GS Caltex upsets messy Heungkuk Life…substitute Yelena scores 12 points

GS Caltex finished the first half of the Dodram 2023-24 V-League with back-to-back wins over Heungkuk Life in a chaotic atmosphere.

GS Caltex came from behind to win 3-1 (26-28, 25-21, 27-25, 25-21) against Heungkuk Life in the fourth round of the Dodram 2023-24 V-League at Jangchung Gymnasium on Sunday.

With the win in front of a packed home crowd (3469 seats) for the second straight game, GS Caltex finished the first half in third place with 43 points (15W-9L). Second-place Heungkuk Life is on 50 points, seven points behind GS Caltex in third. It was unable to close the gap with first-place Hyundai E&C (55 points).

“We don’t know how the fifth and sixth rounds will unfold. We need to get at least one point,” said GS Caltex coach Cha Sang-hyun. Heungkuk Life ace Kim Yeon-kyung’s expression was even darker.

She lost the first set 26-28 in a tightly contested match. Reina, who has been playing in place of Yelena, who has been struggling lately, shared 13 points with Kim in the first set. Silva and Kang combined for 15 points but were unable to take the first set.

Set 2 was a different story. GS Caltex took an early lead and held it until the very end. They were focused enough to only record one error.

The third set was close again. Heungkuk Saengsung jumped out to a 20-point lead, but GS Caltex tied it up with a Silva attack and Kang So-hwi blocking Yelena’s follow-up attack. Another deuce battle ensued. At 25-25, Yoo Seo-yeon and Kwon Min-ji blocked back-to-back Reina attacks to win 27-25.

With a 2-1 lead in the set, GS Caltex maintained its narrow lead in the fourth set. With Silva’s serve and attack shining through, GS Caltex took a 20-17 lead before Kang So-hwi’s attack and Silva’s back attack clinched the fourth set.

GS Caltex was led by Silva with a career-high 37 points, while Kang So-hwi chipped in with 21.

Heungkuk Life got 23 points from Kim Yeon-kyung and 17 from Reina, but couldn’t overcome a slump from Yelena (12 points). After disappointing with a 20.0 percent attack rate against Korea Expressway Corporation (8 points) on Dec. 12, Yelena slumped in Game 3. She came off the bench and shot over 35 percent, but it was a far cry from the power she showed in Games 1 and 2.

Her slump was more due to homesickness than physical problems. Yelena’s slump has overloaded Kim Yeon-kyung, and Heungkuk Life has fallen from the top spot. The team’s recent results have not been good either. Fans recently staged a truck protest in front of the parent company’s headquarters to demand the replacement of foreign players. Coach Abondanza has reportedly considered making a change, but is unable to find a viable alternative under the current system.

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