Korean Air is getting closer as a competitive team.
Korean Air has been training for the 2022-2023 season in Japan since September 9. After winning the overall title for three consecutive seasons from the 2020-2021 season to last season, Korean Air is aiming for an unprecedented fourth consecutive overall title in the V-League.
The team was missing six players who were called up for the Asian Games. Setter Han, outside hitters Jeong Ji-seok and Jeong Jung-yong, middle blockers Kim Kyu-min and Kim Min-jae, and outside hitter Lim Dong-hyuk were absent. Since the end of last season, the team has competed in the Asia Club Championship and the KOVO Cup, which concluded last month. While Korean Air hasn’t been able to train with its ‘best’ due to the age group and A-team departures, there are some players who have taken advantage of the opportunity.
Outside hitters Lee Jun and Mark Espejo are two of them. Lee has been on the court from club championships to cup competitions. Since joining Korean Air in the 2021-2022 season, he has played 15 matches and 28 sets in two seasons, forming a duo with Kwak Seung-seok in the absence of Jeong Ji-seok and Jeong Jung-yong. “I want to be a player who does the dirty work and does it consistently rather than shine,” Lee said.
Espejo has also been making his presence felt in training camp. Korean Air head coach Tommi Tilikainen selected him for the Asian quarterfinals because of his strengths in defense and fundamentals, but his offense has not been far behind. In the first scrimmage of the tournament against the Great Bears, Espejo stepped into the starting lineup in place of outside hitter Lincoln Williams, who had a bad knee. He scored a team-high 16 points on 40 percent shooting.
It’s not just the wings, but the center as well. The absence of Kim Gyu-min, the main middle blocker, and Kim Min-jae has opened up opportunities for Lee Soo-hwang and Cho Jae-young, who have not been able to get enough playing time, but have been making their presence felt in training camp.
The scent of ‘one team’ in ‘competition’ is coming out. There are currently 13 players in the training camp, but they are becoming more cohesive. “My biggest goal is to help the team win if we get into a match,” said Lee. “Volleyball is a team sport,” said Espejo. If the coach wants me to play, I’ll do my best, and if not, I’ll try to work with the team,” she said.메이저놀이터
Coach Tommy focuses on experience. “I can feel us growing as we meet teams that can push us, which doesn’t happen in Korea,” he said. “We have a lot of key players,” he added, emphasizing goodwill and competition. When Korean Air won its third consecutive title, the harmony between starters and backups worked well. This offseason, the team is also focusing on that aspect in order to win its fourth consecutive title.