Ngoc Hoa, a volleyball pioneer of Vietnam

Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hoa can't stand still throughout a match. She walks along the court and screams, telling players to take the right positions and what shots to make.

Ngoc Hoa, a volleyball pioneer of Vietnam
Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hoa (No 20) plays under the jersey of Bangkok Glass during the 2016 FIVB Women's Club World Championship. — Photo of FIVB

Sometimes it looks like she wants to jump onto the court to compete with her players at the ongoing National Volleyball Championship in Ha Tinh Province.

Hoa is enjoying her debut as deputy head coach of the VTV Binh Dien Long An club, a new chapter in the career of Vietnam’s best volleyballer.

A volleyball talent

Born in 1987 in Long An Province, Hoa was scouted to be a volleyballer at the age of 12. As the youngest member of the Long An team (now VTV Binh Dien Long An), Hoa had to work hard to catch up with her older teammates.

However, the talented girl soon proved she was better than anyone.

She not only quickly secured a spot in the first team of the club but just needed four years to make her name in the national team and the 16-year-old was one of Vietnam's at the 22nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Hanoi in 2003.

From that milestone, Hoa was the key middle blocker for her club and country for 15 years, setting records with four national championship titles, seven SEA Games silvers and one bronze.

Hoa was not only a good attacker but also a smart blocker and was a master of reading the game.

She was named Best Middle Blocker in the 23rd SEA Games in 2005. In 2007, she was Best Blocker and Best Scorer at the Asian Women’s Club Volleyball Cup.

Her presence on the court always made her teammates more confident thanks to her playmaking ability.

“Hoa is a rare talented player of Vietnam. She has reached Asian level,” said former national coach Nguyen Manh Hung.

Head coach of Binh Dien Long An Nguyen Quoc Vu said it is impossible to account for what his skipper has contributed to the club during her more one and a half-decade period there.

A volleyball statue

Ngoc Hoa, a volleyball pioneer of Vietnam
Captain Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hoa in the national team jersey. She is good not only on attack but also in defend. — Photo bongchuyen.vn

Hoa has been retired from competition for more than one year but her name still carries weight in volleyball locally and regionally.

 

The former national captain has been called the woman who introduced Vietnamese volleyball to the world.

In 2013, four-time national champion Hoa made a turning point in not only her career but also in Vietnam’s history as she became the first Vietnamese volleyball player to compete for a foreign club.

Following her, other players have since received offers from international clubs.

Hoa was offered a one-year deal to play for Ayutthaya A.T.C.C of Thailand and she helped the club finish in third place overall and was voted as the best middle blocker of the Thai League. They then won the Super League trophy.

She then moved to Bangkok Glass where she and many Thai national team members lifted the Thai League in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Hoa made a unique achievement as the only Vietnamese volleyball player to win two national titles of two different countries.

As the national champion, Bangkok Glass represented Thailand at Vietnam’s 2015 Asian Club Championship where they took the top podium, making Hoa the first Vietnamese to have an Asian gold medal. She also secured the Best Middle Blocker title of the competition.

The victory brought Bangkok Glass a slot in the Philippines’ 2016 FIVB Women's Club World Championship, making 1.83m Hoa the first and only Vietnamese at that global tournament.

Bangkok Glass finished in seventh position but with her impressive performances, Hoa, coming from an unfamiliar country to world of volleyball was mentioned repeatedly by FIVB commentators alongside world stars during the event.

With her contribution to the Thai League, Hoa was one of two Vietnamese listed as best foreign female players by SMMSPORT, a local sports website, in an article in May.

SMMSPORT described Hoa as a player with excellent playing skills in both back and front lines with good blocks. She helped Ayutthaya win the Super League and became a leading player of the league with her key role in Bangkok Glass’s consistent wins.

2018 was the last season Hoa played for the national team. A year later, she finally left the court “to leave room for younger and more talented players” at her club.

Her goal now is to help Binh Dien Long An win a championship title this year.

“I have prepared everything to become a coach. I am really interested in and excited with the new job,” said Hoa who will not refuse to play again if her club needs. “My life is all for volleyball and I will do my job the best way.”  VNS

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