April 13, 2017
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Competitors want to win every time they take the floor.
But sometimes they can win even if the scoreboard says otherwise.
On Tuesday afternoon at O’Keefe Gym, Georgia Tech volleyball lost a match to Beijing Volleyball Club, 3-1, but the Jackets had no doubt that they came out winners.
“I think it was a very good volleyball match, a low-error, clean match and I think we did really well. I would say everybody played well today,” said Tech head coach Michelle Collier. “I think that we really challenged a very good team. Our middles were very, very efficient. Our passing and defense played really well. I was very pleased with what I saw today.
“We knew that they were a very experienced team, they’re a team that plays in the Chinese Professional League,” Collier added. “So we knew that it was going to be some good volleyball, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players to be around something like this. It was good to have an opportunity to play some really, really high-level volleyball. I think the girls took full advantage of it.”
Beijing Volleyball features 2016 Rio Olympics gold medalists Zeng Chunlei, the captain of China’s National Team in 2015 and Liu Xiaotong, although Chuneli didn’t make the trip to the U.S. The team is touring the United States and Georgia Tech was one of seven stops.
They played against Georgia and Kennesaw State, and will take on Colorado State, UCLA, Cal Baptist and the U.S. National Team on a tour arranged by Bring It USA, which arranges foreign tours like this. Collier couldn’t resist the opportunity to participate.
“They asked if we had availability to play a team from China that was coming into the United States and touring and it worked out with our dates and we were able to make it happen,” Collier said. “So it was pretty cool. We talked about, ‘Hey, let’s just go out there and have some fun, play some volleyball and just enjoy the opportunity.’”
The Yellow Jackets not only enjoyed the opportunity but made a strong impression on their opponents.
“This was the best match so far on this tour,” said Liu, speaking through Georgia Tech Swimming and Diving Assistant Coach Yun Qu. “I was very impressed with the Georgia Tech team defense. I’m a good hitter and no matter how hard I hit it the ladies got it. They defended very well.”
After overcoming some early jitters, they were able to go toe-to-toe with the more experienced Chinese.
“I think that the first game we were a little scared, a little shaky,” said Collier. “But I think that once we figured out that we could play with them and relaxed, I think that we took full advantage of the opportunity. We went after it, we played hard, and we had fun. It was a really neat experience for them to be a part of.”
“We were definitely a little nervous, a little jittery just kind of a getting in the groove, seeing what’s going to come over the net you don’t really know, each team is different, a little bit different style,” said freshman Libero/Defensive Specialist Emily Becker. “I’m still a freshman so I’m still figuring it out, so I would definitely say I was a little bit nervous going into it. It was really, really awesome. It was fun to kind of go out there and figure it out and see what was going on, try and adapt as quickly as possible and just have fun. That was kind of the whole point of this. We work hard in the spring but it’s about these opportunities. Just having fun and putting into play what we’ve been doing in practice. It was really an awesome opportunity.”
It was an opportunity they’re sure will make them better.
“The fact that we were able to respond and play them the way we did, it tells me that we’re doing something really good here,” said Collier. “It’s exciting.”
“I’m really excited about what’s to come,” said Becker. “We have a lot of great talent coming in and we’ve got a solid base here. Michelle is very adamant about the fact that this isn’t a rebuilding year. We don’t need to take a step back. We just want to keep pushing on what we established this past season. I’m definitely excited for what’s to come.
“I think this was kind of a fun, little way to get a confidence boost,” she added. “We were playing against women that have Olympic gold medals. So just knowing that we can hang and that when we work hard and we put it all out there and not worry about it too much, just do what we know how to do, that we can compete with anyone and we can play really high-level volleyball. I think we needed that as we’re wrapping up spring here. We can ball.”