(LEAD) (Asiad) S. Korea qualifies for 2nd round of men’s volleyball after defeating Cambodia

South Korea made it to the next knockout stage in the men's volleyball tournament at the Asian Games in China after beating Cambodia on Thursday.

In the team's second Pool C match at Linping Sports Centre Gymnasium in Hangzhou, the 27th-ranked South Korea earned a 3-0 (25-23, 25-13, 25-15) victory against Cambodia, which is too low to be ranked on the world's volleyball ranking system.

It is the team's first win at the continental tournament, which kicks off Saturday for a 16-day run, after suffering a stunning 3-2 upset by 73rd-ranked India the previous day.

"Yesterday, our players felt pressure in their first test of the tournament. We suffered many errors," head coach Im Do-hun told reporters after the match, recalling the painful loss to India.

"Today, the Cambodian players unexpectedly executed strong serves and that embarrassed our players. But they overcame it well and regained their rhythm for the remaining sets."

With the win, South Korea finished second in Pool C in the preliminary group stage and took a berth for the next 12-team knockout round. India won the group with two wins, while Cambodia was eliminated after two losses.

South Korea will take on 51st-ranked Pakistan, who topped Pool D after two straight wins, on Friday for a quarterfinal berth Sunday. If everything goes well, South Korea will play semis on Monday and the final on Tuesday.

South Korean men have reached the volleyball podium at every Asiad since 1966, bagging 15 medals in total. South Korea won silver behind Iran in 2018.

After winning the tight first set 25-23, South Korea brought about an easy 25-13 win in the second set on blocks and opponents' errors.

The third set was also smooth for Korea, starting with an early 3-0 lead. It extended the lead to 16-9 on two aces by middle blocker Kim Min-jae, and its powerful attacks led by outside hitters Jung Ji-seok and Jeong Han-young helped the country seal the match at 25-15.

Jung, who missed Wednesday's opener due to back pain, was the country's most effective weapon with 11 points, including one ace and two blocks, while his teammate, Kim Min-jae, scored 10 points, including two aces.

He said the pain troubled him again in the middle of the third set even though he had taken pain medication before the match.

"The pain subsided but I'm not out of the woods yet," he said. "But I think it's good to have better results today than yesterday."

Jung, who won the player of the year award for the 2020-21 season in South Korea's pro volleyball league, said he is so desperate to win the gold medal at this year's Asian Games in China, after worse-than-expected performances of South Korean volleyball in international competitions.

"I brought the bronze medal that our team had won at the Asian Volleyball Challenger Cup in July to remind myself of the failure," said the 28-year old, adding that he hung the medal on the doorknob of his room in the Athletes' Village. "Every time I see this bronze, I get angry and brace myself up again."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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