Tokyo, Japan, May 18, 2016 - Korea, minus star player Kim Yeon-Koung, has had a comfortable 3-0 (25-16, 25-11, 25-21) win over Kazakhstan to further consolidate its chances of Olympic qualification.
Yeon-Koung started the match, but coach Lee Jungchul took her out of the match early in the second set to give her some much needed rest.
Kazakhstan also left two of its best players out of the match, with captain Radmila Beresneva and Kristina Anikonova spending the entire game watching on from the players pen.
On paper it looked like a very uneven match-up, with Korea posting impressive wins over The Netherlands and Japan in their last two outings, and Kazakhstan winless after three matches.
Kazakhstan showed patches of strong play, drawing equal with Korea at 11-all before fading to lose the set 25-16.
Yang Hyo-Jin had an impressive opening set for Korea, finishing with eight points, including two blocks, while Yeon-Koung finished with four points and spent some rare time on the bench.
For Kazakhstan Katerina Tatko led her team with four points, but Libero Tatyana Fendrikova was the best contributor for the team early on, throwing herself around the court with reckless abandon and pulling off several impressive digs.
The second set is one the Kazakhstan team will be wanting to forget quickly. The team continually made unforced errors, allowing Korea to play at its own pace with little pressure.
Yeon-Koung once again found herself in the players’ pen, a reflection of how comfortable her team was travelling. It’s doubtful the Korean captain has spent much time on the bench during her international career, but with three tough matches still to come, coach Jungchul took the chance to rest his star player.
In her absence it was Yang Hyo-Jin who continued to impress, taking her personal points tally to 11.
A frustrated Vyacheslav Shapran tried several different combinations during the set in an attempt to get back into the match, but there was little he could do to stop Korea taking the set 25-11.
With both coaches opting to give their bench players a run in the final set the match suddenly tightened up.
Junghcul had Yeon-Koung, Hyo-Jin and Kim Hee-Jin on the bench, while Shapran continued to leave Beresneva and Anikonova out of the game.
At 16-13 Korea looked set to cruise to victory, but some strong work from Inna German in particular brought Kazakhstan back to 18-all, before Korea slipped away to win the set 25-21 and the match 25-16, 25-11, 25-21.
For Kazakhstan it now needs a miracle to get to Rio, while Korea continues to impress.
World Olympic Qualification Tournament websites:Women's WOQT in JapanMen's WOQT in JapanWomen's WOQT in Puerto RicoMen's WOQT in Mexico