“I was actually very nervous,” says 19-year-old ‘Hidden Card’ Kim Sara, who fooled her commander.

Nineteen-year-old setter Kim Sa-ra, in her second year with the team, stepped up in the absence of star setter Kim Da-in.

Hyundai E&C came from behind to defeat Heungkuk Life 3-1 (23-25, 25-23, 25-16, 25-20) in straight sets in their 2023-24 Dodram V League Women’s Division match at the Samsan World Gymnasium in Incheon on Tuesday.

Before the match, Hyundai E&C was concerned about the absence of star player Kim Dain. “Kim Dain has the flu,” said Hyundai E&C head coach Kang Sung-hyung, “She is currently in quarantine and will miss today’s match.”

One of the cards Kang played was Kim Sarang. Kim graduated from Hanbom High School in February and was the first pick in the second round of the 2022-23 rookie draft. She appeared in seven games last season and four this season, but only briefly as a substitute. “She doesn’t have a lot of speed or movement, but she has a stable toss,” Kang said. Her timing is also good,” Kang said, adding, “It will be difficult for her to lead (the game) all by herself. We’ll make substitutions at the right time.”

Kim Sara distributed the ball until the end, except for the middle of the first set.

Coach Kang Sung-hyung said after the match, “(Kim) Sarang played well without being nervous. She was the hidden card,” he praised. “If you’re nervous, you’re bound to make mistakes, but she had a strong serve,” he said, adding, “She didn’t deceive her opponent with the toss, but she played well to the best of her ability.”

In an official interview afterward, Kim Sara said she was “very nervous” after hearing her commander’s story. It was his first start since his professional debut. “I was notified two days ago to prepare for the start, and I was nervous the whole time,” she said. “I think I was more nervous because Heungkuk Life is a strong team and has a big gym.” She tossed the ball to her sisters without showing any signs of nervousness that would fool even the commander.

Hyundai E&C lost the momentum after being blocked five times in the first set. The youngest setter was not unaware of the situation. “I played a little poorly in the first set, but I tried to forget about it quickly,” Kim Sara said, “I think trusting my older sisters had a good effect.” “I tried not to pay attention to it during the match,” she said of the loud cheers from the Heungkuk Life home fans.

Kim Sara utilized a variety of offensive routes on the day. Moma Vasoco Leticia (registered as Moma) scored a team-high 24 points, while Yang Hyo-jin and Wipawi Sithong (registered as Wipawi) added 15 and 14 points, respectively. Lee Da-hyun added seven points. “We don’t play together often, so I was wondering about it, but I could tell that (Kim) Sarangi was trying to do her part,” Yang Hyo-jin said.

With the win, Hyundai E&C improved to 40 points (13-4) and moved into a tie for second place with Heungkuk Life (36 points). The team rode a nine-game winning streak that began against IBK on March 16. They haven’t lost in over a month and are on a high.

“When I was a kid, I watched Hyundai E&C’s games and thought I wanted to play for them,” said Kim Sara. “It’s strange to be playing as part of a team. I will do my best to help Hyundai E&C win the championship in the future.”

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