Aug. 7, 2012
Kelly and Chelsea in China
ATHENS, Ohio - This summer, two Ohio Volleyball sophomores, Chelsea Bilger and Kelly Lamberti traveled to China for the Bring It Promotions/USA Volleyball Global Challenge. The duo were part of a team that played six matches over 13 days against three of China's top professional teams.
With one suitcase and backpack apiece, Lamberti and Bilger departed on the first leg of their journey: a five-hour plane ride from Chicago to the American Sports Complex in Anaheim, Calif., home of the USA National Teams.
The two Bobcats were selected, along with student-athletes from Northern Illinois, Clemson, Minnesota, Villanova, Arkansas and Virginia Tech to comprise the developmental squad (USA Red) for six matches, three in Tianjin and three in Beijing.
"Overall, I'd say it was positive experience," Lamberti said. "We were able to interact with a lot of people that we now correspond with that attend other universities and colleges. This was also my first time traveling outside the United States, visiting another country."
Both players spoke about the difficulty of the Chinese attack. The professional teams they played were not only fast, but efficient, making the adjustment tough.
"I thought it was beneficial as a player to see the Chinese teams play. The intensity with which they play is amazing and they are constantly at that high level," Bilger added. "I think just seeing a whole different type of volleyball, a different type of game was helpful. You see how disciplined they are and it leads to their sharpness and consistency on the court.
As Bilger notes, learning from the competition was another important part of the volleyball experience.
"Skill wise, I think my passing had to improve the most over the trip because their style of serving was super aggressive. The teams we faced definitely helped me come back in this preseason and be more confident with our, Ohio's, passing game."
Off the court, the duo had some opportunities to visit some of China's biggest attractions - The Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square - along with a boat tour of Tianjin and a couple museums. This helped them immerse themselves in the Chinese culture and really get a true feeling of their surroundings.
"Everyone was really friendly to us and happy that we came to play," Lamberti said. "They just seemed to enjoy the fact that we were taking the time to learn about them and the nation's culture."
"I think as an American, we don't see that enough," Bilger added. "Some European countries I've visited, the people were a little cold, but the Chinese were very welcoming and helpful the entire time."
Now back in the U.S. the two players have new found appreciation for things both on and off the court heading into this season.
"I learned how much hard work you have to put in to get playing time," Lamberti stated. "I never really had to sit before on any level so I got to experience a new perspective and actually watch the game. I also think I learned to be more vocal, which was something I needed to improve upon last season. I know I didn't bring all the energy I had when I was a freshman. This year as a sophomore, I think I can say more to my teammates."
Bilger agreed with her teammate that not being able to just suit up and play was the difficult aspect of the trip. However, she felt that the time spent on the sideline was also beneficial.
"Easily, the most difficult thing was fighting for a spot. I never really had to experience that before. It certainly made me appreciate playing and really ignited something inside me to do well."
Being back in Athens now with the start of camp today, both players were thankful for the valuable lessons learned and the time spent together.
"I am very fortunate to have been given the chance to play overseas," Lamberti said. "Having Chelsea with me was fantastic because we kept encouraging one another to go above and beyond."
"We had a lot of fun but both came away with a feeling that we can do better at Ohio than we did last year," Bilger added. "I think this experience has reignited our passion for the game and I hope that, and our ability, can help our team succeed this season."