Daejeon could seal V-League title with win

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Daejeon could seal V-League title with win

The Daejeon Samsung Fire Bluefangs aim to clinch the Korea Professional Volleyball League (V-League) championship title tonight, while the Incheon Korean Air Jumbos are hoping to bounce back with a victory at home and revenge last year’s defeat.

The regular season champion Bluefangs are just one step away from achieving their third double crown (winning both the regular season and the championship series) in franchise history. The men’s volleyball team, led by coach Shin Chi-yong, already collected two wins in the final series over the weekend after routing the Jumbos 3-1 (26-24, 22-25, 25-22, 36-34) in Game 1 and also in Game 2 (25-19, 24-26, 25-22, 25-21).

Since the finals have changed to a best-of-five series from this season, a victory in Game 3, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Dowon Gymansium in Incheon tonight, would give the Bluefangs their fifth consecutive and sixth overall championship trophy.

The Bluefangs swept the Jumbos in last year’s finals. However, the championship series against the Jumbos wasn’t considered to be a walk in the park, as the No. 2 seeded team has beat them four times in their last six encounters.

But the Bluefangs, who haven’t missed the finals since the V-League started in 2005, have the most experience. This is only the second time the Jumbos have made it to the finals.

Canadian Gavin Schmitt, who is the No. 1 attacker in the regular season after scoring 1,112 points total with a success rate of 59.27 percent, is back again in the finals. The 26-year-old scored 48 points in Game 1, followed by 38 points in Game 2.

The 207-centimeter (6-foot, 9-inch) tall attacker is almost single-handedly leading the Bluefangs’ attack in the finals. Schmitt carried 55.1 percent of the team’s attack in the regular season, but in the championship series, that percentage increased to over 60 percent.

In the regular season, the Jumbos have managed to stop Schmitt from the start, making it difficult for the Bluefangs’ to build an attack with powerful serves, but in the finals, the team seems to have lost the advantage of that strategy. They are led by coach Shin Young-chul and are the only team in the league to average one ace serve per set.

But their No. 1 server Martin Nemec has suffered from a shoulder injury during the playoffs. The 28-year-old Slovak only produced three ace serves in the last two games, while his attacking success rate has also plunged. Nemec had a 64.62 percent attack success rate against the Bluefangs during the regular season, but in Game 1, he only scored on 48 percent of his serves.

But what’s most concerning for the Jumbos is that their setter Han Sun-soo is struggling to find his rhythm. The 27-year-old, who is also the No. 8 server in the league, was replaced by backup setter Hwang Dong-il during Game 2 after a poor performance.

“Han is not injured, but he seems to have lost his game during the playoffs,” Jumbos coach Shin said after Game 2 on Sunday.

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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