Woori Card is strengthening its offence through active player acquisitions.
Woori Card’s Woori WON team announced on its official social media on the 26th that it has executed a 1:1 trade, sending outside hitter Song Hee-chae to OK Financial Group Eatman and receiving outside hitter Song Myung-geun from OK Financial Group. Song Myung-geun and Song Hee-chae have been on the same team for nearly a decade, from their playing days at Kyunggi University to 2018 when they played for OK Savings Bank Rush & Cash, and this time they continued their relationship by exchanging jerseys through a trade.먹튀검증
Following the departure of homegrown ace Na Kyung-bok (KB Insurance Stars) in the last free agency, the Woori Card selected 201cm Japanese apogee spiker Issei Otake in the Asia Quarter. The Woori Card also acquired Slovenian outside hitter Matej Kok in the Foreign Player Draft, and have been steadily bolstering their roster with the addition of outside hitters Han Sung-jung and Song Myung-geun in back-to-back trades.
Asian quarters and foreign drafts prioritise offensive reinforcements
Compared to the women’s team, which had a relatively active transfer window with 20 players becoming free agents and five players choosing new teams, the men’s team had 16 players become free agents, but 15 remained with their original clubs. In the men’s free agency market, which was dominated by ‘stability’ rather than change, the only player who chose to move for a total of 800 million won was Woori Card’s homegrown ace Na Kyung-bok, who was named the regular season MVP in the 2019-2020 season.
Of course, Na Kyung-bok will not be able to play for any team in the 2023-2024 season as he will be enlisted as a full-time reserve upon signing, but the departure of Na Kyung-bok, who finished fifth in scoring in the 2022-2023 season (603 points, 1st among domestic players), was a huge loss for Woori Card. However, they couldn’t lament the departure of their ace forever. As soon as the free agency period ended, Woori Card made a proactive move to fill the 600-point gap left by Na Kyung-bok.
Firstly, the Wolves used the seventh overall pick in this year’s newly created Asian Quarter to select Issei Otake, a 201cm tall Japanese apogee spiker. Although Otake is the third oldest of the seven players selected for the Asian Quarter, he has played in the German League in the 2017-2018 season and has been selected for the Japanese national team. He also won the Best Apogee Spiker award at last year’s AVC Cup.
After Leo Andrici’s injury and Riverman Agamez’s age led to disappointing performances last season, Woori Card selected Slovenian outside hitter Matej Kok in this year’s Foreign Player Draft. In a foreign player draft that saw four of the seven men’s clubs re-sign players from last season, with Samsung Fire Bluefangs and Hyundai Capital Skywalkers also selecting V-League veterans, Kok is the only new foreign player in the men’s division to play in the 2023-2024 season.
Kok was not ranked in the pre-draft preference survey of the clubs’ managers, but Woori Card head coach Shin Young-cheol gave him high marks for his all-round game, including his sub-receivers, fundamentals and height. For Woori Card, the best case scenario would be for Asia Quarter Otake to be an outside hitter and Kok to fill the outside hitter spot left by Na Kyung-bok. However, Shin also revealed that he would be willing to rotate Kok between the left and right side depending on the team’s needs.
Two trades to fill the void left by Na Kyung-bok
The case for Matej Kok as an outside spiker is made for three main reasons. Firstly, if Kok shows an offensive prowess comparable to Tyson Dulhos (KEPCO Big Storm) or Lincoln Williams (Korean Air Jumbos), secondly, if Otake’s performance or fitness in the Asian quarter is disappointing, and finally, if Kok’s defence is so weak that he can’t be used as an outside hitter. In response, the Wolves made two trades to bolster their outside hitter depth.
First, the Woori Card acquired Han Sung-jung from KB Insurance in a trade for setter Hwang Seung-bin on the 25th. Han Sung-jung was traded by Woori Card to KB Insurance in December 2021, and chose to rejoin the team after a year and five months. Of course, Hwang Seung-bin is a good setter who was the starting setter for Woori Card in the 2022-2023 season, ranking second in sets (10.29 per set). However, Woori Card was able to use Hwang as a trade card as setter Lee Seung-won completed his military service on the 14th.
On the 26th, they traded the team’s lifeblood Song Hee-chae to OK Financial Group and acquired outside hitter Song Myung-geun, who specialises in attacking. Song Myung-geun and Song Hee-chae, who have been together since their playing days, were the outside hitter duo that led OK Savings Bank to back-to-back championships in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons. While Song Hee-chae is a versatile setter, Song Myeong-geun is more of an offensive threat, posting a 51.87 per cent attacking success rate in the 2022-2023 season, even though he only played half the season.
Woori Card had a surprise breakout season in 2022-2023 with outside hitter Kim Ji-han, who scored 301 points with a 53.65% attack success rate. Of course, neither Kim Ji-han, Han Sung-jung, nor Song Myung-geun are very good sub-receivers, but with Han Sung-jung and Song Myung-geun, Woori Card’s left side is not far behind the 2022-2023 season with Na Kyung-bok and Song Hee-chae. In fact, the resources available on the court are even more than last season.
Add to that the addition of middle blocker Park Jin-woo, who ranked eighth in blocks (0.48 per set) last season as compensation for Na Kyung-bok, and you have a strong middle blocker line-up with Lee Sang-hyun, who ranked first in fastball (65.14%) and ninth in blocking (0.40 per set) in 2022-2023. Woori Card, who were considered a prime example of a team weakened by the free agency of Na Kyung-bok, have been making diligent moves during the off-season to minimise the void left by their native ace.