TEMPE, Ariz.—Members of the Arizona State volleyball team spent the summer of 2014 honing their skills in preparation for the upcoming season, including incoming junior Whitney Follette, who represented ASU on the Pac-12 All-Star Team that toured through China in June.
Follette, On The Overall Experience In China:
It was a fantastic experience playing internationally with players from the Pac-12, exhausting and took me out of my comfort zone, but so worth it. I was very excited and really enjoyed playing with the other student-athletes. They are an awesome group of girls who made every situation, no matter how uncomfortable, fun and enjoyable.
Favorite Part On The Court:
My favorite part on the court was probably talking in English and knowing that the other team had no idea what we were saying and vice versa. It was neat to be somewhere totally immersed in a culture playing a sport so familiar to me yet in such an unfamiliar setting. I loved watching this one team, I think it was the Chinese Junior National Team, whenever they got a big kill or point, they would run around in a big circle to celebrate. I loved it!
Favorite Part Off The Court:
Seeing the sights was amazing. The Great Wall was the highlight of my trip closely ahead of seeing the Forbidden City. Learning the history behind those places and the Tiananmen Square was incredible! It seems so far away and so irrelevant being home in America, but being there in the places where such history and meaning stands was awe-inspired.
Also the Bird's Nest and Water Cube and Olympic Park were very cool to see! I don't think I've really been to any Olympic Park that has held the Olympics since I've been alive so that was cool. Makes me want to go see them or participate in them some day, every more than I had before.
The way the locals stared at us in awe everywhere we went. Honestly, we would be standing on the "bench" at our games and people who just come up to about two feet away from us and take our picture, while we aren't even looking. Like we would be watching the game doing nothing interesting at all and they would take our photo. That's just one example, standing in line at the airport, this guy took a video of us doing absolutely nothing. It was amazing to say the least.
The Most Challenging Aspect Of The Trip:
Probably having to learn extremely quickly how the other girls played. Everyone has their own individual ways of finding energy, being a teammate, preparing for a game etc., so to make all of these things mesh as well as we could to perform our best was pretty challenging. Our coach didn't put a ton of pressure on us to win, there wasn't a ton of pressure for the outcome, but we all obviously wanted to play our best and beat a team if we knew we could. There would be a great sense of defeat losing against a team who we had previously won against, which said a lot about the character and fight that our team had.
Another really challenging thing was fatigue and exhaustion from traveling and sightseeing. In order to see everything we saw, we had to use the time we were given. Which means each day would usually consist of a sight and a game, so especially towards the end of the trip we found it very hard to play with a lot of energy after walking around all day at a market or the Forbidden City or whatever we saw that day.
How the Summer Has Advanced Her Skills:
This summer has advanced my skills by being able to adjust and adapt to new situations quickly. We didn't work too much on skills because that wasn't the focus of the trip, but the experience of playing with different players and very good ones always pushes an athlete to be better.
What She Learned That Will Help Her Fellow Sun Devils To Become Stronger Athletes:
Well I have learned tendencies of other players that we will play against in the fall, which is a bonus. Something I really admired and noticed about one of my teammates in China was here fight and heart. They played hard defensively and offensively every point and didn't stop until we won. I think that's something I can take to my team and know that that is something I will be competing against during season. I want to have the same fire and encourage my teammates to do the same.
What She Learned From Teammate Macey Gardner, Who Traveled To China With The Pac-12 All-Star Team In 2013:
Hearing from Macey about the trip made me extremely excited. I knew that last year when I found out she was going it was something I wanted to do. She told me some little things like what kind of clothes to bring, to make sure I had toilet paper/kleenex with me at all times, and to bring an empty duffle bag to bring stuff back in because they did a lot of shopping. It was great talking to my best friend about preparing for a similar experience she had the previous summer and really awesome that she was able to share in my excitement and nervousness.
Macey had to leave a little bit early from the trip last year, so she unfortunately missed the Great Wall and some other things. But we also stayed in different cities for the first week, and this was when our team got to go caving and hiking up to a temple. Seeing the temple was very cool because it was more of the cultural authentic side of China that wasn't so evident in Beijing.
The Arizona State volleyball team opens the 2014 season at the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational, Aug. 29-31, in Manoa, Hawaii. ASU will play its first home match, an exhibition against Canada’s Mount Royal University, on Thursday, Sept. 4, at 7 p.m. PT.