For the past week, Missouri volleyball has hosted a team from BeiHang University of Beijing. The visit is part two of an exchange system between BeiHang University and MU.
In May of 2005, the Tigers spent ten days in China with the BeiHang players. They are returning the hospitality with a week of planned activities that will culminate in a free exhibition game tonight at 6:30 at Hearnes Center. An autograph session will follow the game.
“We got to go over there and they got to show us everything that they were about and their university,” said MU’s Tatum Ailes. “So now we get to let them come here and show them what the U.S. is about, and what Missouri is all about.”
BeiHang’s Missouri experience thus far has included a quick look at St. Louis upon arrival, a day trip to Kansas City for shopping and the Worlds of Fun amusement park, and a day at the Lake of the Ozarks. They have also toured the campus, had several scrimmages with MU, and made appearances at Paxton and Smithton middle schools. Before tonight’s exhibition match, there will also be a free youth volleyball clinic beginning at 4:30 p.m. at Hearnes Center.
Even before the spring season began, the Tigers were eagerly awaiting BeiHang’s arrival.
“I’m really excited. It will be fun to get to see them again,” said senior Nicole Wilson.
Many of the same players whom the Tigers met in China are a part of the team that has been touring Columbia.
The Tigers said that while they were in China, communication was challenging. “There were like one, or maybe two girls who knew English on the team, but they caught a few words or the gist,” said Wilson.
Although Wilson said that the Tigers attempted to learn some basic phrases before going
overseas, Ailes said that their mediator still wound up with a sore throat.
Though communicating across the cultural barrier is not always easy for the players and staff alike, it is facilitated by one thing.
“The game of volleyball is really kind of our middleman,” said senior Jessica Vander Kooi. “We both understand how to play volleyball and what goes on, just because volleyball in China isn’t any different than it is here.”
The Tigers found the intensity of training, however, to be slightly different.
“Volleyball is big in China, or it seems big over there,” said Ailes. “When they go to school, they usually go for sports, so it’s like their specialty.”
She added that because the sport has such a following in China, it was fun to play for the crowd. “We were like celebrities,” she said.
The trip not only provided the Tigers with a chance to understand their sport from the perspective of another culture, but it also expanded their understanding of their own teammates from China, Lei Wang, Na Yang and Yi Zhang.
“I think we understand our Chinese players a lot better now that we’ve kind of experience where they’re from,” Ailes said.
The exhibition match is the final competition of the Tigers’ spring season. So far they have traveled to tournaments hosted by the University of San Diego and the University of Arkansas, and MU remains undefeated. Although spring results have no bearing on their overall record, the Tigers do use the matches to assess what improvements need to be made over the summer before the start of the fall season.