A special day for Heungkuk Life’s Park Hye-jin on her comeback win after a year and nine months away

In the match between Heungkuk Life and IBK at Samsan World Gymnasium in Incheon on Thursday, there was an unfamiliar name on the Heungkuk Life starting lineup in place of star setter Lee Won-jung.

It was Park Hye-jin, 21, who was highly anticipated as a long-standing setter for the national team but was sidelined for a long time due to injury.

Park was drafted by Heungkuk Life with the fifth pick of the first round in the 2020-2021 rookie draft and made the leap to the starting setter in her second year.

She progressed so well that she was called up to the national women’s volleyball team last year, but an unexpected cartilage tear in her right knee put her on the operating table.

Park, who played her first regular season match in a year and nine months on March 21 against GS Caltex, looked like she had been waiting for the first set.

She energized the game by actively utilizing fastballs, and she also stood out for her three blocked shots using her 177-centimeter height.

She also added five points by fooling her blocker with a toss and then attacking straight away.

“I wasn’t told beforehand that I was going to start today,” Park said after the game, “but I thought, ‘If I go out there, I’ll do it confidently.

“I was worried because I hadn’t played with my sisters in such a detailed way for a long time, but there were some parts of the game that worked. I will continue to show more synchronization in the future.”

Park didn’t let go of volleyball during her long rehabilitation.

“I watched every single volleyball,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “At the beginning of my rehabilitation, I thought it was a shame that I wasn’t there, but I only focused on recovering and coming back quickly.”

“I cried a lot, but I held it together. I was really happy,” she added.

Captain Kim Yeon-kyung gave Park Hye-jin a boost when she returned to the court after a long absence.

“She gave me some technical advice and told me to be confident when I wasn’t,” Park said. The other sisters on the court did the same. They all supported me a lot, so I was able to hold on.”

With main setter Lee Won-jeong sidelined for a while due to COVID-19, Park Hye-jin, who has filled in admirably, is expected to get more playing time this season.

“Today was a 7 out of 10 game,” Park said. I had a lot of desire to show,” she said, adding, “I’m a long setter, so my height is an advantage, so I wanted to be aggressive.” 토토