After final scrimmage against China, Ramirez says his biggest challenge is to improve his decision-making in open attacks

The practice match against China is over. Ahead of the AVC Challenge Cup, we were able to check off some homework.

The Korea Men’s National Volleyball Team and the China Men’s National Volleyball Team played a total of three practice matches in Beijing, China, from June 24 to 26 (Korea time). The series of warm-up matches allowed the two teams to hone their skills and refine their tactics ahead of the 2024 Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) Men’s Challenge Cup, which begins on June 2 in Isa Town, Bahrain.

In the final match of the series on June 26, head coach Isanaye Ramirez named Hwang Taek-woo, Lim Sung-jin, Choi Jun-hyuk, Lee Sang-hyun, Shin Ho-jin, and Kim Jihan as the starting lineup. Park Kyung-min was the first to wear the libero jersey. The Chinese side of the court, led by Vital Heinen, featured a number of regular national team players, including Wang Hebin, Peng Xukun, Chu Zhong Shui, and Zhang Bingrong, who will play in the 스포츠토토 V-League for OK Financial Group next season.

In the early to mid-set of the first set, it was disappointing to see that the attack from the left side did not work well. Lim Sung-jin, who was in charge of the open attacking situation, struggled with China’s high wall. Hwang Taek-eui turned his attention to Shin Shin-jin, but he also lost the height battle. Things didn’t get much better when Kim Ji-han moved up to replace Lim.

Then, at 9-14, Han Tae-joon-Iu-jin took the court in a double switch, but the gap widened to 10-20 while they were on the court. Neither Iu-jin’s right-side play nor Han Tae-joon’s game management and passing seemed to have much merit. With Zhang Bingrong and Yu Yuantai’s attacks, Korea lost the first set 14-25.

Korea played much better in the second set. Slowly, the blockers began to respond to China’s attacks, and they were more decisive in their attacks. The lineup remained unchanged from the first set, but just like Korea in the first set, China’s shaky offense and defense allowed them to self-destruct and take a 3-4 point lead.

However, in the second half of the set, the problems that appeared in the first set were repeated. In open situations, the left side attack was less decisive. This allowed the Chinese to slowly catch up, and the Koreans fell victim to Peng Shikun’s fastballs and Zhang Bingrong’s pipe-quick openings, losing the second set 23-25.

Ramirez made changes in all positions except for Kim Ji-han’s wing spot in the third set, bringing in Kim Jun-woo, Han Tae-joon, Lee Woo-jin, Kim Young-joon, Cha Young-seok and Jung Yong. With Kim Jun-woo and Cha Young-seok playing solidly in the center, South Korea took another narrow lead and went ahead early.

But once again, the difference in decision-making on the wings proved problematic. While Kim Jee-han and Lee Woo-jin struggled against Chinese blockers on the wings, China showed better decision-making on the wings, and once again, the Chinese came back. Then, at 23-23, an unsuccessful attack by Shin Shin-jin followed by a counterattack by Zhang Guanhua put South Korea on set point, and Kim Ji-han’s attack was blocked by the combined blocking of Wang Hebin and Li Yongjian to lose the third set.

China won the first three sets, but the match went to a fourth set for the purpose of the practice match. Still, Korea couldn’t easily find a way to overcome the height difference. Kim Jee-han and Jeong Jung-yong struggled. Lee Woo-jin, playing as an apojeet, was unable to do much to help his brothers, perhaps due to his unfamiliarity with the position. There were some positive moments, such as Hwang Taek Eui’s strong serve and Kim Jun Woo’s block, but the fourth set ended in a 25-21 victory for China.

With Lim Dong-hyuk, Jung Jung-seok, and Heo Soo-bong missing from the roster, the open offense will be a challenge for the team. However, their first opponent in the upcoming Challenge Cup, Indonesia, is one of the strongest serve teams in Asia. There will be plenty of situations where the receive is not perfect, and if the team can’t capitalize on every high ball situation, it will be a tough match.

In order to have a smoother open offense, it’s important to work on your second-step connection. While all high ball situations are difficult, you want to minimize the difficulty as much as possible. Another thing to think about is to try to build a lineup with players who are relatively strong in attacking in difficult situations. Options to consider include bringing in Chae Hwan or moving Kim Ji-han to the apogee, but Chae Hwan was out of form throughout the series and Kim Ji-han’s role on the left was too big.

Ramires will now head to Bahrain. The warm-up game against China was a good opportunity to see where they are lacking. It will be interesting to see if the men’s national volleyball team, which has fallen from grace, can improve on the weaknesses they’ve identified and make a comeback in Bahrain.

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