Heungkuk Life’s Kim Da-eun earned her first senior national team call-up this year. It was the moment she finally realized her dream of representing her country, and everything was new. From her first Taegeuk mark to moving into the Jincheon Athletes’ Village, long flights, international competitions, players across the net over two meters away, and the thrill of daring back row attacks, it was a series of fresh stimuli for Kim. For the second year in a row, Korean women’s volleyball suffered a 12-match losing streak in the VNL, but Kim’s success as an apojeet was a precious harvest of frustration. We talked to Kim about the unfamiliarity and excitement of being an international player.
On her first call-up to the national team
Kim’s first reaction: “Me?”
The Korean women’s national team, led by head coach Cesar Hernandez, has been in Jincheon since May to prepare for the FIVB Volleyball Nations League (VNL) 2023. It was the start of Cesar’s second national team season after last year. There were many new faces in the 16-player roster for the VNL.
Setter Kim Da-eun (Hyundai E&C), libero Shin Yeon-kyung (IBK), outside hitter Moon Ji-yoon, setter Kim Ji-won (GS Caltex), libero-turned-libero Moon Jung-won (Korea Expressway Corporation), and outside hitter Kim Mi-yeon (Heungkuk Life), all of whom were called up to the national team under Stefano Lavarini. In addition, the next-generation middle blocker quartet of Park Eun-jin and Jung Ho-young (both KGC Ginseng), Lee Da-hyun (Hyundai E&C), and Lee Ju-ah (Heungkuk Life) joined the national team at the same time. Setter Yeom Hye-sun (KGC Ginseng) and outside hitters Kang So-hwi (GS Caltex), Jeong Ji-yoon (Hyundai E&C), Park Jung-ah (Pepper Savings Bank) and Pyo Seung-joo (IBK) were also included. Kim Da-eun, born in 2001, is the youngest member of the national team with Kim Ji-won, Lee Da-hyun, Jeong Jeong-yoon and Jeong Ho-young.
Kim, who stands at 180 centimeters, was selected by Heungkuk Life with the sixth pick in the first round of the 2019 rookie draft after playing for Jungdae Secondary, Ilshin Girls’ Middle, and Ilshin Girls’ High. She plays outside hitter and outside hitter for the team. She has four seasons of experience in the V-League. In his last season, he played 35 games and 103 sets, scoring 186 points. It was her best season since her professional debut. She was paired with outside hitter Kim Yeon-kyung, and then-head coach Kwon Soon-chan believed in her potential. Unfortunately, she was unable to fully solidify her place in the starting lineup due to her receiving anxiety, and was alternated with Kim Mi-yeon.
After the 2022-2023 season, Kim was on vacation. During a meal, she received the news of her selection to the national team. “I was eating when I got a call to congratulate me. “At first, I was really surprised. I couldn’t believe it, like, ‘I made the team?’ It was already in the news, but I checked it later,” she says. My parents were excited,” he recalls. “I didn’t think I would make the team because there are so many good players. It was nice just to be on the list,” he adds.
Kim was surprised by the unexpected call-up, but it was definitely good news. He had played for the youth national team in high school five years ago. It was his first Taeguk mark. “I was on the national team when I was 18, but this is my first time on the adult national team. “When I played volleyball, I set goals one by one, and making the national team was one of them. After joining the professional team, my next goal was the national team, and it felt great to achieve it.”
First time in Jincheon, first long flight
Entering the Jincheon Athletes’ Village for the first time. Upon arrival, Kim had a strange feeling. “My first thought was, ‘I’m in the athletes’ village I’ve only heard about,'” he said. At the entrance of the athletes’ village, the words ‘Jincheon National Athletes’ Village’ are written in large letters. When I entered, that was the first thing that caught my eye,” he said, sharing a vivid memory of his first move. Most of all, Kim was surprised by the food at the athletes’ village. “The rice was really good. I like meat, and everything was delicious. There were a lot of different types. The desserts were also of good quality. I think I’ve gained weight since entering the athletes’ village,” he laughed.
The team trained for about a month in the athletes’ village, happy but busy. To acclimatize and train, the Korean team first traveled to Turkuye, where the first week of the VNL was held. After playing four games in Turku, the team traveled to Brazil for the second week. This was another challenge for Kim, who had never been on a long-haul flight before.
“I hadn’t been on an airplane for a long time. The furthest I’ve ever traveled was to Taiwan for a tournament with the youth national team.” “I was worried about flying for a long time, but it was a new world. I watched three or four movies on the way to Turkuye and still didn’t arrive. The flight from Turkuye to Brazil was even longer. It was just long. I watched five or six movies that I had prepared in advance, and I watched movies on the plane to pass the time. I didn’t sleep much on the plane. Even if I slept for a long time, I think it was only an hour,” she said, sharing the challenges of her first long flight. “You eat on the plane and sit in one place for a long time, so your body gets swollen. My calves were especially swollen. I even wore compression tights. I also felt my body stiffen. I saw other people getting up and stretching because they were having a hard time, and I noticed and stretched too,” she said.
The flight from South Korea to Turku is over 11 hours long. The journey from Turkiye to Brazil was even more difficult. He had to make a layover. She arrived in Brazil 26 hours after leaving Turkiye. The long flight wasn’t the only problem for the national team. It was also about jet lag. Any disruption in their circadian rhythms would have a huge impact on their performance. What they eat and how they digest their food also affects their condition. When the team arrived in Brazil, the temperatures were colder than expected. Even the veteran players found it difficult to manage their condition.
For Kim, the long flight was hard, but fortunately, jet lag and food were not a problem. His youth also helped. “The first two or three days in Turkuye, my eyes just opened at dawn, but I quickly got into a pattern. The food was good, even though I’m usually not a fan of flavored foods. The kaimak was good.” “In Brazil, except for breakfast, lunch and dinner were all beef and salad. I’m a salad kind of person, so I ate pretty well.”
Following the trip to Turkuye-Brazil, the team had 16 players for the Suwon series in Week 3 of the VNL. Rules dictated that the final 14-man roster had to be named each week. The 14-player roster for Week 1 excluded Kim Da-eun and Kim Ji-won. But Kim wasn’t discouraged. She was encouraged by her conversation with coach Cesar.
“I actually made the national team, and it was great just being with them in Turkuye. At first, when I was left off the roster for the first week in Turkuye, the coach apologized and said that being outside didn’t mean I couldn’t play. He told me to watch the game while thinking about the height of the opponent, etc. I didn’t feel bad,” he said calmly.
Only her name was missing from the 14-player roster, but she trained the same and waited for the next time. For Kim Dae-eun, the opportunity came. Setter Kim Dae-in and libero Shin Yeon-kyung were removed from the roster in Week 2 due to abdominal and back injuries, respectively. Kim Da-eun and Kim Ji-won joined the 14-player roster. Kim started the first match of Week 2 against Brazil and scored 11 points. It was an impressive debut for Kim, who earned her first call-up to the senior national team. “I was excited to be included in the 14-player roster for Week 2,” said Kim. I was left off the roster in Turku, but we trained the same, had video meetings, and prepared together.” “Thinking back to the Brazil game, it was good just to be in that tournament, that game, wearing the flag. I wasn’t really nervous before Brazil. I tried not to put any pressure on myself. I just tried to have fun, and I think it worked out well,” he said with a straight face. It was a VNL debut she will never forget.
Kim played all eight matches in Weeks 2 and 3, starting against Brazil. She totaled 83 points, including six serves and three blocks. She scored 10.38 points per game. Her attack success rate was 35%. Meanwhile, the Korean Women’s National Team has struggled without Apojit. In the V-League, the position of outside hitter is reserved for foreign players, leaving no room for Korean players to step in. Until the Tokyo Olympics, Kim Hee-jin (IBK) filled the role, but after he went down with an injury, the national team was left without a professional apogee. As an alternative, the team has been using a rotating attack with three outside hitters like Japan and Thailand.
In Week 3 of last year’s VNL, Lee Han-bi (Pepper Savings Bank) was inserted as an outside hitter and showed off his tight defense and cohesive play. However, his height limitations were obvious. In this year’s VNL, Kim Da-eun has taken over the outside hitter position. The chemistry between setter Kim Dain and Kim Da-eun was stable. After the defense, the offense became more and more cogent in the counterattack. After actively utilizing the middle blocker to get past the opponent’s blocking, they had fun with pipe attacks where Kim would try to spike from behind. “Dain is someone who is really serious about volleyball. She watches a lot of volleyball videos. I try to figure out their style and give them the ball accordingly. I like to attack low and fast. I told her to come in quickly because that’s how I’m going to serve the ball. During the VNL, she shared some videos of other teams attacking from behind and said, ‘Let’s try this. They were videos of Thailand and Japan. My sister helped me a lot, and I think we got better and better at breathing together,” she said, thanking Kim Dae-in for her consistent coordination.
“We talked a lot about height in training,” Kim said. I felt that the back attack was working well from the beginning of training. Dain’s passes were good,” she said. “There are also moments that are exciting when I watch the video again now. I remember the scene in China when we scored a rebound and the fans cheered. In the V-League, fans are assigned a team to support, but in the national team games, I felt that the fans were all in unison and cheering. I felt a sense of responsibility to play for the national team,” she said.메이저사이트
Kim also worked on breaking through her opponent’s high blocking. In the early days of the VNL, she was often criticized by coach Cesar. “Why are you looking at the net and hitting it?” he would say during timeouts. As she gained more experience, she slowly began to see things differently. “When I’m attacking, I like to hit it out or twist it. I think if the other team’s blocking is high, they are more likely to see my finger and hit it. I can see the blocking and hit it easily.” “At first, I was blocked or bound because I was looking into the court. My coach told me to look away. For example, ‘Look at the letter ‘ga’ on the opposite ceiling and hit it,’ and he told me to look far away from the beginning to the end. Also, even if I missed, he told me to try rather than get blocked, so I felt free to push hard and attack,” she said, sharing her know-how to deal with high blocking.
South Korea was ranked 14th in the world thanks to its fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics. However, within two years, they had fallen to 35th place. It was a steep drop that no one expected. After the Tokyo Olympics, veterans such as Kim Yeon-kyung, Kim Soo-ji, and Yang Hyo-jin retired, resulting in a significant drop in strength. Against this backdrop, the biggest gain for VNL this year was the discovery of a new ace, Kim Da-eun. Of course, the team tried, and the process improved. However, they were unable to win important results. They had to be happy with just one set. The mood in the team was not good.
“As we kept losing, the players’ confidence was decreasing,” said Kim. We had a group meeting with the coach, Yumi (Han), and Yeon-kyung (Kim), and I told them that it’s not over, there’s still a match, so it’s harder if you’re down. We hadn’t had a full day off, so we took a day to rest and regroup, and the atmosphere was fine,” Kim said, discussing the psychological pressure the team had to deal with during the losing streak and the team atmosphere.
Kim Da-eun also felt the reality of Korean women’s volleyball on the international stage: “We realized that we lacked a lot in height. We were playing against six foreign players from the V-League in an international tournament. “Of course, we didn’t bring home the victory, but we played well, scored points and won sets, so I thought there was definitely hope,” he said. “Especially in the third week, I felt it. “Especially in the third week, I felt it, and I thought, ‘It’s not impossible for us,'” she said encouragingly.
Kim Da-eun himself is disappointed. “We focused on growth, but we didn’t win,” he says. After the VNL, I felt like I wanted to play the games I could have,” he said. “We still haven’t won a game. However, I believe that if we keep up this pace, good things will come. The players won’t give up and will keep trying. I hope the fans will watch and recognize that.”
Kim Da-eun is currently caught between an apogee and an outside heater. Before her, Jung Jeong-yoon was the same way. After playing the role of an outside hitter for the national team, she was asked to play outside hitter for her home team, where she had to defend the reception. There was a time when she was brought to tears by an opponent’s targeted serve. She persevered and won the outside hitter position on the national team. Kim Da-eun is still struggling with her reception. She played as an opposite hitter for the national team, but foreign player Yelena Mrazenovic was the one who got the job. Kim will most likely be used as an outside hitter. Head coach Marcello Abondanza has hinted at using her as a receiving light (outside hitter).
Kim also emphasized receiving. He said, “Receiving is the answer to survive in the team. I know that Yelena is going to be in the apogee, so I need to be able to receive well to get into a spot. I’m not there yet, and when I make a mistake, I get a little confused, but I’m trying to get myself together quickly.”
On offense, on the other hand, her confidence has grown. “I’ve been attacking a lot,” Kim said. If something doesn’t work out, I think about the next attack and try to overcome it easily,” she said, adding, “I try not to feel pressure, whether it’s on the national team or in my own team. Pressure is a poison. I only think about how I can help the team.”