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Kang-Won Lee and Korea need five sets to defeat Slovakia

Kang-Won Lee (7) and Korea celebrate a point
The Hague, Netherlands, June 18, 2017 – Kang-Won Lee propelled Korea past Slovakia 3-2 (25-18, 18-25, 25-18, 20-25, 15-7). It was the very first time that the two countries met in any official competition. 

Korea took an immediate lead of two points (5-3, 7-5). Slovakia managed to even the score at 7-7, but with Yong-Suk Shin serving (2 aces), Korea marched from 10-8 to 13-8. Despite a double Slovakian substitution, Korea widened the margin, forcing Miroslav Palgut to use his last timeout (22-17). The break did not help, as a service in the net by Peter Mlynarcik helped Korea cash its first set point at 25-18. 

A kill block of Milan Bencz allowed Slovakia to lead by three points (1-4) in the second set. After the following three points were Korean, Mlynarcik brought Flip Gavenda in the field for Tomas Krisko (4-4). An ace by Gavenda allowed Slovakia to lead again (5-6) and this time the men of Palgut succeeded in increasing the margin (8-11, 11-16). Korea crawled back to 15-18, but did not get closer than that. Excellent spiking by Bencz brought his team to set point, and a kill block of Radoslav Presinsky ended the second act at 18-25. 

Korea led by two points at the first obligatory break (8-6), but Slovakia evened the score at 8. The teams leveled up to 12-12, but then Korea cashed three points in a row (15-12). A Slovakian pass appeared to become the perfect set for Jaewook No (17-13), but a few minutes later, the Korean lead had diminished to one point (18-17). Still, Hochul Kim's team appeared to have enough energy left as it managed to walk away from its opponent again. Sang-Ha Park propelled his team to set point and cashed the second one with a vigorous spike, 25-18. 

Though the Korean squad created an advantage of three points several times in the beginning of the fourth set (5-2, 9-6, 16-14), Slovakia leveled the score repeatedly (5-5, 9-9, 17-17). At 18-19, the Eastern Europeans took over the lead and after a Slovakian kill block, the margin had grown to three points (19-22). A Korean spike that went wide brought Slovakia to set point, which was eagerly cashed by blocking Gavenda, 20-25. 

The audience in the Hague was treated to a long and exciting rally at the opening of the decisive set. Korea won that first fight and harvested the five following points as well (6-0). The teams switched sides at 8-2. Two attempts of Gavenda ended in the Korean block (10-3), after which Palgut called for his second timeout. Despite the frantic Slovakian attempts to bridge the gap, they could not overcome the excellent Korean defense (14-6). An out serve by MIkasa of Palgut ended the match after 100 minutes of play at 15-7.

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