Group D, on the 22nd.

In the first game of the preliminary round against India, which was the ‘Hangzhou Disaster’, the biggest loss was by far the loss in the battle of power between middle blockers. On this day, India deliberately increased the possession of middle blocker duo Rai Ashwal and Lakshmipuram Manoj. In particular, Ashwal’s high RBI and fast break were a problem for Korea throughout the game. In this game, the two players attempted a total of 33 quick breaks (Ashwal 24, Manoj 9) and scored 23 points (Ashwal 16, Manoj 7). It was a stark contrast to Kim Gyu-min, Kim Jun-woo, and Kim Min-jae, who scored a combined 19 attempts and only 9 points.

India’s fast attack worked well because the attack itself was powerful, but the lack of proper response from Korean middle blockers also played a role. The starting duo of Kim Gyu-min and Kim Jun-woo were unable to find the right block timing even though Ashwall’s share of fast breaks was very high. This was an issue that was not resolved even when India’s setter Apabu Muthussamy made a fast break late in the game without even looking at the wing attacker.

However, the Cambodia match was different. First of all, the success rate of quick attacks has increased. Kim Gyu-min recorded a fast attack success rate of 83.33% (5/6) and Kim Min-jae recorded a fast attack success rate of 70% (7/10), relieving the burden on the wing attackers. Of course, not all the goals were created with perfect timing, but it was much better than against India. In the case of block reading, it was still not perfect. However, at least there are almost no scenes where you can’t even touch a quick attack like the India game.

In addition, Kim Gyu-min and Kim Min-jae showed 메이저놀이터sharper serve than in the first game. The two players, who could not score a single serve point while using 20 serves in the match against India, used 19 serves and scored 3 points together in the match against Cambodia. Kim Gyu-min’s serve is a threatening weapon in international competitions, but the fact that even Kim Min-jae, whose serve was somewhat disappointing, had fun with his serve is good news for Korea ahead of the tournament. 

However, it is too early to be satisfied. The opponents we will face from now on are much stronger teams than Cambodia. Of course, in order to win, the middle blockers’ performance must improve further than it is now. In particular, the block leading, which still feels a bit cluttered, and the defense-connection after joining the block need to be further refined. In particular, Pakistan, the opponent in the round of 12, is a team that is good at utilizing the center pipe led by Usman Faryad Ali, so Korean middle blockers need to organize their priorities well in blocking the opponent’s attack options.

No matter how weak the opponent was, it was definitely good news that the middle blockers showed improvement after shaking off the shock of the first game. Lim Do-heon can only cruise through the tournament if he is not satisfied with this and continues to correct the problems and maintain an upward trend.

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