Osaka, Japan, August 9, 2009: Korea ended a run of five straight defeats to record their first win in the 2009 World Grand Prix at Osaka Municipal Central Gymnasium on Sunday afternoon.
The Koreans missed five match points in the third set and finally beat Puerto Rico 3-2 on their seventh match point, a right-wing spike from southpaw La Hea-Won.
Korea's winning score was 25-18, 25-18, 24-26, 22-25, 15-13, improving their win-loss record to 1-5 and dropping Puerto Rico to the same mark.
Korea started well, and when captain Kim Se-Young thrashed one down the middle for 5-2, Puerto Rico called an early TO.
They returned for Aurea Cruz and Yarimar Rosa to spike cleanly and powerfully out wide, following the earlier example of Sarai Alvarez, but Yang Hyo-Jin was quick to move on Rosa and blocked her superbly to give Korea the lead 8-5 at the first TTO.
If the Puerto Ricans were expecting everything to come through the dynamic Kim Yeon-Koung, the Koreans had other plans, and Oh Hyun-Mi and Bae Yoo-Na both popped up out wide to score comfortably. Trailing 13-8, Puerto Rico called their second TO.
The fireball serves of Aurea Cruz unsettled the Korean defence, and when the Korean lead was cut to two, 15-13, head coach Lee Sung-Hee took his team off for a TO.
The Koreans were relying on mobility and variety to open up the Puerto Rico defence, their accurate passing and careful shot placement finding spaces on the opposite side. And still there was Kim to add some sheer power, and her blazing spike from the left moved her team ahead 23-15.
With six set points at 24-18, Kim followed up her strong serve with a perfect dig, allowing Bae to fire across court for 25-18, 1-0 Korea.
After beating Russia the previous day, the Puerto Ricans were looking lethargic and lacking the spirit that earned them such a famous victory. On losing the first four points of the second frame, coach Carlos Cardona had seen enough and took his players off for a talking-to.
The Puerto Rico players were quiet and just not switched on to the task in hand, allowing Korea to surge ahead 7-1 with some easy pickings down the middle.
The play became increasingly scrappy, especially on the Puerto Rico side, and when Aurea Cruz tried to step it she spiked straight into the solid block of Kim Se-Young.
When Oh, not the tallest of the Koreans at 1.75 metres, beat Puerto Rico's two-strong block for 16-9, Korea had a seven-point cushion to take into the second TTO.
Kim Yeon-Koung then began to take matters into her own hands, punishing the scattered defence in front of her, and drove Korea forward to 20-10, at which point Puerto Rico needed a TO.
Alexandra Oquendo at the net and Karina Ocasio wide on the left set about repairing the damage, and Aurea Cruz soared majestically to rifle one down the middle with a smooth back-court move.
A Sheila Ocasio block on Kim Yeon-Koung gave Puerto Rico further hope as the gap began to shrink, but Korea had too many points in the bank to allow the second set to slip away. A couple of unforced errors helped them on their way, and they clinched it 25-18 for 2-0.
Kim Yeon-Koung began the third set with two service aces -- not a good sign for Puerto Rico -- and a back-court swoop by the same player made it 5-2.
The Korean block and reception then began to falter, allowing Puerto Rico to pull back. Alvarez hinted at a return to top form with a sizzling winner, and Aurea Cruz was able to blast through the block again for 8-7 at the first TTO.
A third ace of the set from Kim pulled her team level at 10, before Oh struck on spike and block for 12-11 Korea, and a Puerto Rico TO.
When it looked like Korea had taken the initiative, Rosa reminded everyone of her spiking power with a fluid blow from the left, and Cruz followed her soon after to keep Korea within their sights.
Leading 16-14 at the second TTO, middle blocker Yang kept Korea on course by finishing off a well-worked move at the net, and consecutive attack errors led to a Puerto Rico TO when they fell behind 22-18.
The sprightly Oh made it 23-19 with a wristy winner up the left, and Kim Se-Young brought up five match points at 24-19. Korea missed the first two of them and called a TO, then missed two more thanks to great defence on Kim. With only one match point left at 24-23, Korea took their second TO with nerves on edge.
Again they could not finish, and Cruz blazed through the block for 24-24; all five match points had disappeared. Puerto Rico had escaped, and added the next two points to take the third set 26-24, the last point a block by Mojica on Kim.
Leading 2-1, Korea would still have to dig deep to recover from this huge disappointment, while Puerto Rico would feel free to go for their shots having come back from the dead.
A subdued start to the fourth set saw Korea go into the first TTO ahead by three at 8-5, and a spring-heeled leap and angled spike from Yang at the net extended this.
Cruz and Alvarez kept Puerto Rico in touch, and a Rosa block on Kim Se-Young cut Korea's lead to 13-11.
Korean setter Yeum Hye-Seon kept the Puerto Rico defence on their toes with some tricky flicks into space, but Rosa's perfect dig on Kim enabled them to pull level 15-15.
When a tiring Kim over-stretched and fired wide, Puerto Rico celebrated going into the second TTO with a one-point advantage and in the mood for a tiebreaker.
The teams continued to trade points, with Alvarez in good form on the right, and when she blasted Puerto Rico ahead 22-21, Korea called their second TO.
Alvarez brought up two set points at 24-22, and a wayward set by Korea enabled Puerto Rico to seal it quickly 25-22 for 2-2.
In the tiebreak, the Korean defence tightened up and Kim's spikes began to move them ahead; at 5-2, Puerto Rico needed a TO to readjust their block on the Korean points machine.
Cruz and Rosa brought Puerto Rico back to 5-4, and a Cruz serve skimmed Korean fingers for 5-5, Korea TO.
With Kim Yeon-Koung having a rest on the bench, the Koreans were still able to turn round 8-7 up thanks to good blocking.
Alvarez did just the same on Oh on the restart, before Kim returned at 9-9.
Cruz was waiting for her, though, and a brilliant back-court dig led to Rosa's fireball winner from the left.
A Yang block on Cruz for 13-11 Korea resulted in a Puerto Rico TO, but Mojica blocked Kim on the next point to reduce their deficit to one point and force a Korea TO.
Kim brought up two match points at 14-12, and southpaw La Hea-Won finally finished the job 15-13, 3-2 Korea.