Ningbo, China, May 16, 2018 - Yeon Koung Kim delivered a masterclass display of power and precision to lead Korea to a nailbiting 3-2 (26-24, 25-27, 21-25, 25-14, 15-12) win over the Dominican Republic in the second round of the inaugural women's FIVB Volleyball Nations League on Wednesday.
Desperate to get her team back in the winner's circle after losing their opening match against Belgium 24 hours earlier, the Korean captain held her nerve under intense pressure to steer her team out of trouble and to victory in the first five-setter of the new competition.
Kim racked up 29 points, from 26 spikes and three vital blocks, and was going just as strong at the end as she was at the start. Su Ji Kim finished with 18 points, including seven blocks, one of which set up match point, while the athletic Jaeyeong Lee scored 15 offensive points.
No one felt Dominican Republic's heartbreaking loss more than Brayelin Martinez, who scored a game-high 31 points to take her Caribbean team to the brink of victory.
The impressive Gaila Gonzalez was also a constant threat to the Koreans, contributing 17 points, while middle blocker Jineiry Martinez chipped in with 14.
Ranked 9th (Dominican Republic) and 10th (Korea) in the world, the match was always expected to be close, but the fans at the Beilun Sport and Art Centre were treated to a heart-stopping thriller, with the result in the balance right until the very end.
Lee pulled off an outrageous shot to clinch the first set for the Koreans after they almost let it slip. Dominican Republic levelled the scores at 24-24 after saving a set point but were powerless to prevent Korea taking the set when Lee, lunging forward just to save a point, succeeded in clearing the net to win the point herself and clinch a 1-0 lead for her own side.
The second set was just as tight but this time, Dominican Republic capitalised when Korea missed their chance. Kim, who had eight kills in the opening set, added another seven in the second, including one ferocious hit that penetrated the defence to give her a team a set point at 24-23.
But Dominican Republic held strong with some powerful blocks and a clever dink from Gonzalez before taking the set to level the match.
Revitalised after winning their first set of the tournament after being soundly beaten 3-0 by China on Tuesday, Dominican Republic made a confident start to the third with 20-year-old Martinez setting the tone by serving an early ace.
The formidable pairing of Martinez and Gonzalez then took over with their heavy hitting and accurate shotmaking putting the Koreans under intense pressure as Dominican Republic took the set and the lead.
Needing to quickly turn things around, Kim took it upon herself to get her side back into the contest and the Koren captain delivered when it mattered most, producing a stunning array of spikes as the 2014 Asian Games champions forced a deciding fifth set.
Dominican Republic led through the shortened fifth set but Korea never gave in and after the teams were tied at 12-12, they reeled off the last three points to clinch victory and trigger wild celebrations among their exhausted but delighted players.