Korean Air head coach Tommi Tilikainen reflected on his team’s seventh-place finish 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 Sunday (Nov. 21).
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, were sidelined with injuries 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 메이저사이트 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 world’s best middle blockers, 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 Dong-hyuk really showed his offensive power regardless of who his opponent was, and his attitude and behavior on the court was very good,” he said, “and I think Lee Jun also showed his skills and potential.”
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 tournaments to develop,” 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. “If we participate in this tournament again next year, we want to give it our all.”
Korean Air will grant the team a vacation until June 26 after they arrive in South Korea. Tilikainen shared his plans for the future, saying, “We will train after returning from vacation and reflect on what we learned from this tournament.”