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Pro volleyball league to honor award winners behind closed doors

All News 11:51 April 06, 2020

SEOUL, April 6 (Yonhap) -- The coronavirus is not done ruining the South Korean professional volleyball season.

After causing midseason cancellation of the V-League season late last month, the COVID-19 pandemic will force the Korean Volleyball Federation (KOVO) to host its annual awards ceremony behind closed doors Thursday.

The event, which will take place at a Seoul hotel, will not even be televised. No broadcast crew, media and fans will be permitted. KOVO will announce the winners in a press release.

In this file photo, from Feb. 16, 2020, Na Gyeong-bok of the Woori Card Wibee (L) hits a spike against OK Savings Bank Rush & Cash during a men's V-League match at Sangnoksu Gymnasium in Ansan, 40 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

For the top individual honors, the most valuable player (MVP) awards, a rising South Korean star will be up against a Spanish attacker on the men's side, while a pair of teammates will vie for the trophy in the women's league.

Na Gyeong-bok of the Woori Card Wibee and Andres Villena of the Korean Air Jumbos are seen as the front-runners for the men's MVP. When the season was wiped out on March 23, the Wibee ended up being named the regular season champions by virtue of sitting in first place at the time. They just edged out the Jumbos in points, 64-62.

As the league leader in total points (786), spikes (669) and aces (66), Villena had a far better individual season than Na. But Na has the edge when it comes to team performance, and has "the best player on the league's best team" narrative working in his favor.

This file photo, provided by the Korean Volleyball Federation on Feb. 24, 2020, shows the Korean Air Jumbos attacker Andres Villena. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

And Na was no slouch himself on the offensive end. In a league where foreign players usually dominate attacking stats, Na led all domestic players in total points with 491, good for sixth overall. He ranked fourth in the league and second among South Korean players in attack success rate (52.92 percent).

Na, the 2016 Rookie of the Year, could become only the third player in the league's 15-year history to win both the top rookie award and the MVP. Kim Hak-min, the 2007 Rookie of the Year and the 2011 MVP, and Shin Yung-suk, the best freshman in 2010 and MVP eight years later, are the only members of the select company.

In the women's award race, Hyundai E&C Hillstate's center Yang Hyo-jin and setter Lee Da-yeong are both chasing their first MVP trophy.

In this file photo, from March 1, 2020, Yang Hyo-jin of the Hyundai E&C Hillstate celebrates a point against GS Caltex Kixx during a women's V-League match at Suwon Gymnasium in Suwon, 45 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Yang led the league in blocks per set for the 10th consecutive season (0.85), and led all centers with 429 points, good for sixth overall. She was the finals MVP in 2016 but has never won the top regular season award.

Statistically, Lee was the league's best setter both by total sets (1,159) and sets per set (11.36), and she also chipped in 111 points for the second-most efficient offense in the league.

Lee's twin sister, Lee Jae-yeong, won two of the past three regular season MVPs. No pair of sisters has won an MVP in the V-League.

In this file photo, provided by the Korean Volleyball Federation on Feb. 18, 2020, Lee Da-yeong of the Hyundai E&C Hillstate (C) tosses the ball during a women's V-League match against the IBK Altos at Suwon Gymnasium in Suwon, 45 kilometers south of Seoul. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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