KOVO names V-League MVPs despite early ending

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KOVO names V-League MVPs despite early ending

Former Rookie of the Year Na Gyeong-bok and veteran center Yang Hyo-jin were named the MVPs in Korean men’s and women’s pro volleyball on Thursday.

Despite the season ending earlier than expected this season, the Korean Volleyball Federation (KOVO) announced the first-time V-League MVPs in a press release, with its annual awards ceremony held behind closed doors at a Seoul hotel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event was not televised, and no media and fans were permitted inside. Only the winners were invited for photo ops.

The ceremony provided an anticlimactic, if somewhat fitting, end to the 2019-2020 season. After playing few games behind closed doors, the regular season for both men and women came to a halt on March 2 in the wake of the virus outbreak, and KOVO wiped out the remainder of the season on March 23.

With Na on the attack, the Woori Card Wibee ended up as the men’s regular season champions by virtue of sitting atop the seven-team standings. The Wibee finished with 25 wins and seven losses, totaling 69 points.

On the women’s side, Yang and her Hyundai E&C Hillstate had the best record at the time of cancellation. The Hillstate, too, finished at the top of the standings by picking up 20 wins and seven losses, totaling 55 points this season.

Na, the 2016 Rookie of the Year, became only the third player in the league’s 15-year history to win both the top rookie award and the MVP. Kim Hak-min, the 2007 Rookie of the Year and the 2011 MVP, and Shin Yung-suk, the best freshman in 2010 and MVP eight years later, are the only members of the select company.

Na beat out Andres Villena of the Korean Air Jumbos 18-10 in the media votes. Though Villena had a better statistical season - he led the league in total points (786), spikes (669) and aces (66) - Na had “the best player on the league’s best team” narrative working in his favor.

Na, who turned 26 Wednesday, led all domestic players in total points with 491, good for sixth overall. He ranked fourth in the league and second among Korean players in attack success rate (52.92 percent).

Yang, 30, beat out her teammate, setter Lee Da-yeong, by 24-3. Another player, Valentina Diouf of Korea Ginseng Corporation, also received three votes.

Yang led the league in blocks per set for the 10th consecutive season (0.85) and led all centers with 429 points, good for sixth overall.

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