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Han’s retirement put on hold as E&C beats Altos

Mar 21,2018
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Suwon Hyundai E&C Hillstate players celebrate their win against the Hwaseong IBK Altos in the playoffs on Monday at their home ground in Suwon, Gyeonggi. [YONHAP]
Suwon Hyundai E&C Hillstate beat the Hwaseong IBK Altos 3-1 on Monday at its home ground in Suwon, Gyeonggi, in the second round of the Korean Volleyball Federation V-League women’s playoffs.

But it didn’t all go E&C’s way. The Suwon team started off with a loss - the Altos took the first set 25-18.

Still, the E&C caught up by winning the second set 25-20, and managed to sweep two more sets - 25-23 and 28-26 - winning the match with a total of 96 points.

It was E&C’s chance to redeem itself - the team lost to the Altos 0-3 in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday.

“Because it could have been our last game of the season,” said E&C’s coach Lee Do-hee, “I told the players to just go in with the mindset of having fun.”

E&C is currently ranked third after Korea Expressway Corporation Hi-Pass in first and the Altos.

This match was particularly special for E&C’s left, Han Yoo-mi, as it could have been her last volleyball game in the league. The 36-year-old is due to retire at the end of this season, so when E&C’s playoff run comes to an end, Han’s V-League career does too. Han scored 10 points for the team during the match on Monday and has a successful attack percentage of 30.56 percent.

“During the game, I thought that this could very well be my last game since I’ll be retiring,” said Han. “Though it was hard, I endured it all. The other players also did really well. There is no place to back out now. For the third round, I will play to the best of my abilities. I think I have to play thinking that I will also play the part of the foreign athletes.”

Han was referring to taking on the Altos’ Madison Kingdon of the United States. The 22-year-old is the team’s star player with a successful attack percentage of 43.07 percent and blocks at 0.49 per set. At Monday’s match alone, Kingdon was able to score 35 points for the Altos.

“Though we don’t have a Kingdon on the team,” said Han, “we still have some outstanding Korean-born players. Because we have that kind of experience, we can make up for that.”

Han sat out for the first set, but went into the second set strong.

“During the last half of the second set, Yoo-mi seemed really tired,” said E&C’s Hwang Youn-joo, the team’s right. “Her lips went blue and I told her to rest when we were strategizing. If she wants to play in the third round of the playoffs, she has to just stay in bed until our next match.”

Though E&C won the V-League women’s championship in the 2015-16 season, it failed to qualify in the 2016-17 season, as it did not make it to the playoffs. If the team wins against the Altos in its next match on Wednesday in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, it will have a shot at becoming this season’s champions.

BY LAURA SONG [song.hankyul@joongang.co.kr]