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The Kentucky volleyball team's time in China is running short, so the Wildcats navigated a packed schedule on Tuesday.
The morning began with breakfast before UK's final match in China. Facing a Beijing team that featured former AVCA Player of the Year and Oregon outside hitter Alaina Bergsma, the Cats dropped a tough one.
Last match of the trip tmrw morning vs #7 team in China pro league, Hyundai Beijing. #UKVBtoChina-- Craig Skinner (@UKCoachSkinner) June 2, 2014
Next competition after Beijing?...Aug 29th, 1st match of '14 season in Memorial w full roster including Ashley, Darian, and Kaz. Can't wait!-- Craig Skinner (@UKCoachSkinner) June 2, 2014
In the evening, the Cats gathered for a closing dinner at an Italian restaurant to recap the trip and say thank you to the hosts and guides who made it all possible. On Wednesday, it's back to America. UK's flight will leave in the afternoon and, oddly, land in Chicago around the same time.
We should have more on the trip in the coming days and weeks, but this will be the last official entry from an incredible experience for the UK volleyball team. Thank you for following along!
Before we let you go, check out this video from a couple days ago of UK's karaoke night.
The Wildcats toured Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and shopped at the Silk Market in an informative day for the team. Taking advantage of the more the 1,700 retail vendors, the Cats bought plenty of keepsakes from the trip and gifts for friends and family.
Afterward, it was time for some rest because UK has a big day ahead on Monday. The Cats will tour the Great Wall and visit the Olympic Village from the 2008 games.
Have an exciting day to look forward to tomorrow in Beijing: Great Wall, Olympic Village, and Bird's Nest #ukvbtochina-- Lauren O'Conner (@LaurenOC12) June 1, 2014
Adjust they did.
It started against Hebei, the same team that downed the Cats on Tuesday, 3-1. On Friday, UK reversed that tally with a 3-1 victory. Sara Schwarzwalder and Shelby Workman led the way, with Workman tallying a team high in kills and hitting over .300.
UK sustained the momentum on Saturday. In spite of falling behind two sets to one, the Cats rallied to victory. Their coach was pleased with the way his team battled in Zhangjiakou, while the players couldn't help but notice a group of fans in attendance.
Good win for us today in 5 sets after being down 1-2. Mentally we wavered, but pushed through at the end. #UKVBtoChina-- Craig Skinner (@UKCoachSkinner) May 31, 2014
We finished the tournament 2-2, winning the last two.Very good competition & close matches.Definitely a good experience for us #UKVBtoChina-- Craig Skinner (@UKCoachSkinner) May 31, 2014
Playing against professionals in this tournament was invaluable. They will not give you anything. It's all earned.-- Craig Skinner (@UKCoachSkinner) May 31, 2014
This trip continues to amaze me. The team just had friendly scrimmage w a local club.Prob 30-40 media including 2 TV stations. #UKVBtoChina-- Craig Skinner (@UKCoachSkinner) May 31, 2014
We legit had a Chinese biker gang come to our match...😳😎-- Kelsey Wolf (@bigbad_wolf21) May 31, 2014
I didn't wake up this morning thinking we would play a match in front of a Chinese motorcycle gang...but it happened. #UKVBtoChina-- Anders Nelson (@VBDers) May 31, 2014
The Cats managed to sneak in some sightseeing around their matches, going for an evening hike.
UK's cultural exchange trip to China is now about to enter its final leg. The Cats will travel to Beijing for a three-day stop before they head home on June 4.
So excited to go to Beijing tomorrow!-- Lauren O'Conner (@LaurenOC12) May 31, 2014
And after Beijing means 🏠 😁☺️-- Lauren O'Conner (@LaurenOC12) May 31, 2014
The Wildcats traveled six hours through the Yin Mountains to Zhangjiakou. The city is still home to nearly a million people, but Zhangjiakou is much more remote. Once the Cats arrived and got settled, they went for a hike on which they saw parts of the Great Wall and a garden with statues of all the Chinese zodiac signs.
For dinner, the Cats spent time with the three teams they'll be competing with in Zhangjiakou. It was a chilly night, so all four squads joined together for a post-dinner bonfire that featured dancing and karaoke.
Our team did an amazing job crossing the language barrier last night w the pro teams...singing and dancing at the bonfire. #UKVBtoChina— Craig Skinner (@UKCoachSkinner) May 30, 2014
@UKCoachSkinner Completely awesome!— Kelli Elam (@klelam) May 29, 2014
On Friday, the Cats will rematch with Hebei in front of what is expected to be a big crowd. Continue to check UKVBtoChina.com for updates.
As the Wildcats continue their cultural exchange trip to China, they went to a small town outside of Baoding to visit a museum. The museum was entirely dedicated to the tunnel system the Chinese built to avoid Japan's invasion during the Second Sino-Japanese War, which took place before and eventually as part of World War II.
The museum even afforded the Cats the opportunity to walk through one of the tunnels for more than a half-mile. With the majority of players and coaches standing over six feet tall, they all learned the tunnel system was not built for a volleyball team.
Later on Wednesday evening, the Cats returned to more familiar surroundings for a match against Hebei, another team from the Chinese Volleyball League. In an environment similar to Tuesday's, UK fell, 3-1, in spite of playing well. Lauren O'Conner was the headliner, tallying 19 kills and 23 total points, but the experience of Hebei was too much to overcome even as Jackie Napper and Alyssa Gergins turned in solid matches.
On Thursday, more travel is in store for the team as the Cats will depart Baoding for Zhangjiakou. Continue to check in on UKVBtoChina.com for updates.
Got an early morning tomorrow headed to Zhangjiako, our last city before we go to Beijing! 🏯🇨🇳🉐 #UKVBtoChina-- Lauren O'Conner (@LaurenOC12) May 28, 2014
On Tuesday, the Wildcats took on the Henan team from the Chinese Volleyball League. The result -- a 3-1 loss -- didn't end up going their way, but the match was extremely competitive.
Lauren O'Conner and Morgan Bergren were standouts, thriving in a loud environment for the evening match. UK and Henan played on campus at a local university in Baoding in front of a loud, volleyball-savvy crowd comprised of nearly all students. Check out the two videos below to get a glimpse of the environment.
The rest of the day, the Cats took it easy, relaxing at their hotel and making a quick walk to a nearby mall in Baoding.
We've had limited access to Twitter, but the trip to China has been incredible so far. Truly a once in a lifetime experience! #UKVBtoChina-- Kentucky Volleyball (@KentuckyVB) May 27, 2014