‘Willow debut passes with flying colors’ Heungkuk Life defeats Roadworks…Hyundai Capital wins first game of the season against Korean Air

Women’s professional volleyball team Heungkuk Life won its first match of the second half of the season with new foreign player Willow Johnson (registered name Willow).

Led by head coach Marcello Abondanza, Heungkuk Life earned three points with a 3-0 (25-22 25-19) set victory over Korea Expressway Corporation in the fifth round of the Dodram 2023-2024 V-League Women’s Division at Gimcheon Indoor Gymnasium on Tuesday.

Second-place Heungkuk Life, recharged by the All-Star break, improved to 19-6 (53 points) with the victory and reduced the gap to five points over leader Hyundai E&C (19-5 – 58 points). On the other hand, sixth-ranked Roadworks, who looked lethargic in front of their home fans, failed to close the gap on fifth-ranked 텍사스홀덤사이트 IBK (11W-13L-33P) with an 8-17 record (25 points).

The game was especially notable for the debut of Heungkuk Sinsaeng‘s new foreign player, Willow.

Willow, who is the daughter of Major League Baseball (MLB) legend Randy Johnson, joined Heungkuk Life as a replacement foreign player for Yelena Mrazenovic, who left the team due to poor performance and attitude controversy. Willow arrived in South Korea on March 20 and completed her International Transfer Consent (ITC) and work visa procedures on March 26, allowing her to take the court for the first match of the fifth round.

Born in 1998, Willow is a 5-foot-9 left-handed opposite spiker. She earned American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American honors in 2018. After graduating from Oregon State University in 2020, she played in the American professional league since 2020 with Nilüfer Belediyespor of Turkkiye in the 2020-2021 season. Prior to joining Heungkuk Life, she played for United States Athletic Unlimited.

After trying out for the women’s team for the second year in a row and failing to make the V-League, Willow made her mark from the first game. She lived up to her team’s expectations with 17 points and a 44.4% attack percentage.

Willow’s performance spurred on the rest of the Heungkuk Life players. Reina Tokoku (real name Reina), who scored a team-high 22 points, was in great form with a 55% attack success rate. Kim Yeon-kyung, the “Volleyball Queen,” also contributed 17 points to the team’s shutout victory.

For Roadworks, Ivan Vukiric (real name Vukiric) scored a game-high 25 points for both teams, but it wasn’t enough to win the game. The Roadrunners (8) recorded more blocks than Heungkuk Life (3), but had to settle for a lower offensive success rate (35.2%) than their opponent (46.8%).

In a close first set, it was Heungkuk Sinseng who had the first laugh. With the score tied at 20-20, Reina scored back-to-back quick opens to give her team a point and then added another at 22-21 to keep her opponent at bay. At 23-22, Heungkuk Life had set point after a quick open from Kim Yeon-kyung, but Willow’s back-attack ended the first set. Reyna was focused, scoring a whopping 11 points in the first set alone.

It was in the second set that the two teams were most evenly matched. Down 19-21, Roadworks tied the score at 21-21 with back-to-back kills from Vukirich and Tanacha Suksot (registered name Tanacha), and went up 23-21 after a Willow error and a Vukirich back-attack. It looked like Roadworks would win the second set.

However, Heungkuk Life tied the score at 23-23 with kills from Willow and Reina, and at 23-24, Lee Ye-eun’s unforced error sent the match to deuce. After three deuce battles with Roadworks, Heungkuk Life regained the lead at 26-26 on a timeout by Kim Yeon-kyung and then sealed the second set with an error by Vukiric.

Heungkuk Life continued to push hard in the third set. After Kim Yeon-kyung scored a point at 13-12, Willow scored back-to-back points to break the opponent’s will. At 17-15, Reina’s quick opener and Willow’s service ace were followed by more points from Kim and Reina to secure the win. Finally, at 24-19, a Vukiric error ended the match.

Meanwhile, in the men’s competition, Hyundai Capital recorded its first win over Korean Air this season.

Hyundai Capital, coached by acting head coach Jin Soon-ki, defeated Korean Air 3-2 (25-21 25-18 21-25 26-28 15-12) in the men’s fifth round match at Gyeyang Gymnasium in Incheon on Sunday. Sixth-ranked Hyundai Capital (10-15, 34 points) closed to within three points of fifth-ranked KEPCO (13-11, 37 points), while second-ranked Korean Air (14-11, 44 points) failed to regain the lead.

After taking the first and second sets, Hyundai Catal was in trouble when they dropped the third and fourth sets, but they remained focused. At 12-12 in the fifth set, a service error by Jeong Ji-seok and a block by Heo Soo-bong sealed the victory, while Kim Myung-kwan blocked an attack by Jeong Jung-yong to end the match.

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