The following blog was written by 10th-year head coach Ruben Volta, one day after the Hornet volleyball squad returned from its 11-day tour of China. Recaps, photo galleries and player blogs from every day of the trip can also be found below. All 16 players on the 2016-17 roster went to China, and each had a blog during the trip.
What an incredible 11-day trip to China. First, I would like to thank Debby Colberg who took a risk in hiring Weidi Zhang, a volleyball coach from China that she knew little about and who spoke no English. If it wasn't for that hire, Weidi would never have been a part of our lives, and I often wonder if I would have chose this career path if it weren't for the influence Weidi had on me, as he was my coach. Not to mention the impact Debby has had on my career as well.
Debby, Weidi and I shared an office for seven years, and had always discussed the idea of bringing a team to China. Thanks to all of the boosters and friends of the program who helped make this trip a reality. But I also want to send a special thank you to all the alumni who not only attended the alumni game, but also helped support our spaghetti feed fundraiser. Many of the alumni sent in donations, often times with a note mentioning how jealous they were about the trip and excited for our current players.
Our trip got off to a rough start with a couple of players uncharacteristically showing up a few minutes late and one forgetting a backpack. Thank goodness she lived close. The real scare came at the San Francisco airport waiting to check in. A misplaced passport had us all very worried for about 15 minutes.
Upon arrival in Shanghai, I will never forget hearing Weidi yell my name and see how truly excited he was that we had arrived. Our players were equally happy and excited to see Weidi. I was struck by how much our team loves Weidi and sensed how happy he was to have us in Shanghai.
China has a rich volleyball tradition and is considered a volleyball powerhouse. In China, the sport of volleyball is played at an early age. Starting with the sport school, where kids begin playing at six years old (using a regulation ball, not a lite ball) to youth professional teams, senior professional teams and Universities. There is no shortage in great competition to play.
During the trip, our team showed great improvement at times, and flat out fatigue at other times. It became clear the impact our seniors had on our success the last couple of seasons, but it was also clear we have a very talented group of players returning. This trip and the competition we faced really helped us go through some much-needed growing pains. We battled through some injuries before and during the trip, and time and time again, we found ourselves fighting and competing against some very experienced teams. I was excited to see our growth over the course of six matches we played in China, and feel the opportunity to play such quality teams has helped us prepare for the fall.
This was so much more than a normal volleyball trip. We packed in every sightseeing opportunity and immersed ourselves in the Chinese culture - from museums to cuisine, playing volleyball or singing with children and walking through crowded downtown areas where our players were constantly approached and asked to take pictures with total strangers. We did it all, and with little rest.
I would never handle a normal volleyball competition day the way we approached it in China. For example, in the United States, I would never expect my team to be excited to have McDonalds as a pregame meal, an hour before our match and after walking around the Olympic village in 100 degree heat. And all of this was done the morning after our massive climb to the top of the Great Wall. In addition, we would never skip a pregame meal because our players, very respectfully, could not rush themselves through the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum.
It was very moving to see how our players conducted themselves over the course of the 11 days. They never complained about anything and really enjoyed taking it all in. I was deeply moved the morning Weidi had to leave. He had to cut his trip a day early and was leaving early in the morning. The entire team got up to send him off, and, after he thanked our team for fulfilling his dream, there was barely a dry eye in the group. What an amazing trip. Again, thank you so much for your help and support to make the trip happen.
Lastly, thank you to our tour guide Chen Qi (Chris Chen). We could not have had a better person on this Earth to show us around.
Day 11 Recap/Player Blog (Kennedy Kurtz)
Day 10 Recap/Player Blog (Madeline Cannon)
Day 9 Recap/Player Blogs (Hannah Meadows/Skyler Takeda)
Day 8 Recap/Player Blog (Brigitte Murdock)
Day 7 Recap/Player Blogs (Lana Brown/Brie Gathright)
Day 6 Recap/Player Blog (Courtney Dietrich)
Day 5 Recap/Player Blogs (Morgan Stanley/Mikaela Nocetti)
Day 4 Recap/Player Blogs (Shannon Boyle/Sarah Davis)
Day 3 Recap/Player Blog (Lexie Skalbeck)
Day 1-2 Recap/Player Blogs (Paige Swinney/Julia Wright/Erin Cochran)