July 13, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.--Lobo volleyball student-athletes Hannah Johnson and Elsa Krieg, and assistant coach Lisa Beauchene recently returned from a 13-day excursion to China where they played six matches against three of China's top professional teams. The UNM trio traveled with 24 other players and coaches through the Bring It Promotions/USA Volleyball Global Challenge, a development program organized by BIP and supported by USAV.
The three Lobos landed back in Albuquerque late Thursday night and were back to work in Johnson Gym on Friday coaching at UNM's Advanced Skills Camp. All three admitted they were putting forth extra effort to push through jet lag, but they were eager to share the highlights of their experience--competitive volleyball, incredible sights and a renewed appreciation for home.
The journey began in the United States at the American Sports Complex in Anaheim, Calif., home of the USA National Teams. All who were traveling to China assembled for two days of training before flying overseas. The players were split in to two squads--The All-Star team (USA Blue) and the Development team (USA Red). Both Johnson and Krieg were placed on the All-Star team, and Beauchene served as the assistant coach, working with Kyle Robinson, head coach at Long Island University. The All-Stars were comprised of seven players with professional experience (six of which were All-Americans) and five collegiate players.
Despite the impressive pedigree of the "USA All-Stars," as their Chinese hosts insisted on calling them, the team lost all six of its matches--three in Tianjin ("Tin-gin') and three in Beijing--managing to win just one set. The professional Chinese teams play a very fast and efficient style of play, which all three Lobos agreed was an unexpected discovery.
"It was very challenging, even for the professional players on our team that have played at that level," Beauchene said.
It seemed like the Chinese teams didn't have a weakness--they hit hard, had perfect or at least playable passes and were solid from behind the service line. No top-spin serves--just solid floaters.
"There were only a few that did jump float serves," Krieg, a sophomore, said. "Most of them just stood behind the line and hit it right at you as hard as they could."
Johnson, a redshirt freshman, said the teams they played used quick, trick plays that caught the All-Stars off guard at first, but eventually they were able to adjust to the spastic play.
Both Krieg and Johnson played a fair amount and agreed they got a lot out of the experience volleyball-wise.
Johnson was the setter for the set that the All-Stars won and Krieg excelled at the net--recording as many as six blocks in one set, and at the service line.
The fast-paced play called for heightened focus on the opposing teams' hitters.
"You really have to stay disciplined and you have to watch what is going on instead of trying to guess," Krieg explained. "Lisa B (Beauchene) kept telling me to stay disciplined and balanced."
Learning from the competition was another important part of the volleyball experience.
"For me, watching the setter on the other side [was helpful]," Johnson said. "She had great ball control, she knew who she was going to set. She ran her offense really well and it helped me to think about how I could run my offense with the team in China and how I should run it back here with our hitters at UNM."
Beauchene, too, felt the trip benefited her.
"It was a good experience coaching talented and athletic U.S. players and working through playing against the Chinese offense," Beauchene said.
Off the court, the All-Stars had some opportunities to visit some of China's biggest attractions - The Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, to name a few. The group didn't get to tour any of the facilities used for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but they drove by the Bird's Nest and Olympic Park.
From the comforts of UNM volleyball's team room, the Lobos expressed a renewed appreciation for home.
"It was a culture shock," Krieg said of her time in China.
Johnson agreed and added: "It makes us feel very grateful for what we have here in the States."
The student-athletes described some of the restrictions in China that people in the United States don't really think twice about.
"We have the right to buy a car whenever we want--they have to be in a lottery to get a car and they can only drive their car certain days of the week," Johnson explained. "They have to pay for their housing by the square meter; it's very expensive."
Even something as common as a bathroom was a cultural experience for the American tourists as the commonplace commode was a rarity and finding a real toilet there was a luxury.
To learn more about Bring It Promotions/USA Volleyball Development, click here.
Johnson and Krieg and the rest of the Lobo volleyball squad officially begin practice on Aug. 9.
Other Lobos on the move this summer...
Chantale Riddle participated in the 2012 U.S. National Women's A2 Program in Columbus, Ohio June 26-July 4. The redshirt sophomore was one among 48 of the nation's top returning collegiate players to participate in the program. The group assembled and spent two full days training before splitting in to teams for a round robin tournament. Riddle's team went 4-1 in match play.
Lobo junior libero Miquella Lovato is currently in Croatia on a Global Challenge tour and will return in roughly a week and a half.