May 20, 2008

Result Doesn't Match Effort In China Tour Finale

May 20, 2008

SHANGHAI, China -- Northern Colorado's volleyball team Tuesday afternoon saved its best match for last on this tour through Eastern China.

That may seem like an implausible statement -- especially considering the Bears lost the match in five sets (18-25, 25-18, 19-25, 25-20, 6-15) to Quing Poo (ching poo) Training Base in a suburb just north of Shanghai -- but there was something more here.

The effort exhibited by Lyndsey Benson's players in, yet again, less-than-favorable conditions was the main story as Northern Colorado fell just short against one of China's finest sports academies. Benson said the energy and execution she saw on the court was the best she's seen since Northern Colorado's fall regular season.

"That's a lot more energy than we showed during our entire spring season," Benson said in the postmatch huddle. "I think we got the best of both worlds today: We played one of our best matches in a while, but now we'll still have the taste of defeat in our mouths to drive us as we continue on this summer and begin to work toward next year."

The Bears arrived at Quing Pu's immaculate facility about 45 minutes later than planned, and a few queasy stomachs were still looming over the travel party when the match began. So, the table was set for a less-than-their-best effort from the Bears.

But that's not what happened. Not by a long shot.

"We need to take this experience into all of our future matches," Benson said. "We now know that no matter what adversity we face in a match, or before a match, we know we can still play at a high level."

Now all that's left for the Bears to do is to enjoy one last day in China on Wednesday before beginning their long trek back to Colorado and Big Sky Country. Some American food will surely be a welcome sight for the Bears and much of the traveling party once they touch down in Denver, but the hope for Benson and her assistant coaches is that experiences their players have had on this trip will stay with them much longer than any of those burgers or burritos will.

Judging by the performance Tuesday afternoon, the Bears might just be turning the corner toward becoming a strong team. Even if that corner is nearly 7,000 miles from home.