Kim Finds the Driving Force Behind the Turnaround from Last Place to Shutout of the No. 1 Team

“We should have had more fans.”

Kim Yeon-kyung (Heungkuk Life, 36) credited her fans for helping her team defeat top-ranked Hyundai E&C in a shutout.

Heungkuk Life defeated Hyundai E&C 3-0 (25-22, 27-25, 25-20) in straight sets on Wednesday in the sixth round of the Dodram 2023-2024 V-League Women’s Division at Suwon Indoor Gymnasium in Jangan-gu, Suwon, South Korea.

The victory came from the brink for Heungkuk Life, who had to go five sets to win the title. With the win, second-place Heungkuk Life improved to 27 wins and 8 losses for 76 points, closing the gap on leader Hyundai E&C (25 wins and 10 losses for 77 points). The V League Women’s title will not be decided until the final match of the season.

The top offensive contributor to the victory was undoubtedly Kim Yeon-kyung. After struggling to score the most points (19) in the last game, Kim led the Heungkuk Sinsaeng offense with 16 points on 45.45% shooting. Willow Johnson (née Willow) led the team to a 25-22 comeback from a 16-20 deficit in the first set by scoring three points in the final minute of the first set.

From there, Willow’s performance started to pick up and she ended up scoring a team-high 21 points. Heungkuk Life was two points away from losing the top spot in the regular season, but Kim Yeon-kyung didn’t let up in the second set, scoring three points after the 20th point to lead the team to victory.

While Hyundai E&C still holds the key to the championship, it was significant that they managed to turn the tide perfectly ahead of the final match. Heungkuk Life had just lost to last-place Pepper Savings Bank in the previous match, which was a shock to the team.

After the match, Kim said, “I can’t help but regret it. It’s a game that has passed. But that was the first time we lost to Pepper Savings Bank, so it was a big shock. After the defeat, it was difficult to regain the team’s mood. From the time we arrived in Yongin to training the next day, the atmosphere was not good. The players were shocked, but I asked them to reflect on the loss and show a different side in the next game, and I’m glad we did. The coach pushed us to do that,” he said, explaining the mood after the loss.

“If we lost, Hyundai E&C would have clinched the championship, and we were focused on the opponent in the postseason. I’m glad we were able to get the three points, and I think we’ll know (the championship) when we get to the end,” he said encouragingly.

Heungkuk Life must first win the home match against fourth-place GS Caltex on the 15th, and then watch for the Hyundai E&C-Pepper Savings Bank match in Gwangju on the 16th. Kim also focused on the next game rather than the first place.

“Our game is first, so it’s important that we do well. We need to get three points to have more chances,” she said, adding, “Pepper Savings Bank has Yasmin and everyone else in good shape. It’s a little bit unexpected, but we’re in such a situation,” she said, cautiously hoping for an upset.

The away fans of Heungkuk Life, who filled one side of the stadium, gave the team a great boost. Despite the game being played on a weekday, the Suwon Indoor Stadium 토토 was packed with 3836 fans. “I thought it was weird today because it wasn’t very full at the beginning, and I think everyone came late after work because it was a weekday,” Kim Yeon-kyung said, laughing. “Shouldn’t there have been more of our fans?” She praised the Heungkuk Life fans, who were the best in terms of cheering. He continued, “I was more energized by their support. It was even better that we were able to show the results worthy of their support,” he smiled.

This season may be the last for Kim Yeon-kyung. Kim, who had already announced her intention to retire several times, signed a one-year contract with Heungkuk Life after winning the championship last year. When asked about her future with one game left in the regular season, Kim said, “I’m thinking about it. No comment yet,” she replied briefly.

However, she was a little more vocal about the possibility of a first-place finish in the regular season. “It’s true that it’s tiring and hard to come to the end,” Kim said. But I think that’s an excuse now, so I’m going to focus a little more on the playoffs and the championship game to stay in shape. That’s more important right now,” she emphasized.

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