The second half of the V-League, starting on the 30th, will see ‘epic ranking battles’ for men and ‘Hyundai E&C dominance’ for women.
The 2023-2024 Pro Volleyball V League, which concluded with the All-Star Game on July 27, will begin its second half on July 30. The second half, which will consist of five or six rounds, is only half as long as the first half (rounds 1-4), but it is expected to be even more intense as it will determine the farming season.
The battle for the top spot is even tighter in the men’s division. With only 12 points separating the top-ranked Woori Card (44) from sixth-ranked Hyundai Capital (32), no team is guaranteed a spot in spring volleyball. Woori Card, who had been at the top of the standings since the beginning of the season, ended the fourth round with five straight losses. If they fail to turn things around early in Round 5, they could slip further down the standings, losing the lead to second-place Korean Air 토토, which is looking for its fourth consecutive title.
The nucleus of the men’s upsurge is OK Financial Group (39 points), who closed the fourth round with a six-game win after suffering a six-game loss in the third round. The tactics of Leo, one of the best foreigners in the history of the V-League, have paid off as he has increased his offensive share. If the team continues its hot streak from the fourth round, it is not out of the question for them to advance to spring volleyball.
It will also be interesting to see if Hyundai Capital can rebound from a five-game winning streak after the firing of coach Choi Tae-woong on Dec. 21 last year, which ended with two straight losses in the fourth round. Depending on how far Hyundai Capital, who finished as runners-up in last season’s championship, can go, the battle for the top spot is expected to be even more volatile.
On the women’s side, Hyundai E&C (58 points) is expected to continue its dominance. The team did not make any significant reinforcements during the off-season, rather they lost their captain of four seasons, Hwang Min-kyung (IBK), to free agency, but under the leadership of Kang Sung-hyung, the existing players have come together to negate the pre-season assessment that they were “ahhhhhhhhhh” (Heungkuk Life will win the title anyway).
The big story on the women’s side is Heungkuk Life (50 points), who released Yelena during the All-Star break after a prolonged slump. They brought in a new foreign player in Willow Johnson, who is famously the daughter of Major League Baseball legendary left-hander Randy Johnson. While some may say that Johnson’s skills are not up to par as she participated in tryouts for the past two seasons but was not selected by any club, ‘Volleyball Queen’ Kim Yeon-kyung praised her after the All-Star Game on the 27th, saying, “Willow Johnson has the advantage of being a left-handed apogee spiker, and she has a good fighting spirit, which is exactly the type of player we need.” Johnson’s quick arrival will determine how Hyundai E&C and Heungkuk Saengsim fight for the lead.
It will also be interesting to see if the women’s division, which is in its third season in the seven-team system with Pepper Savings Bank, can achieve its first-ever semi-playoffs (within three points of the third- and fourth-place teams). The gap between third-place GS Caltex (43 points), fourth-place Jungkwanjang (36 points), and fifth-place IBK (33 points) is quite large, but depending on the matchups, the gap could be reduced or increased.