Kim Yeon-koung and resurgent Pink Spiders face another uncertain season

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Kim Yeon-koung and resurgent Pink Spiders face another uncertain season

Kim Yeon-koung of the Incheon Heungkuk Life Pink Spiders celebrates after scoring against the Pepper Savings Bank AI Peppers on Oct. 25, 2022.  [NEWS1]

Kim Yeon-koung of the Incheon Heungkuk Life Pink Spiders celebrates after scoring against the Pepper Savings Bank AI Peppers on Oct. 25, 2022. [NEWS1]

Kim Yeon-koung and the Heungkuk Life Pink Spiders squad have been left in the lurch once again after the club unexpectedly dropped head coach Kwon Soon-chan on Monday, just as things were starting to improve for the Incheon side.
“We have decided to part ways with head coach Kwon because his vision does not match the direction the club wants to go in,” Lim Hyung-joon, the club’s owner, was quoted as saying in local media reporters.
The decision came as a surprise to the Pink Spiders squad, who Kwon was left to inform after his discussion with management on Monday morning. The players weren’t happy, according to reports, and a number of veterans complained about the move.
The decision to fire Kwon came despite the Pink Spiders currently sitting in second place in the V League and having beaten league leaders Suwon Hyundai Engineering & Construction Hillstate last week.
The current leadership vacuum and eventual change of coach are likely to disrupt that winning momentum, and couldn’t come at a worse time for the club that is now just three points behind Hillstate on the table.
Nobody is likely to be more disappointed about that change than talismanic veteran Kim.
Kim, the former captain of the Korean national team widely recognized as the greatest volleyball player Korea has ever produced, signed a one-year, 700-million-won ($540,000) deal in June last year to rejoin the Pink Spiders in the V league.
The last time Kim played for the Pink Spiders was in the 2020-21 season, when she returned for one season after 11 years playing in Japan, China and Turkey. That year was supposed to mark Kim’s coronation as the queen of Korean volleyball and for months the Pink Spiders were considered completely unstoppable in the V League.
The Pink Spiders’ super squad fell apart when twin stars Lee Jae-young and Lee Da-young were excluded from the squad in February 2021 following accusations that they bullied their teammates when they were in middle school.
The sisters apologized for their "irresponsible behavior," while refuting some of the claims. They were both forced to sit out the remainder of the 2020-21 season.
Retrospective accusations of school bullying are common in Korea, with a number of high profile celebrities accused of mistreating former classmates when they were young. Organizations have typically acted quickly to punish the perpetrators amid considerable backlash from members of the public who think that their success sets a bad example.
The departure of the Lee twins effectively broke apart the Pink Spiders super squad and crashed the club’s title run, with the team that at one point had looked set to break V League records instead slipping to second place.
Kim departed after that disastrous season, heading back to China to rejoin the Shanghai Bright Ubest Women's Volleyball Club returning to the team four years after she led it to the top of the Chinese Super League in the 2017-18 season.
This January, Kim became a free agent internationally after rounding off the Chinese Volleyball Super League season with Shanghai, finishing in third place.
Kim headed to the United States at the end of the season, before reaching a deal to return to the Pink Spiders.
With the departure of Kwon, there’s a chance that Kim’s season is set to go the same way as 2020-21. Although this year the Incheon club did not have a super squad and were just starting to take shape over the last month after a shaky start, the absence of a head coach could cause a similar level of disruption to the exclusion of the Lee twins two years ago.
Kim will become a free agent at the end of this season, with the Pink Spiders losing the grip they’ve maintained over her domestic career for nearly 20 years disappearing. That means she would be free to sign with a different V League club or head back overseas.
If the Pink Spiders want to avoid losing their most recognizable player, they’ll have to do something to turn things around and ensure some stability throughout the second half of the season.

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