“We need to participate in various international competitions to develop Korean volleyball.”
That’s what head coach Tommi Tilikainen said after his team finished seventh at the 2023 Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship.
Korean Air swept Mongolia’s Bayang Hongor 3-0 (25-21 25-23 25-18) in the seventh and eighth place match at the Isa Sports City Stadium in Manama, Bahrain on Nov. 21 (local time).
Korean Air ended the tournament in seventh place. The Korean Air team won four and lost three of its seven matches in the tournament.
Korean Air did not enter the tournament with its full strength. Their captain and best setter, Han Se-u, who spearheads the team’s offense, and their starting middle blocker, Kim Gyu-min, sat out the tournament due to injury and rehabilitation. In addition, foreign outside hitter Lincoln Williams did not join the squad due to the lack of an international transfer agreement (ITC).
“We want to use this tournament as an opportunity to give our players, who will be the future drivers of the team, international experience and playing time,” said Tilikainen.
Korean Air started the tournament on a high note, sweeping the Canberra Heat of Australia and home team Al Ahli of Bahrain 3-0 in their first two group matches. But with seven games in eight days, the team’s less-than-100 percent efficiency quickly showed.
They were swept by Indonesia’s Jakarta Bayankar in their final group game. In their first match of the quarterfinals, they were swept 0-3 by the Suntory Sunbirds, a team led by one of the best middle blockers in the world, Dmitry Muschalsky (Russia). After the match, Mushalsky described Korean Air as “about as good as a 9th-11th place team in the Japanese league.” In the fifth-place match, they were unable to stop Iranian international striker Saber Kazemi (Kuwait Sporting Club).
The result was disappointing, but it was an achievement. Setter Jung Jin-hyuk, outside hitter Lee Jun, and middle blocker Jeong Jin-wi, who hadn’t gotten much playing time in the V-League, showed promise. Lim Dong-hyuk, who took over Lincoln’s role as the main gun, also showed off his offensive instincts. Libero Kang Seung-il, the team’s youngest member born in 2005, made his professional debut in the tournament.
“We were clear about our goals before the tournament started, but we had mixed feelings during the tournament,” said Coach Tilikainen. “There were many times when our prepared plays didn’t come out right. We have a clear idea of what we need to work on after we return from vacation.”
For Tilikainen, the biggest takeaways from the tournament were Lim Dong-hyuk and Lee Jun. “Lim really showed his offensive power regardless of the opponent, and his attitude and behavior on the court was very good,” he said. “I think Lee Jun also showed his skills and potential,” he added.
The annual Asian Men’s Club Volleyball Championship is being considered for next year’s edition in Japan. “I think it’s important for Korean volleyball to participate in various international competitions for the development of the sport,” Tilikainen said.
“This is not a tournament to be taken lightly. Other teams are so committed to this tournament that they even bring in players on short-term contracts just for this tournament,” he said, adding, “If we participate in this tournament again next year, we would like to compete with our full strength.”
Korean Air will grant the team leave until June 26 after arriving in South Korea. Tilikainen shared his future plans, saying, “We will train after returning from vacation and reflect on what we learned from this tournament 토토사이트.”